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How I Got My Agent: Dawn Kurtagich

"How I Got My Agent" is a recurring feature on the GLA blog. Some tales are of long roads and many setbacks, while others are of good luck and quick signings. If you have a literary agent and would be interested in writing a short guest column for this GLA blog, e-mail me at literaryagent@fwmedia.com and we'll talk specifics. Dawn Kurtagich is a young adult and adult writer and can be found all over the Internet.

"How I Got My Agent" is a recurring feature on the GLA blog. I find it fascinating to see the exact road people took that landed them with a rep. Seeing the things people did right vs. what they did wrong (highs and the lows) can help other scribes who are on the same journey. Some tales are of long roads and many setbacks, while others are of good luck and quick signings. To see the previous installments of this column, click here. If you have a literary agent and would be interested in writing a short guest column for this GLA blog, e-mail me at literaryagent@fwmedia.com and we'll talk specifics.

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Dawn Kurtagich is a young adult and adult
writer and can be found all over the Internet.
She blogs here and her website can be found here.
She can also be found on Twitter
@dawnkurtagich and Facebook.

TESTING THE WATERS

When I was seventeen, I sent out one query for my first ever novel, to test the response of the (from my perspective) big bad industry. I still have that first rejection letter, because it reminds me of the permanent fire it lit within me. I began to learn about writing as a craft and I talked to other people going through it too, learning all about their experiences.

When I was twenty years old, I decided that this was what I wanted to do—I wanted to write well, and professionally—so I began to draft the YA story that had been bouncing around in my head since I was ten. I drafted, and I drafted, and I drafted. Finally, after two years of trying one style, then another, and another, and knowing I had a good manuscript, I began to query in September 2009.

There was one little problem.

I didn’t know how to write a good query. All my energies had been focuses on writing, not querying. The response rate I got was much lower than I had anticipated. Sufficed to say, I needed practice. I read everything I could about crafting a good query letter and how to distill your entire manuscript into two or three short paragraphs—the Internet is full of amazing help. I read about synopses and structure and polite approach, and all those crucial things. I also spoke to people, and therein is the key to my success.

SECOND GO-ROUND; THIRD MANUSCRIPT

To keep from going utterly crazy, I wrote another book, using everything I had learned. It took me a month. I crafted a good query letter and made it better by using critique partners and getting help from outside parties.

While I was doing this, I heard about Weronika Janczuk from an author I had been corresponding with. She told me about this amazing girl who had done two internships, worked in editing and read like Superman—and was eighteen. Intrigued (because I love a prodigy), I found Weronika’s blog and had a sneak around. I wrote to Weronika in early 2010 and told her that I was amazed by her energy, maturity and knowledge about the industry, and I knew she would be an agent before she knew it. I told her that the day she became an agent, she would have my query in her inbox.

With a deep breath, and a final glance at my new shiny manuscript, I sent out my queries for my third manuscript in February 2010. . . and was met with a phenomenal response. 9 full requests, many partial requests, and getting so close I could feel my skin tingling. While this was going on, I wrote book number four. And in the middle of 2010, Weronika made agent.

I wrote to Weronika, congratulating her on such wonderful (but hardly unexpected) success, and told her that I would love to query her on a project, but that I noticed she was closed to unsolicited YA queries. She invited me to query her right away, and—a little cheekily—I sent a partial of both my third and forth manuscripts across. The following day I had an e-mail from Weronika—she had finished both partials (something like 200 pages), loved them, and wanted both full manuscripts.

CHOOSING WERONIKA

Four days later I got the email—"I absolutely love these, I’d like to speak with you"—and I think I stopped breathing.

I was still being considered by five or six other agents, but I knew Weronika was special. We had a Skype video call and discussed my work, her ideas about my work, and my ideas for future work, and by the end of the conversation, I had an agent. She had answered all my questions clearly and thoroughly, and answered some I hadn’t even thought to ask.

I always knew it would happen, but I assumed I would be a slush-pile pick-out type deal. I spoke to readers and wrote to authors merely because I enjoyed it and wanted to compare notes, as it were. And it turned out to be the key to the happiest partnership I have so far enjoyed.

Today I still enjoy a rich networking life—again, because I enjoy it, and there is always something to learn—and I encourage all aspiring novelists to consider doing the same. Good luck to you all!

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If you're writing fiction and want to
make your prose sizzle, check out
The Fire in Fiction by agent Donald Maass.

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