Skip to main content

How I Got My Agent: Debra Berndt

"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. Debra Berndt is the author of Let Love In: Open Your Heart and Mind to Attract Your Ideal Partner.

"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.

Image placeholder title

Debra Berndt is the author of "Let Love In:
Open Your Heart and Mind to Attract Your
Ideal Partner." See her website and
follow her on Twitter.


SHARING WHAT I LEARNED

My idea for the book was born after another failed love affair that led me on a transformative inner-journey. A year later, I found myself in a new career and a fresh perspective on my love life. I wanted to share what I had learned and empower single women to love themselves. I hired a coach and began the process of making my dream a reality.

I wrote my first book proposal in 2004 and attended the San Diego State University Writers' Conference in 2005. I gained a ton of insight about getting published but, lacking an impressive platform, I left the conference without any bites on my proposal. Internally, I had a nagging doubt of whether my "attract love" system (the subject of my book) worked because I was still single. Although I have seen the power of the transformation in many of my clients, I felt my proposal had a touch of disbelief in between the lines.

FINDING A PLATFORM ... AND LOVE

During the next year, I continued to receive rejection letters from agents while I was busy building my platform with a regular column in a local Denver magazine and monthly segments on the ABC affiliate's Saturday morning news show. I also met the man of my dreams, which finally gave me the reassurance that my system for singles was solid. I rewrote the proposal with a little more passion and conviction and returned back to the SDSU Writers' Conference in 2006.

Before attending the conference, I researched the various editors and agents in attendance and made my wish list. One agency—Full Circle Literary—really stood out to me because of their interest in empowering women. I picked both partners of that small firm (one as a backup) just to be certain that I was able to at least meet one of them. Because of a cancellation, the event staff scheduled me to meet with both!

Image placeholder title

I first met agent Stefanie Von Borstel, who really liked my idea. She was impressed with my platform and eager to discuss my proposal with her partner, Lilly. I met Lilly Ghahremani later that afternoon and I felt that I could work with both of them. During the conference, I attended some of Lilly's panels and saw that she was extremely knowledgeable in the publishing industry. Later that evening, I ran into Stefanie at a networking cocktail party and really enjoyed speaking with her. Out of all the agents, they were my top choice to represent me.

A few weeks later, my excitement quickly died when Lilly rejected the proposal, but she gave me some really great advice on how to fix it up. It was a relief that she was open to see another submission. I could have given up after all that time, but I was in for the long haul. So determined to get it right, I hired a writing coach to help me get the proposal in top shape. Shari Cauldron had a lot of knowledge in the publishing industry (a published author herself) and knew exactly what I needed to do to make the proposal irresistible. We worked for a few months on the proposal and I had a professional editor put the final touches on it. The financial investment was a little steep, but turned out to be worth every penny.

POLISHED AND READY

When I resubmitted the proposal to Full Circle Literary, I felt confident that I put in my best work. Lilly contacted me stating that she loved the changes and was ready to talk about possibly working together. Over the next few months, she continued to coach me on adjustments to the proposal to make it even better and more appealing to publishers. We came up with our final proposal and she sent me the contract to represent me. The first hurdle was overcome. I had an agent!

At first, the search for the dream publisher was slow, but within a few months I had four solid offers in the same week. I accepted the offer from J. Wiley & Sons, LLC in 2008 and my book will be in stores on March 1, 2010. The journey from idea to final publication has been a long road, but the final product was worth the wait. As I look back, I am so glad ignored the advice to self-publish and rush the creation of my book. My advice to those who are searching for an agent is to get expert advice, professional editors and never give up—because there are readers out there who want to buy your book.

Image placeholder title

This post is an online exclusive complement
to a spotlight on Debra in the March/April 2010
issue of WD. If you don't have a sub to
Writer's Digest, what are you waiting for?
Get one now!

Writing Nonfiction History vs. Historical Fiction

Writing Nonfiction History vs. Historical Fiction

Author John Cameron discusses how nonfiction history and historical fiction are more similar than they are different.

Bob Eckstein | Publishing Survival Tips

Top 10+ Survival Tips for Publishing

Poignant advice from some of the funniest people in publishing.

Zac Bissonnette: On the Passionate Community of Mystery Lovers

Zac Bissonnette: On the Passionate Community of Mystery Lovers

New York Times bestselling author Zac Bissonnette discusses the process of writing his new cozy mystery, A Killing in Costumes.

My Long, Winding, and Very Crooked Writing Journey

My Long, Winding, and Very Crooked Writing Journey

Every writer’s publishing story is different. Here, author Sharon M. Peterson shares her journey from writing to publishing.

Jeff Adams | Writer's Digest Indie Author Spotlight

Jeff Adams: Publishing Advice for Indie Authors

In this Indie Author Profile, romance novelist Jeff Adams shares his path to independent publishing and his advice for others considering that path.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia | Writer's Digest July/Aug 2022

The WD Interview: Silvia Moreno-Garcia

The bestselling author of Mexican Gothic shares her approach to world-building, character development, and what she’s learned about the business of writing in this interview from the July/August 2022 issue of Writer's Digest.

9 Pros and Cons of Writing a Newsletter

9 Pros and Cons of Writing a Newsletter

Thinking of starting your own newsletter? Let freelance writer Sian Meades-Williams lay out 9 pros and cons of writing a newsletter.

How to Write a Compelling Premise for a Thriller

How to Create a Compelling Premise for a Thriller

Learn how to create a compelling premise for a thriller or mystery novel by asking a simple question and tying it to a specific circumstance to set the stage for a thrilling read.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Make a Plan

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Make a Plan

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have your characters make a plan.