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How I Got My Agent: Delilah Dawson

"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. GIVEAWAY: Delilah is excited to give away a free copy of her book to a random commenter. Comment within one week; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Melissa Brady King won.)

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Delilah Dawson, author of WICKED AS THEY COME. These columns are great ways for you to learn how to find a literary agent. 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.

GIVEAWAY: Delilah is excited to give away a free copy of her book to a random commenter. Comment within one week; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Melissa Brady King won.)

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Delilah S. Dawson’s debut, WICKED AS THEY COME, is a
steampunk paranormal romance (S&S, March 2012) that includes
vampire bunnies, a carnival, a kraken, and a leading man in a top
hat and undone cravat. You can find her author website and blog here.
She’s also a Georgia native, an artist, and an Associate Editor at
Cool Mom Picks.com.

I got my agent the impossible way: cold querying through the slush pile. I have no writing degree, no prior writing credits, and no personal connections to the publishing business. At the time, I spent most of my time at home attached to a baby, had never been to a writing conference, and lived in the deep South, far from where agents and editors roam in the wild. And you know what? None of that mattered a bit, thanks to the internet and a lifetime of obsessive reading.

THE FIRST BOOK

I wrote my first book, a fatally flawed women’s fiction, in 2009 at age 31. Armed with a copy of the Writer’s Market, I hit Google and immersed myself in the online publishing world. Using QueryTracker, Twitter, blogs, AgentQuery, and the Guide to Literary Agents, I compiled a list of likely agents and began querying just to see what would happen. Amazingly, I received requests, and although no one offered representation, the kindness and advice offered by several agents in their rejections was so affecting that I included them in my debut book’s Acknowledgments. I realized that the book was going nowhere and began writing my second book, a middle grade adventure.

(How long should a synopsis be? Is shorter or longer better?)

THE SECOND BOOK

By early January, I had vetted my MG query on Verla Kay’s Blue Boards and had a carefully targeted list of agents, most of whom I stalked… er, followed… on Twitter. I remember worrying about how soon after New Year’s I should query, if I had used the right font, whether to greet them by first name or last name, all that sort of thing. I received lots of interest, sent out partials and fulls, and even had an agent email *me* asking for the query. Then one day, I was eating Chinese food for lunch and received this fortune: “Remember three months from this date. Good things are in store for you.” After lunch, I found a four-leaf clover at the park. And when I got home, I found an email from Kate McKean of Howard Morhaim Literary Agency. She liked my sample and wanted to see more. I sent the full and stared at my Gmail account and her Twitter stream without blinking for days. And then I got the email in which she asked if I wanted to chat. YES, KATE, I WANTED TO CHAT. I was thrilled… and terrified!

THE CALL

Talking on the phone with Kate was a dream. She totally got my book and loved it, and she liked my next two book ideas, too. I had queried with a middle grade adventure, but I had a steampunk paranormal fantasy and a YA contemporary in the works. She was interested in all three of them, and that was the best thing I’d ever heard—that she wanted to discuss my career, not just one book. I knew that I had a lot of books in me, and that they weren’t all going to be for kids, and clicking with an agent who represented a wide range of fiction was a dream come true. I received another offer of representation the next day from an agent I deeply respect, admire, and flat out adore, but since I knew she didn’t represent adult books, I went with Kate. It was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made.

THE SALE

That middle grade book didn’t sell. But the steampunk paranormal fantasy I wrote next did—as a romance. Kate helped me get my confidence together to write sex scenes and really up the romantic tension, and I learned the true benefit of having a hands-on agent. That book is now called WICKED AS THEY COME, and it sold at auction in a three-book deal to the Pocket division of Simon & Schuster.

(Learn why "Keep Moving Forward" may be the best advice for writers everywhere.)

THE BOTTOM LINE

Someone once commented on my blog that I didn’t have what it takes to make a published author. That unless I was camping out on someone’s couch in New York, schmoozing with agents and getting an MFA and taking out loans, that I was bound to fail. I’ve never forgotten that post. Any time I thought about giving up, any time the rejections got me down, anytime the revisions seemed too hellish, I just remembered that one person out there thought I couldn’t do it.

And then I did it… from my couch in Atlanta. Now I just hope I can get up to NYC one day and give Kate the big, warm Southern hug she deserves.

GIVEAWAY: Delilah is excited to give away a free copy of her book to a random commenter. Comment within one week; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Melissa Brady King won.)

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