"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 firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll talk specifics.
Flynn Meaney's debut YA novel, Bloodthirsty
was released in Oct. 2010. She is hard
at work on her second contracted book.
Flynn lives in Mamaroneck, New York. She is an
alumna of the University of Notre Dame.
See her website here.
My first YA novel, Bloodthirsty, the story of a nerdy high school boy named Finbar Frame who pretends to be a vampire to get girls, was published last month by Little, Brown. Thanks to my amazing agent, Dan Lazar of Writers House, Bloodthirsty is being published in five languages, and I have a two-book deal with Little, Brown.
I GAVE MYSELF A DEADLINE
I began sending queries to agents even before I had finished the last few chapters of Bloodthirsty. I had given myself a two-year deadline (the length of my Creative Writing MFA program) to get a book published by a major publisher, and between my self-imposed deadline and my fear the vampire craze would fizzle out and my book would be irrelevant, I was very eager to get started!
I made full use of internet resources, including this very blog, for advice. I searched specifically for agents who were open to unpublished YA authors, or looking for comedic YA novels. In Microsoft Excel, I compiled a database of agent names, contact information, and the dates I sent them my query or manuscript.
THE VALUE OF A REVISED PITCH
Initially, I sent out between five and ten queries. My plot description in my original query looked like this:
You’ve read all those books about vampires. So has Finbar Frame, the fifteen-year-old protagonist of Bloodthirsty. Finbar, unaffectionately dubbed “Admiral Fagbar” by his Catholic school classmates, has been jilted since the gene pool. His twin brother Luke got the good looks, athletic ability, and pigmentation. Finbar got a condition called solar uriticaria, which basically means he’s allergic to the sun. High school girls don’t appreciate Finbar’s sensitive skin or his sensitive soul. So when a move to a new school converges with a cultural trend romanticizing vampires, Finbar seizes the opportunity. He’ll become a vampire, or at least fake it … to get a date.
I had heard back from two other agents I queried before I heard back from Dan. I sent Dan my initial query on October 27, and he asked for the full manuscript on October 28. Only six days later, he sent me this e-mail:
“The first few chapters I've read are really great. I'll try to finish it quickly, but is it out with other agents, too? Just curious”
I thought his inquiry about other agents was a good sign—like when a guy you like gets jealous, it means he really likes you! Then it got even better. I got a call from an unknown number with a Manhattan area code. I crossed my fingers as I answered the phone and, sure enough, it was Dan! So much of the querying process happens through e-mailing. But speaking to Dan on the phone made the whole thing seem real.
I KNEW DAN WAS THE ONE
I signed with Writers House that very day. I probably could have waited out responses from other agents. But I knew from what Dan told me, and what I researched online, that Writers House was legitimate. That’s all I needed to know at that time. It wasn’t until after I signed with Writers House that I was cleaning my room and found an old copy of Poets and Writers Magazine … and Dan was on the cover! So I had, in my own room, proof that Dan was one of the top agents in the biz, and I hadn’t even known it!
I’m very grateful that my query process was relatively quick and painless. I think my business mindset (I was a Marketing major!) helped me write a query that was catchy and commercial and would make a customer want to read more. I knew my writing would speak for itself, so I focused the query on selling the humor and pop culture relevance of the story.
The quickest way to get an agent's attention
is a professional submission. That's why you need
Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript, 3rd. Ed.
It has dozens of query letter examples (novels,
nonfiction, short stories, kids books and more).