"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. 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.
Frankie Diane Mallis is a young adult writer
who blogs frequently at Frankie Writes and with
The First Novels Club, where she mostly enjoys
writing parodies of The Vampire Diaries. When
not blogging or tweeting, she teaches college-level
writing, belly dances and eats lots of vegan food.
This is the story of how I got my agent in 30 Days. Or as I like to call it, "The Art of Query Wars." When it was time for me to find an agent, I decided to approach the querying process like a war, one that I could win. Of course that meant I couldn’t just jump into the process. I trained, gathered weapons and created a battle plan and in the end, I won the war, signing with my dream agent, Laura Rennert of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Here’s how I did it.
The day I decided to become a writer, I also decided to take my writing seriously. I wrote everyday, I read books on the writing craft, I joined SCBWI, studied writing in graduate school, formed a critique group, revised, rewrote, deleted and wrote some more. I wrote my first novel over and over again for two years until I had a draft I liked, and then revised that for another six months, showed it to beta readers and gamma readers and even delta before I finally felt ready. With my training complete, it was time to gather…
There are a lot of ways to catch an agent’s attention nowadays. You can write an amazing query letter, you can have an unbelievably successful blog, befriend agents at conferences, or be married to your dream agent’s brother. But … at the end of the day, none of that matters if your story isn’t ready for publication. Your manuscript is always your number one weapon in war, but there are a few ways to boost your offense.
My tactics called for a kick-butt query. So I attended a query workshop with super agent, Janet Reid. I also signed up for an online query class with C.J. Redwine and revised again and again and again. Other weapons I used in battle were:
- My blogs: Frankie Writes has been live since 2008 and First Novels Club has been live since 2009.
- Conferences: Several of the agents who requested my full and/or offered representation I met at conferences and networking events—so I always made sure to remind them of who I was in my query so they could put a face to my letter. (Meeting agents at conferences doesn't guarantee you representation, but it does help you get noticed in the slush pile and get a quick response--at least this was my experience).
With my training complete and my weapons ready, it was time for the…
I queried a total of 16 agents. Every single agent on the list was there for a combination of the following reasons:
- They represented books similar to mine, or had expressed an interest in representing books like mine (you can learn what agents are looking for--or what their wish lists are—by attending conferences, following agent blogs and stalking agents on Twitter).
- They represented books that I liked and authors that I respected (when my full was requested by the agent who represents my favorite author, I think everyone thought I was having a heart attack—but in retrospect I shouldn't have been surprised since we have a similar style).
- I got along with the agent in person and/or I got along with their clients or thought we'd mesh based on online contact. Laura Rennert was the only agent to offer representation that I had not met in real life. But, I’d had the good fortune to meet several of Laura’s clients long before I ever dreamed of querying and had become friends with them. So I figured, if I get along with them, and they get along with Laura, then chances are, I’ll get along with Laura too. I was right!
WINNING THE WAR
After thirty days, I had three offers of representation, all from amazing agents. And despite all of my training, weapons and battle preparation, Laura actually pulled me from the slush pile—which is why the manuscript must be your number one weapon! She had no idea I was friendly with her clients at all!
And she was easy to say yes to! Although the other agents loved my novel, Laura was the only one to tell me she was inspired by the heart of my story. I knew she got me and we shared a similar vision. Plus with how easily we clicked on the phone, it was a no-brainer.
Good luck to any warriors about to enter the trenches of query wars! Yes, querying can be stressful, but being prepared is the best way to combat that! You'll get what you put into the process and when you're prepared for battle, you're far more likely to walk away from the field as a victor. I wish everyone embarking on this journey the best!