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How I Got My Agent: J.H. Trumble

“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. GIVEAWAY: J.H. is excited to give away a free copy of the 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: Tammy won.

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring J.H. Trumble, author of DON'T LET ME GO. 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: J.H. is excited to give away a free copy of the 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: Tammy won.)

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J.H. Trumble is the author of Don't Let Me Go (Dec. 2011
Kensington), a young adult novel about "a gay high school
student, his long distance boyfriend, his straight best friend,
and the underclassman who wants to mend his broken heart."
It received a starred review in Publishers Weekly.
Find his author website here. He is also on Twitter

FIRST, THE MANUSCRIPTS

I wrote my first novel in a 22-day window between a tubing trip to the Guadalupe River and a trip to Boston. I was bound and determined that this time I was going to do it. I turned to Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird) and Chris Baty (No Plot? No Problem) for the motiviation I needed. Then I set a 2,600-word per day goal, neglected the kids and the house, took a lot of walks, played a lot of loud music, drank a few Mike's Hard Lemonades, and 22 days later I had a 50,000-word manuscript I kinda liked ... a lot.

When I got back from Boston, I spent a full month rewriting the novel, fleshing out scenes, sharpening character relationships, figuring out what it all meant, and growing the novel to 70,000 words. By the time I'd finished that process, I had a sequel screaming to be written and I went back to work. Thirty days later I had another 50,000-word manuscript that I absolutely loved.

(What types of novel beginnings get an agent or editor to keep reading?)

THEN THE AGENT

With novel #2 in revision, I was ready to query on novel #1. I chose ten agents I found in Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market, and took the plunge. In late October, based on a sample chapter, a top agent requested an exclusive on the full manuscript. A month later, I had my first serious rejection. While he didn't say what was wrong with my manuscript, what he did say got me thinking again about the feel of the novel and what I wanted to accomplish. The month of December meant another full revision of novel #1. In the meantime, though, novel #2 had grown as well.

On New Year's Eve, I sent out 35 queries. By now I had pretty much figured out that blogs were a great way to find agents. I'd also mastered the query letter. Requests for partials and fulls started rolling in within hours (yes, hours, and on New Year's Eve!), along with plenty of rejections. Within three weeks I had an offer of representation. It was one of the most exciting days of my life. We talked by phone a few days later. I loved her. She totally got my work and couldn't wait to get it out there.

For the next ten weeks I waited patiently, and then not-so-patiently, for my project to move forward. By the ten-week mark, we were no further along than we had been the day I signed. I was not only frustrated, but by now I had lost my confidence in my agent. No matter how much I loved her, I knew it was time to let her go. Terminating my agreement was a tough decision. After all, there was no guarantee I'd ever find another agent. But I knew I had to do it, for my sanity if for no other reason. If my work was good enough, I'd find another agent. If it wasn't, then I'd just have to get better.

(Writing a synopsis for your novel? Here are 5 tips.)

THEN ANOTHER AGENT

I had been told by an agent that my novels would never be published as sequels. So if I could only publish one, I wanted it to be novel #2. Just as I was preparing to query, I came across an article in the May/June 2010 issue of Writer's Digest magazine. One of the agents interviewed was Stephen Fraser with The Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency, and he was looking for just the kind of novels I had written. At 5:14 a.m. the next morning, I queried Stephen. At 7:20 he asked to see some sample chapters. PANIC. And at 11:06 he asked for the full manuscript, by snail mail.

For the next three and a half weeks, I waited. No more queries. I played around with novel #1 and novel #3 that I’d written during that first agent wait in the fall, I wrote some blog posts, I made lots and lots of notes about things I would revise in #2 if it was rejected. At this point, I knew Stephen wanted to like my novel. If he didn't, that told me it just wasn't ready yet. And then one evening, Stephen e-mailed.

Wow. Seeing an agent's name in your inbox is scary. I opened Stephen's email dreading another rejection. His first sentence was "I loved your novel." I was expecting a "but," instead he asked if there was a time we could chat about his representing me, if I was still interested. IF I WAS STILL INTERESTED? I still giggle when I read that line. OF COURSE I WAS STILL INTERESTED!!! Trust me, getting an agent is AWESOME! But even better is hearing that someone loves your work. I mean, really loves your work.

GIVEAWAY: J.H. is excited to give away a free copy of the 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: Tammy won.)

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