How I Got My Agent: J.R.H. Lawless - Writer's Digest

How I Got My Agent: J.R.H. Lawless

Author J.R.H. Lawless shares how he landed his literary agent, Marisa Corvisiero of the Corvisiero Literary Agency, while getting his novel, Always Greener, published.
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Author J.R.H. Lawless shares how he landed his literary agent, Marisa Corvisiero of the Corvisiero Literary Agency, while getting his novel, Always Greener, published.

My path to representation by the amazing Marisa Corvisiero of the Corvisiero Literary Agency was far from typical, and I'm glad for the opportunity to share it with my fellow authors, agented and unagented alike.

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(20 literary agents actively seeking writers and their writing.)

Perseverance is, of course, the one word to keep in mind when slogging through the agent query trenches. This will be news to no-one, but it took me multiple manuscripts, years of querying, complete rewrites under the wise eye of my mighty wife and alpha-and-omega reader, and more rejection than I dare count to really understand what that means. Wear your rejections like a badge of honor and never stop working on the next thing, whatever that may be—another manuscript, a short story or 20, craft and literary articles; the choices are endless.

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A Helping Hand

That being said, perseverance can sometimes use a bit of luck, and a helping hand, in the form of daring. In my case, the opportunity came when, after years of querying and receiving multiple partial and full requests from agents who never fully clicked with my manuscript, I also started submitting to small presses, and received a Revise and Resubmit from Rick Lewis at Uproar Books.

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He saw the potential in the rather atypical structure of my original manuscript. But he also quite rightly diagnosed its issues and invited me to split it into the seeds of two, fully-developed novels—the first of which, Always Greener, has just been released.

I strapped in and followed this excellent R&R advice, until I had a solid first manuscript to resubmit to Uproar Books, which lead to an offer on the book.

(Do writers need literary agents?)

After working so hard, for so long, to make this a reality, it was tempting to simply sign the offer—if only to make it real, before it revealed itself as a mirage, or some sort of fevered dream.

But instead, fighting against that writerly instinct, I requested a few weeks to take the offer to the agents who had shown interest in the past, to secure representation. The publisher consented happily.

Finding an Agent

This led to a series of "Offer in Hand" queries to a select handful of agents, who almost all replied promptly, given the time-sensitive nature of such a query. Some declined very graciously, many requested the materials, and I want to seize this opportunity to thank them all. Ultimately, it was Marisa who, after an excellent "Call" and glowing recommendations from her other clients—my future agent brothers and sisters!—clicked the best with myself and my writing style, leading me to accept her offer of representation.

Marisa then reworked and strengthened the original offer from Uproar considerably before we signed, and has been invaluable throughout the process of editing and preparing the book in the long run-up to release.

(Do literary agents cost money?)

The main take-away I'd like to leave authors currently in the query trenches with is that there is no "one" way to find an author. My path was one of many—countless, perhaps—and the best thing you can do to increase the likelihood you will get there, sooner or later, is to gird yourself with rejection-proof steel, never give up and never stop working at the pace that works for you, and keep your mind open to opportunity.

Keep your mind open long enough, and opportunity may well come flying in to roost.


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