How I Got My Agent: Jennifer Lawler

"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. Jennifer Lawler is a nonfiction specialist.
Author:
Publish date:


"How I Got My Agent" is a new 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.

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.

This installment of "How I
Got My Agent" is by
Jennifer Lawler, who is a
nonfiction specialist.

Image placeholder title


THE REFERRAL

Earlier this year, when I was finishing up my new book proposal, I mentioned to a casual coffeehouse friend that I'd be looking for a new nonfiction agent. Marilyn, said coffeehouse friend, is a former journalism-major-turned caterer-turned-food-writer, and she asked, "Are you going to query Neil?"

I thought: Who's Neil?

It turns out she was talking about Neil Salkind, a friend of hers from a social organization, who, among other things, happened to be a literary agent. Marilyn had introduced us a few months previously when Neil was at the coffeehouse one morning - but at the time, I was working obsessively on fiction and editing a quarterly martial arts magazine. I wasn't focused on nonfiction books, so I just said hello and let them get back to their conversation. My impression of him was that he was comfortable in his own skin, interested in all kinds of people and things, genial and generous.

But no, I didn't think of querying him until Marilyn urged me to.

What I planned to do was to follow the route new writers are suppose to follow: Research agents who represent your kind of work (I write mostly self-help and how-to books, and my new proposal is in the same vein), then make a list of your top ten favorites, query them, wait a couple of weeks for feedback, make any necessary adjustments to the query letter, make another list of ten agents, query them, then repeat, until either someone makes an offer of representation or you run out of agents to query.

CONTACTING NEIL

Fully prepared for a long siege, I drafted a query letter and gave my proposal a final polish, ready to start contacting agents. Then I remembered what Marilyn had said about Neil. So I did some online research and found out who he represented, what books he'd sold recently, and came away with the belief that he could do good things for my career. So I e-mailed him, reminded him of our brief introduction and our mutual friend, and he immediately suggested we get together over coffee, talk about my new project and see what we thought of each other. (Yes, the theme is emerging: Hanging out at coffeehouses is instrumental in building your career.)

So we met. In the first few minutes of our conversation, he showed that he was squarely on the side of the author, that he knew a lot of people in publishing, and that he could sell books. Also, he liked my book proposal, and he had ideas about it - lots of ideas, which was wonderful. I was specifically looking for someone who could keep up with me because I try to write as much as I can.

He offered representation right away, we signed an agreement and now I'm looking forward to a long and mutually prosperous relationship.

Image placeholder title

Writing your query? Check out The Writer's
Digest Guide to Query Letters
. It's a great,
up-to-date resource for query letter writing.

Kelly_1:15

Greta K. Kelly: Publishing Is a Marathon

Debut author Greta K. Kelly reveals how the idea for her novel sparked and the biggest surprise of her publication journey.

Poetic Forms

Mistress Bradstreet Stanza: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the Mistress Bradstreet stanza, an invented form of John Berryman.

capital_vs_capitol_grammar_rules_robert_lee_brewer

Capital vs. Capitol (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use capital vs. capitol with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

Dulan_1:14

On Writing to Give Grief Meaning and Write Out of Challenging Situations

Author Lily Dulan explains why writers have to be willing to go to difficult places inside themselves for their writing to make a positive impact on ourselves, others, and the world.

Brandt_1:14

Gerald Brandt: Toeing the Line Between Sci-Fi and Fantasy

Science fiction author Gerald Brandt explains how this new series explores the genre boundary and how he came to find his newest book's focus.

plot_twist_story_prompts_moment_of_doubt_robert_lee_brewer

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Moment of Doubt

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character experience a moment of doubt.

dr_caitlin_oconnell_finding_connection_and_community_in_animal_rituals_author_spotlights

Caitlin O'Connell: Finding Connection and Community in Animal Rituals

In this post, Dr. Caitlin O'Connell shares what prompted her to write a book about finding connection and community in animal rituals, what surprised her in the writing process, and much more!

new_agent_alert_zeynep_sen_of_wordlink_literary_agency

New Agent Alert: Zeynep Sen of WordLink Literary Agency

New literary agent alerts (with this spotlight featuring Zeynep Sen of WordLink Literary Agency) are golden opportunities for new writers because each one is a literary agent who is likely building his or her client list.

Henick_1:13

Mark Henick: On Memory, Healing, and Languishing Projects

Author Mark Henick shares how he was able to turn a successful TEDx talk into a memoir, even when the project didn't come as quickly as he expected.