"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 email@example.com and we'll talk specifics.
This installment of "How I Got
My Agent" is by Kate Douglas, who
writes many romance titles. Demonfire
comes out in March and is her
I wrote romances for many years without an agent, submitting my stories and collecting rejections from some of the best editors in the business. However, many of the publishing houses I was interested in refused to look at unagented material.
Finding an agent had crossed my mind, but I’d heard more horror stories than positive ones, and had no idea who I should query. The truth in the statement, “A bad agent is worse than no agent,” kept me from making a serious search. In the days before the Internet, finding a reputable agent to query wasn’t as simple a process as it has become, but luckily, the competition for agents wasn’t as tough, either.
I finally met one agent at a conference and a few weeks later, queried him by mail. I was rejected, but a friend of mine signed with this particular agent. Her blossoming career immediately went into a black hole from which it’s never truly emerged, and my hesitancy over finding an agent increased. Then in 2001, a friend told me of an agent new to the business who had started out as an editor for Berkley.
DESPERATE IS GOOD
Three things led me to query Jessica Faust, co-founder of BookEnds LLC.: 1) the fact she was in New Jersey, and close to the New York publishing world; 2) she had been an editor at Berkley, which meant she still had contacts with one of the publishers I was interested in; and 3) she was new enough to agenting—so, hopefully, was desperate for clients.
Okay ... so that last one was most important, and luckily I must have been right. When I look at the query letter I sent, it’s filled with all the things Jessica now cautions against including, but she was new and looking for clients and I was optimistic enough to think I had a chance. I also, in spite of my history of rejections, still believed in myself. I never doubted I would one day be published, and Jessica seemed to mirror that same optimism. If she was faking, she was damned good at it, but her positive attitude kept me hopeful.
By this time I was building a successful career writing erotic romance for an online publisher. My agent chose not to represent me with the e-publishers, which worked well for both of us, though she continued submitting my regular romances without much luck. Editors were asking to see more from me, but nothing I sent to Jessica sold. Still, she didn’t drop me, and I didn’t quit trying. I would write my sexy romances for Ellora’s Cave and my “vanilla” romances for Jessica to shop around. The sexy stuff was selling like crazy and the category styled romances continued racking up the rejection notices.
In 2004, a good friend founded Changeling Press and asked for something “over the top” to launch her new company. I created an online serial called Wolf Tales. Every six weeks CP released a new 12,000-word Wolf Tales story, and sales grew like crazy. Readers seemed to love my Chanku shapeshifters, and I was having a blast coming up with a new crisis every few weeks, but by then I’d quit submitting to my agent. I figured NY was a lost cause.
About this time, e-book sales of erotic romances began to have an impact on the NY publishing scene. Readers were demanding the sexy stories in print, and while the e-pubs were scrambling to bring out the books in the relatively new print-on-demand format, NY publishers were sending out feelers to the more successful e-book authors and luring them to their houses with promises of print contracts. My ever-patient agent asked for something erotic. I printed out the first five stories from the Wolf Tales serial for her.
The rest is history. Editor Audrey LaFehr at Kensington Publishing loved the stories, CEO Steve Zacharius authorized the new Aphrodisia imprint, and Wolf Tales launched Kensington’s foray into the erotic romance market. The first book is currently in its ninth print run, the sixteenth story just released and I’m contracted through 2011 for more in the series. I credit all of my success to my agent. I write the books, but I understand the serendipitous nature of this business and I know it takes the right agent getting the right manuscript in front of the right editor at the right time. I’m not sure what Jessica saw in that query I sent to her in 2001, but she hung in there, even though it took until 2005 before we finally saw a contract.
Stubbornness appears to be an important trait—in both authors and agents.