"How I Got My Agent" is a 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. 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 email@example.com and we'll talk specifics.
Katie Lee is a writer of romance.
MY FIRST BOOK: REJECTED
In early 2000, I had completed my first romance novel and started sending it out to publishers. I didn’t have much knowledge about the publishing world, so not surprisingly my uninformed foray was not successful. I was roundly rejected by all the publishers I had submitted to. The experience was discouraging, making me temporarily shelve my dream of becoming a published author. I focused on other things, such as my law career, but writing to me is like food—I can go long periods without it, but at some point, I need it to live.
So I started writing again, but kept it relaxed—doing it more to satisfy my need to write as opposed to wanting to get my work published. Then through friends and colleagues, I started to pick up a few freelance writing gigs here and there. I was a regular contributor at About.com, recapping and reviewing reality television series, and I wrote a children’s play for a theater in Michigan—all of which gave me a needed boost of confidence.
Flash forward to late 2009: I was doing a final edit of my second romance novel, Match Made in Haste. Newly invigorated and armed with the lessons I had learned from my first attempt, I was ready to try the publication process again.
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER, BUT IT’S ALSO REALLY CONFUSING
Unlike my blind, unprepared jump into the deep end of the publishing world with my first novel, I decided to do some research this time around, to inform myself about how the business works and what the best approach would be for publishing my book. So I went online, read blogs, and joined forums. I checked out how-to books at the library, and the Writer’s Market and Writer’s Digest became my new best friends.
Then I was sucked under by the tsunami of information. There was just so much information out there, and seemingly no order to any of it. Oftentimes, I got conflicting information, where one source would recommend seeking out publishers first, while another suggested seeking out agents. There were so many options that I began to wonder if my blindly ignorant foray almost ten years earlier was actually the better way to go.
However, I did manage to glean from this overwhelming influx of information that if I wanted my manuscript to come anywhere near an editor at a "big name" publishing house, I’d have to get an agent because those publishing companies don’t let any ordinary Joe (or Jane) waltz through their doors. So I narrowed my plan of attack down to two options—get an agent or sell my book myself.
Through all of this, I kept bemoaning to a close friend that I wished I had someone working in the industry that I could talk to, really talk to and not just read their blogs, or their posts on forums. So my friend, a wiz at social networking, suggested I look into joining groups on networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn.
Once I joined those groups, I began to look at the members and their profiles, and I contacted those in the industry, hoping to network with them. Some connected with me, including an agent working out in Colorado named Terrie Wolf, with AKA Literary LLC. Through e-mail, Terrie and I struck up a friendship, and discovered many shared interests and a common background. As we got to know each other, I confessed my desire to publish my novel. Terrie was always really open and generous about sharing her knowledge and understanding of the publishing field. She was the industry insider I had hoped for—someone to help me make sense of the process. Knowing that I was nervous about submitting to agents, she offered to be my guinea pig so that I could do a test submission with her, and she’d give me critical feedback to help me fine tune my proposal before I sent it out to "real" agents.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
Even though this was "just practice," I was going to treat it as if I was really submitting to an agent hoping for an offer of representation. So I agonized over my proposal package. I once again went online and to the public library to research query letters and submission packages. I checked the AKA website for their submission guidelines, making sure I tailored my proposal package accordingly.
I did, however, make one mistake in this practice run. I never researched Terrie. At the time, she was a friend, and I guess it never occurred to me to read her bio page on her agency’s website. I didn’t look at what type of books and authors she represented because it never occurred to me that she could be my agent.
In any event, I finally got a proposal package together that satisfied my inner perfectionist, and sent it off to Terrie. Within a week, Terrie e-mailed me back and asked if she could consider my submission for real. It was then that it occurred to me to look into Terrie’s background and amazingly enough, I discovered that she represented romance writers.
With nothing to lose, I gave Terrie the go-ahead to treat my submission as a real one, and a week later, she asked to see the full manuscript. Thrilled, I sent it off to her, but as I waited, I gave myself a reality check. I didn’t want to become disillusioned again, knowing that the road to publication would be a long one. Besides, this was my first attempt at landing an agent, so the odds weren’t in my favor. Instead, I told myself that whatever happened, it would be a learning process, and I should enjoy the journey. Imagine my shock when Terrie contacted me a month later with an offer of representation. I had just had one hell of a practice run, and I was definitely enjoying the journey so far!
Writing a novel? Agent/writer Donald Maass
is a fiction writing expert, and his book
Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook
can guide you on your journey.