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How I Got My Agent: Kevin Sheehan

“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. GIVEAWAY: Kevin is excited to give away a free copy of his 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. The winner will receive either a copy of the ebook immediately or a copy of the print version upon its January 2012 release. (Update: JC won.)

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Kevin Sheehan (aka Hunter Shea), author of FOREST OF SHADOWS. 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: Kevin is excited to give away a free copy of his 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. The winner will receive either a copy of the ebook immediately or a copy of the print version upon its January 2012 release. (Update: JC won.)


Kevin Sheehan, as his alter ego Hunter Shea, just saw his horror
novel, Forest of Shadows, come out as an ebook with Samhain
Publishing (Oct. 4, 2011). It will be available in print form in
January 2012. Writing as Kevin Sheehan, he
is the author of
The Dandelion's Tale, a story of the power of friendship, that will
be published by Schwartz & Wade Books (Random House, 2012).
You can follow Kevin's travels at kevinsheehanbooks.com or
huntershea.com. He would love to hear from you!

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GETTING THE WRITER BUG

I’m going to be honest here. The past 15 years spent locked away in rooms with a laptop, filling folders with rejection slips and beating myself up over the placement of a comma in paragraph number 457 in my latest master work can all be blamed on one guy: Norm Hendricks.

Back in the mid-90’s, I worked at one of the big telecom companies doing customer service. It was there that I met Norm, a fellow sufferer who spent his downtime in the office writing. I immediately thought, “This guy’s got it all figured out. He has an escape, a reason to live, a flicker of hope of escaping the land of cubicles and phone logs.” As I became more interested in what Norm was writing and how he went about it, I found myself infected with the contagion known as writer’s bug.

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Within a year, I had written several short stories (all awful) and was busy at work on my first novel. Being raised on Stephen King, The Night Stalker and movies like The Exorcist, it only made sense that my first attempt at a full-length novel be a romantic comedy. I’ve never been one for convention. Once the book was complete, I scanned every issue of Writer’s Digest and bought the biblically sized Writer’s Market to find agents and publishers to contact. I sent letters around the country like a military plane on a propaganda drop. I got a lot of nice comments and even more form rejections.

TRANSITION TO HORROR

Since I had begun this odyssey, I was an avid reader of every single horror novel put out by Leisure Books. I decided that the next book I wrote just HAD to be published by Leisure. Anything short of that was one for the failure column. So I spent the next five years writing, rewriting and rewriting. After the Pope gave it his blessing, I sent it off to Leisure and started querying agents. Again, I was inundated with form rejections by the agents. But lo and behold, the editor at Leisure, Don D’Auria, mailed me back a year later and asked to see the first 50 pages. With trembling hands, I prepared the package. And waited.

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And waited. A year after that, I heard from him again, and this time he wanted to see the whole manuscript and a synopsis. I mailed it off and queried more agents. Only the sound of crickets could be heard in Agent Land, and after another year and a half, I assumed all was lost.

Then, while casually checking e-mail at work, I opened one from Don at Leisure. Expecting to see the rejection I just knew was coming, I was floored to see that he wanted to purchase the manuscript! I immediately left work to celebrate.

I HAVE A DEAL -- NOW I NEED AN AGENT

After the dancing and shouting died down, I went to my agent folder to see who to query first. I had a list of agents that had worked with Leisure before and picked my top three. After all, what did I know about book contracts? I needed a professional. I hoped that having a deal in hand would help break me through and get an agent’s attention. I was accepted right away by Louise Fury at the L. Perkins Agency [as of 2013, Louise is with Bent Literary href="http://www.thebentagency.com/intro2.php" target="_blank"] and life was a bowl of sunshine.

But all silver clouds have their dark lining. A little over one month after my acceptance, Leisure imploded and parted ways with Don. Louise was there with me the entire way, doing her best to keep me from the highest rooftop. After the deal went bust, she asked me if I had any other manuscripts. For the heck of it, I gave her a children’s book I had written for my kids when they were younger.

(Book Payments and Royalties -- Your Questions Answered.)

Within two months, Louise had scored a deal for that children’s book with Schwartz and Wade, a division of Random House! Now my mind was really blown. Here I was planning for this mid-list horror career and I was now a picture book author with the largest publisher in the world.

Not long after that, she said she was talking to Don at his new publisher and he still wanted my horror book. So now I have two book deals with two completely separate career paths. I can honestly say I wouldn’t have either if it wasn’t for my agent. I’ve learned quickly that if you want to have a sustainable career, an agent is a must. Getting a deal on your own is one thing. Navigating through contract negotiations and getting that next deal is an entirely different, and daunting, matter. If left to my own, I would have lost my book to the Leisure mill and probably given up. And I certainly never would have sent my children’s book to Random House. I have her to thank for the way things have turned out.

Oh, and Norm, too.

GIVEAWAY: Kevin is excited to give away a free copy of his 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. The winner will receive either a copy of the ebook immediately or a copy of the print version upon its January 2012 release. (Update: JC won.)

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

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