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How I Got My Agent: Kody Keplinger

"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. Kody Keplinger is a YA writer whose book, The DUFF(Designated Ugly Fat Friend), was released in Oct. 2010.

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Kody Keplinger, author of THE DUFF. 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.

(Read an interview with Joanna Volpe of New Leaf Literary -- formerly Joanna Stampfel -- Kody's agent.)

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This installment of "How I Got
My Agent" is by writer Kody Keplinger.

Kody is a YA writer whose book, The DUFF
(Designated Ugly Fat Friend)
is due out in Oct. 2010.
Kody recently started "Agent Appreciation Day"

and you can read her blog here.

REFRESH, REFRESH, REFRESH…

I’ve been making up stories since I learned to speak, and I suppose I wrote my first “novel” when I was eleven; however, it wasn’t until January 6, 2009 that I actually focused all of my attention on writing and began to put together my first publishable work. I started working on The DUFF and queried agents once I thought it was ready.

Refresh, refresh, refresh. That was me back in April, waiting on query responses. If I didn’t check my e-mail every ten seconds, I thought I might actually die. I was trying to be patient. I started by only sending out five queries, thinking I would wait for those replies to filter in before I sent out more. However, this plan failed miserably. Weeks passed and I had only received one—one!—response. So I sent more queries. More, more, more! Still, very, very few answers. At that point, I was desperate even for a form rejection.

During this time, a fellow aspiring writer lent me her list of queried agents. It was a spreadsheet that told me how long she had waited for replies. On the list were agents who had replied within the same day! I tried those agents, and nothing. I was so confused and concerned. Why wasn’t anyone responding? Had I done something wrong? Were my e-mails even going through?

(Hear from another debut YA writer on how they got an agent: Robin Mellom, author of DITCHED.)

JOANNA WHO?

It was on my friend’s spreadsheet that I discovered the name Joanna Stampfel-Volpe. To be honest, I hadn’t heard of her, but when I Googled her name, tons of great information appeared. Plus, she had a quick response time, so I thought I’d give it a shot. Downside: she didn’t want to see any sample pages and I didn’t have much faith in my query, so I really didn’t think anything good would come of this e-mail.

But the next day, I had a partial request. Immediately, I sent the first thirty pages of my novel, using my high school e-mail address. I was just thrilled, at this point, to have any feedback. Then, later that evening, I had a full request—my first and only full request—and I seriously freaked out. Just five days after sending Joanna the initial query, I received an offer of representation. That was in mid-May, and she happened to call me on my best friend’s birthday. So, of course, my BFF claims it was her birthday karma. Either way, it was one of the best days of my life. The best part? Most likely it was Joanna’s reaction near the end of our conversation when I said, “Oh, there’s something you should know. I’m not eighteen yet. Is that a problem?”

It wasn’t a problem at all. Joanna was shocked, but in a good way. I knew, by the time I hung up the phone, that she was exactly the right fit for my book and me. So I signed with her less than a week later—after she’d talked to my Mom, of course.

(Have you written a kids book and now want it published? Hear advice from bestselling authors on how.)

THE E-MAIL MYSTERY REVEALED

The irony in all this is I later learned that my high school e-mail only sent out queries that I had pasted less than five sample pages in. So three quarters of my queries never even sent! This means that Joanna’s submission guidelines, which I thought would be my downfall, really saved me. It’s like a little bit of e-mail fate, right?

In the end, I’m very, very glad most of my e-mails didn’t send. Only one agent ever read my full manuscript, and she was just the agent for me. I can’t imagine anyone being a better fit. I found an agent who not only loves my book, but who is, in general, a great match for me, and we are always—always—on the same page.

It just goes to show that sometimes a technology-fail can be a blessing. Everything happens for a reason, and when things finally fall into place, it’s the best feeling in the world.

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