How I Got My Agent: Mary DeMuth

"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. Mary DeMuth who has written three parenting books and four novels. Her latest book is A Slow Burn.
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.

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 literaryagent@fwmedia.com and we'll talk specifics.

This installment of "How I Got
My Agent" is by
Mary DeMuth, who
has written three parenting books and
four novels. Her latest book is
A Slow Burn.
She helps aspiring writers seeking
publication at http://www.thewritingspa.com/

Image placeholder title

TO THE CONFERENCE

I spent more than ten years writing in obscurity while my children were young. During that time, I created newsletters and short stories, always forcing deadlines on myself—and then meeting them early. When my youngest child started preschool, I dusted off my dream of writing a novel, completing it in four months. I also became a newspaper columnist and found success in writing for magazines. I attended a small, regional writers conference, then packed my bags for a major writing conference in the spring of 2003.

On the plane, my writing friend asked me what I hoped to accomplish there. I said something about finding a publisher. "Don't you want an agent?" she asked. "Are they really that important?" I asked. She shook her head in disbelief, then explained why I needed one.

We arrived in the wooded hills above San Jose, eager and ready to knock 'em dead. I sent ahead the first three chapters, a synopsis and a query letter from my novel Crushing Stone to three publishing houses. I retrieved my manuscripts with shaking hands. I tore open the envelopes and let out a breath. All three expressed interest. I hollered. And yelled. After writing in obscurity for so many years, the publisher’s approval validated me.

"I AM NOT LOOKING FOR CLIENTS"

I took the intermediate writing track taught by a big-name agent, the amazing Chip MacGregor, then with Alive Communications, now founder of MacGregor Literary. He said up front, "I am not looking for clients. I'm happy with my stable of authors." So, when I met with him, I didn't consider him as a possible agent prospect. I simply wanted to ask his advice. Chip was late for our meeting. I almost left. He came rushing in, apologizing. I told him I had some interest in my book and asked if he'd be willing to answer a few questions. He said sure. He asked for my proposal, and when I gave it to him, he said, "I've seen this before."

I wanted to die. In wanting to be efficient, I not only sent my proposal to the people at the conference, as instructed, but I also I sent it to his agency, even though I didn’t quite know the purpose of an agent. At the conference, I found out his firm did not accept unsolicited manuscripts, particularly from unpublished authors like me. In that, I violated the don't-send-your-stuff-if-you're-a-nobody rule. The reason he recognized it? My unusual stationary—not scented or colored, but it sported a curve on the right hand side. "Do you mind if I take this with me?" he asked. "Not at all," I said. We shook hands and parted ways.

THE CALL

I came home from the conference happy to know editors liked my writing, but discouraged to not have immediate interest. A few weeks later, I received an e-mail from Chip. He wrote, “You are one of the best new writers I've met and I'd like to talk about representation. Would you be interested?"

Would I?

I screamed. Hyperventilated a bit. I hollered some more. The children thought I was dying, so they raced upstairs, followed by my husband. I jumped up and down. Though they didn't know the reasons behind my pogo-ing, they joined me. Eventually I spilled out the e-mail's words. So, I received the email that supercharged my career, pulling me from obscurity onto the publication path. Within six months, I sold two books to major publishers!

Image placeholder title
John B. Thompson | Book Wars

John B. Thompson: On Researching Changes in the Book Publishing Industry

John B. Thompson, author of the new book Book Wars, shares the research that went into his account of how the digital revolution changed publishing for readers and writers.

From Script

Supporting AAPI Storytellers and Tapping into Mythical World Building (From Script)

In this week’s round-up from ScriptMag.com, meet South-East-Asian-American filmmakers and screenwriters, plus interviews with screenwriter Emma Needell and comic book writer/artist Matt Kindt, TV medical advisor Dr. Oren Gottfried, and more!

What Is a Personal Essay in Writing?

What Is a Personal Essay in Writing?

In this post, we look at what a personal essay (also known as the narrative essay) is, including what makes it different from other types of fiction and nonfiction writing, examples of effective personal essays, and more.

FightWrite™: How Do People Who Don’t Know How to Fight, Fight?

FightWrite™: How Do People Who Don’t Know How to Fight, Fight?

If your character isn't a trained fighter but the scene calls for a fight, how can you make the scene realistic? Author and trained fighter Carla Hoch has the answers for writers here.

April PAD Challenge

30 Poetry Prompts for the 2021 April PAD Challenge

Find all 30 poetry prompts for the 2021 April Poem-A-Day Challenge in this post.

The Problem of Solving a Mystery When You're the Prime Suspect

The Problem of Solving a Mystery When You're the Prime Suspect

Mia P. Manansala, author of Arsenic & Adobo, explains how writers can help their main character solve a mystery when they're the prime suspect.

Mistakes Writers Make: Not Using Your Spare 15 Minutes

Mistakes Writers Make: Not Using Your Spare 15 Minutes

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake writers make is not using your spare 15 minutes.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Unexpected Visitor

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Unexpected Visitor

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, invite an unexpected visitor into your story.

7 Tips for Writing a Near Future Dystopian Novel

7 Tips for Writing a Near-Future Dystopian Novel

In this article, debut author Christina Sweeney-Baird explains how writers can expertly craft a near-future dystopian novel.