Skip to main content
Publish date:

How I Got My Agent: Matt Mikalatos

"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. Matt Mikalatos is a freelancer, and author of the novel Imaginary Jesus (BarnaBooks, April 2010).

"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 Matt Mikalatos, freelancer,
and author of the novel "Imaginary Jesus"
(BarnaBooks, April 2010). See his website here.


LET'S MAKE A DEAL

I wanted to write fiction, but couldn’t seem to sell it. I found, however, that I was selling short satirical magazine articles with astonishing regularity, and soon I sold a couple of “how to” articles on spiritual topics to the Christian market. When it came to magazines, I just had more success with nonfiction than fiction. I decided to write a proposal for a book of humorous essays called Imaginary Jesus, and started looking for an agent so I could submit it to the publisher who printed my magazine. I started through Writer’s Market, trying to cut the pile of agents down to a top ten list. I mentioned that I hoped to have an agent soon to one of the magazine editors, and they told me that they preferred un-agented submissions when they had worked with an author before, so why didn’t I send a proposal over and abandon my agent search? I immediately sent my proposal to the publisher, who said we would probably strike a deal with no advance and see where the book could go.

Excited and a little overwhelmed, I contacted an author friend named Gary Thomas. Gary had taught a seminary class at Western Seminary a few years previously and had graciously agreed to an interview for a class project of mine at the time. Now he agreed to meet me and my wife and give advice about the writing life. In the course of our conversation he told me that I really did need an agent and referred me to two of them, giving permission for me to use his name when I sent my queries. Both agents were out of my league without Gary’s referral and, in fact, I had crossed them both off my agent search list a month earlier simply because I didn’t think they would represent someone like me.

Image placeholder title

Learn more about "Imaginary Jesus"



HE LOVES MY QUERY BUT HATES MY BOOK

I sent a query to these guys within about 24 hours of talking with Gary, and the man who was about to become my agent, Wes Yoder of Ambassador Literary, sent me a note the next day saying he wanted to talk. During our conversation, Wes said he read my partial, hated it and told me he didn't want to represent me. I believe he said, "This is bad," as well as, "You're not delivering what you promised in the proposal." He told me that he suspected I was writing what I thought agents and publishers would want to see rather than what I really wanted to write ... that I wasn't being weird enough or honest enough, and wasn't embracing my desire to write a story instead of essays. He did say, though, that he would be willing to take a second look if I reworked it.

That weekend I radically altered the book from essays into a novel, and started writing the story of a guy named Matt Mikalatos who discovers while sitting in a coffee shop that the Jesus sitting across from him is not the real Jesus at all, but an imposter, which leads to encounters with the apostle Peter, a talking donkey, and a giant chase through space, time and Portland, Oregon. I sent five chapters off to Wes, and within a few hours he was sending me e-mails and leaving voice messages not to talk to any other agents. He said he wanted to be the "real agent" for Imaginary Jesus.

SUCCESS WITH WES

Now that it was fiction, I needed to finish the book! I wrote it in the evenings and the holiday breaks over Thanksgiving and Christmas ... the first draft was finished in just under six weeks, which was exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. I have a lot of memories of turkey cooking in the kitchen while I was hunched over the laptop by the fire.

So, my agent search lasted about two weeks from start to finish. About two months later the book was finished, and within a few months more we had two offers from great publishers on the table. And Imaginary Jesus hits the shelves this April! Looking back, I know Wes was right - I was successful when I wrote what I wanted to write, not what I thought would sell.

Image placeholder title


This guest column by Matt is an exclusive online
supplement to a feature on him in the Feb. 2010
issue of Writer's Digest (the "Breaking In" section).
If you haven't subscribed to WD yet, what are you
waiting for? Get a sub now!

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Ending Your Story Too Soon

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Ending Your Story Too Soon

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 is ending your story too soon.

FightWrite™: Fight Scenes with Magic

FightWrite™: Fight Scenes With Magic

In this post, trained fighter and author Carla Hoch explores the process of writing fight scenes with magic—how to make the unbelievable believable, how limitations bring us closer to our characters, and more.

Invoice Template for Freelance Writers

Invoice Template for Freelance Writers

If you're a freelance writer who is able to secure assignments, an essential tool you'll need is an invoice. In this post, Writer's Digest Senior Editor Robert Lee Brewer shares a very basic and easy invoice template for freelance writers to get the job done (and get paid).

3 Things Being a Broadway Wig Master Taught Me About Storytelling

3 Things Being a Broadway Wig Master Taught Me About Storytelling

A career behind the curtain helped Amy Neswald in creating her own stories. Here, the author shares 3 things being a broadway wig master taught her about storytelling.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Out of Control

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Out of Control

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, let things get a little out of control.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2021 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Next Steps

Here are the final steps for the 14th annual November PAD Chapbook Challenge! Use December and the beginning of January to revise and collect your poems into a chapbook manuscript. Here are some tips and guidelines.

NaNoWriMo’s Over … Now What?

NaNoWriMo’s Over … Now What?

After an intense writing challenge, you might feel a little lost. Here are some tips from Managing Editor and fellow Wrimo Moriah Richard for capitalizing on your momentum.

Ian Douglas: On Telling the Truth in Science Fiction

Ian Douglas: On Telling the Truth in Science Fiction

New York Times bestselling author Ian Douglas discusses how he incorporated implausible conspiracy theories to uncover the truth in his new science fiction novel, Alien Hostiles.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 589

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a yesterday poem.