"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 firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll talk specifics.
A FRUSTRATING START
I got my agent shortly after I quit writing. Sound unusual? Welcome to my world.
I started writing fiction in 2003. At that time, writers could approach editors without going through an agent, so access wasn’t a problem. The problem was that no publisher was interested in my novels. Finally, one editor told me that, if I’d revise two of my books with the help of an independent editor he recommended, I’d probably get a multi-book contract. Shortly after that, I approached an agent with this news, and she agreed to take me on. Unfortunately, it went downhill from there. I spent a ton of money with the independent editor. Then the editor told me the publisher had decided my work still wasn’t good enough for them. My agent concluded that there didn’t seem to be a market for what I was writing. It’s an understatement to say we were both frustrated.
I kept at it, but after about forty rejections, including a time when I tried to write in different genres (including a cozy mystery), I decided to give up. The agent and I parted amiably, and I put aside my pen (figuratively at least). I was through writing.
A SECOND CHANCE
I’d met Rachelle Gardner at one of my first writers’ conferences, when she was an editor. Later, I reconnected with her through her blog, and continued to follow her even after I gave up writing. Rachelle was now an agent, and she ran a contest offering a critique of the first 20 pages of a novel to the person coming up with the best first line. On a whim, I dashed off an entry. Doggoned if I didn’t win with the line: “Everything was going along fine until the miracle fouled things up.” (By the way, the first chapter of that unfinished work is still on my hard drive).
Having nothing fresh to send for critique, I sent Rachelle the first chapter of my latest book--the one that had been turned down more times than a Holiday Inn bedspread. Rachelle’s response was: “Send me something that needs editing.” I didn’t know what to think. Someone in the industry actually thought my writing was pretty good. Maybe I should give it another try. With a great deal of trepidation, I sent off an e-mail query asking Rachelle to consider representation. I anticipated the usual slow process, hoping to get back a request for a proposal, then a partial, maybe a full manuscript. Instead, I got a return e-mail: “Of course I’ll represent you.” I’m not sure my heart has stopped racing even now.
A NICE ENDING
Rachelle made some excellent suggestions for improving my novel, and working together we produced something she thought she could sell. At the ICRS meeting, she pitched the proposal to Barbara Scott, who was starting the Christian fiction line at Abingdon Press. Barbara asked for Rachelle’s hard copy of the proposal to read on the plane. Shortly after she arrived home Barbara called to ask for the full manuscript. Eventually she bought the book.
You know how there are times when you hunt and hunt for something, only to find it after you give up? Well, that’s what happened to me in my quest for an agent and publication. It’s nice to be good. It’s even better to be lucky. I’d like to be both, but if I can only have one, I’ll stick with luck.
Richard L. Mabry is the author of Code Blue.
A retired physician, he now writes Christian
fiction and nonfiction, and works fruitlessly
on improving my golf game. His book, The
Tender Scar: Life After The Death Of A
Spouse, was published by Kregel Publications.