How I Got My Agent: Sandy James

"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. Sandy James’ first book, Turning Thirty-Twelve was released in 2009. She has also written four books in her “Damaged Heroes” series for BookStrand.
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"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 literaryagent@fwmedia.com and we'll talk specifics

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Sandy James's first book, Turning Thirty-Twelve
was released in 2009. She has also written
four books in her "Damaged Heroes" series
for BookStrand. See her website for book
ordering and more info.

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR

I’ll admit to having been a typically naïve newbie author. My biggest mistake in searching for an agent was selling myself short. I wanted an agent, but I wasn’t entirely convinced an agent would want me. I targeted newer agents and those who were either on their own or part of small literary agencies. While I had plenty of requests for fulls and partials, I suffered my share of disappointments. Then, much to my surprise, I received an offer of representation.

The axiom that "no agent is better than a bad one" is true. The pairing with my first agent was a year-long exercise in frustration over lack of submissions and extended periods of time when she wouldn’t return my e-mails. In retrospect, that frustration worked in my favor. I had a year to keep improving, and I wasn’t left with a string of rejections as baggage. After a couple of less-than-professional phone calls, I finally asked to be released from my contract, entirely sure I needed to try to fly solo.

Shortly after I parted ways with my first agent, I submitted to Siren Publishing’s new imprint, BookStrand. Siren publishes erotica, but BookStrand was branching into mainstream romance and offered its authors ebooks as well as trade paperback. Only a few weeks after I submitted, I received that adrenaline-inciting e-mail every author desires. BookStrand offered me a contract for Turning Thirty-Twelve. Pleased with that success, and fueled by twenty-plus contest finals on several of my other stories, I decided to try finding a new agent.

NEVER SELL YOURSELF SHORT

This time around, I went after the best and thoroughly researched each and every agent before querying. I wanted to be proud of the person who represented me. I had more than my share of rejections, but I kept refining my query and my pitch and trying again. In the meantime, I submitted the first in my Damaged Heroes series, Murphy’s Law, to BookStrand. Two weeks later, they sent me a contract. That week, I also received full requests for the first in my urban fantasy series from two fantastic agents.

Of the two agents wanting to read the full manuscript, the one I knew was stronger with the best track record in romance was Maureen Walters, a senior vice president at Curtis Brown, Ltd. She requested The Reluctant Amazon as an exclusive. I was terrified she wouldn’t want to see it, knowing it was also out with another agent. I promised her that if I received any offer, I would notify her before I made any commitment. Much to my relief, she accepted my proposal and my full. Then I set in for the long wait that usually accompanies any agent reading a full manuscript, figuring I wouldn’t hear anything for several weeks. I also tried not to get my hopes too high while also realizing this could be my best shot at my “dream agent.”

EVERYONE CALLED AT ONCE

A week later, early on a Friday evening, my cell phone became very popular. I was on the phone with my publisher about her wanting to buy the three sequels to Murphy’s Law when call waiting sounded. I let that call go to voicemail. When I got the chance to check it, it was the second agent. I immediately called her back, and she offered me representation. While I was thrilled, I also wanted to honor my promise to Maureen.

My mind was turning a million miles an hour at that point, and I figured the best thing I could do was leave Maureen a voicemail and hope she’d get it early Monday. Instead, I was shocked to get Maureen’s assistant at the time, Katie Arathoon. She told me she would get in touch with Maureen as soon as possible and asked me to please not to make a decision until I had a chance to talk to Maureen.

I had an e-mail pop up early that Monday from Katie, asking if Maureen could call me after I got home from school. Let’s just say that school day was one of the longest in my career. Once I got home, I stared at the phone until it finally rang about four o’clock. There’s nothing better than a call from the 212 area code. Maureen sure didn’t start the conversation the way I’d hoped. Her first teasing words to me were, “Do you know how much trouble you caused me today?”

Turns out, she canceled most her appointments that day so she could finish my manuscript, and much to my delight, she offered to represent me. I gratefully accepted, and now she’s trying to find homes for all my new books, including that award-winning urban fantasy series.

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