"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.
I met my agent by accident—twice. Several years ago, my first book did very well in contests and racked up lots of requests, but it didn't sell. After a trip back to college and a few years establishing my marketing career, I started my second Regency historical romance. By now, I'd learned far more about craft and the business of writing, but I traveled 70% of the time in the US and Europe. The constant jet lag was a significant barrier to my writing goals. So I negotiated with my manager to cut out most of the travel. Then I took a vacation. Three weeks later, I finished my second book.
My second book also did very well in contests. My goal was to get a great agent, so when friends invited me to tag along to a conference, I decided to go. I signed up for appointments, but was unable to get one with Lucienne Diver because her slots were filled. That night, the conference held a dinner at a local restaurant. My buddy Jo Anne Banker & I got lost on the way there and arrived late. The keynote speaker met us and then realized she'd only saved one seat for Jo Anne. The speaker was horrified, but I told her not to worry. I don't know a stranger, so I strode off in search of new best friends.
There was only one vacant chair next to an agent. I'm an extrovert, but even I was a bit nervous when I approached Lucienne. She gave me a warm welcome. To my surprise, Lucienne asked me what I wrote. I said Regency historical romance and shut my mouth. I believed she only asked to be polite. Then she asked me what my book was about. I gave her a sheepish look and said, "Oh, it's the bachelor in Regency England, minus the hot tub and camera crew." She whipped out her card and requested a partial. I couldn't believe my good fortune. Then we started chatting and hit it off. We’d traveled to some of the same places in Europe and swapped funny stories. After the conference, I sent her the partial and not long afterwards, she requested the full.
Fast forward to another conference. While riding an escalator, I heard someone call out my name. I looked back and saw a familiar face. Yes, it was Lucienne. She asked about the manuscript she'd requested, and I told her I was doing revisions. I'd found a flaw in the book and I was determined to get it right. I believed too much in my story to send out anything but my very best work. Lucienne and I talked for a bit, and I wondered if this was some kind of sign (cue eerie music). What are the odds of meeting an agent accidentally—twice?
THREE OFFERS FROM AGENTS
I returned home energized and finished those revisions. Then I sent the book off to requesting agents, including Lucienne. Soon afterwards, something unexpected happened. Three agents offered representation. Of course, I was excited and flattered. It's a good problem to have, but it's also terrifying because you have to choose. I knew this was one of the most important career decisions I would ever make. How did I do it? I compared and contrasted each of them. I also did additional research. Here are some of the key points I investigated:
- Their styles of communication. I wanted an agent who replied in a timely manner and also someone who listened to my goals.
- How and to whom they envisioned submitting my manuscript.
- Their editorial feedback and whether or not it resonated with me immediately.
- The agency contracts, especially termination clauses.
- Their agent experience, including the number of years in business.
- Promotional efforts for their authors.
- Their deals on Publisher's Marketplace (# of deals, which publishers, etc.).
- Most importantly, I spoke to at least one of their authors.
In the case of the two other agents, I knew authors they represented. I didn't know any of Lucienne's authors. I asked if I could speak to one of her clients. She referred me to her wonderful author, Michele Lang. As it turns out, Michele had also gotten multiple offers of representation and understood what a difficult decision I had to make. She gave me a thorough and objective description of how Lucienne works with her authors. Lucienne's excellent reputation and enthusiasm for my writing were two of the many reasons I chose her. So far, she has exceeded my expectations over and over again. Best of all, we sold that book in a three-book deal to Grand Central in June 2009! Merci beaucoup, Agent Awesome Sauce!
Writing romance? Check out the
excellent resource, On Writing Romance
by Leigh Michaels.