How I Got My Literary Agent: Susanne Lord

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“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Susanne Lord, author of DISCOVERY OF DESIRE. These columns are great ways for you to learn how to find a literary agent. 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.

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Column by Susanne Lordauthor of DISCOVERY OF DESIRE
(Sept. 6, 2016, Sourcebooks). Susanne Lord is a writer
of Victorian-era romance and author of the London Explorer
series. Originally from Okinawa, off-base and on, she now makes
her home in Chicago. IN SEARCH OF SCANDAL was Susanne’s
debut novel and the first book in the London Explorer series.
DISCOVERY OF DESIRE is book two and A PASSION FOR PERIL,
book three, will be released in 2017. Check out her website or follow her on Twitter

GIVEAWAY: Susanne is excited to give away a free copy of her first two novels to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Please note that comments may take a little while to appear; this is normal).

The best $35 ever spent
In April 2014, I attended my second Chicago-North RWA Spring Fling Conference. On the last night of the conference, there is a silent auction to benefit a literacy organization. The tables were loaded with gift baskets, and agents and editors offered critiques, as did a few authors. Courtney Milan happened to be one of the authors, and she was offering a 25-page critique to the winning bid.

(The Do's and Don'ts of Attending a Writers' Conference.)

When I bid, my intent was just to be a better writer by getting help from a great writer—one of my favorite writers within my genre. Looking at her bid sheet, I wasn’t thinking my money would be better spent trying to win the eyeballs of an agent or editor. The other aspiring writers seemed to have that thought, which is likely why I won Courtney’s critique for $35.

On April 28, I sent my 25 pages. On May 3, Courtney replied in an email that, to this day, makes me tear up a little. The email offering representation didn't, nor did the one that told me I'd sold my series, but hers did.

Who does that?
In a fiercely direct and smart and thrumming-with-energy email (which is her real-world voice, too), she wrote that she had no real notes to give and that she liked my book. She wrote other kind and encouraging lines, but here’s what gets to me every time: “I don't know if you have a full or what you're planning on doing with it, but TELL ME because I want to help you out.”

I could be a crazy person, and she writes that. She’d read 25 pages, and she writes that. She has deadlines and workshops and promotion to do, and she writes that. Who does that?

She offered to tell her agent about me if I wanted to sell. She offered to read the full and give me a blurb if I wanted to self-publish. Who does that?

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I composed myself, and took Courtney up on her offer to refer me to the Kristin Nelson Agency. Sara Megibow at the agency replied with a, “No query needed - just have her say ‘Courtney Milan told you I was en route’ or some such.”

Dreams come true
On May 23, I sent my full manuscript to the agent, which included my query introducing the story. On June 6, Sara Megibow offered representation. At that point, I’d queried only one other agent. I accepted quickly afterwards, as there was no one else I would have chosen over the Kristin Nelson Agency. (And that remains true today.)

Between June and September, my agent helped me shape a series idea and gave me notes to revise the book in preparation for submission. Her guidance, at this point, was invaluable, as my instincts were leading me onto less sexy, less marketable paths, which doesn’t work in the world of romance. We accepted an offer, and my debut novel was released in December 2015.

Because of my experience, I feel these regional writing conferences are invaluable. This early in my career, I am loathe to label anything I write as advice, but when I pick through the things I did right, here is what I find…

  • I went to a second Spring Fling conference. My first was in 2012 where I pitched my first manuscript to the agent who would eventually represent me. She rejected the story that I’d worked on for three years, so I started another. And I wrote that one better.
  • Between those conferences, I continued to attend my RWA chapter meetings, and listen to critiques and learn from all the writers there. And that helped me write better.
  • When Courtney offered to refer me to her agency, I was quick to send the entire book.
  • Lastly, that night of the conference, I introduced myself to Courtney as the winner of her critique. I don’t know if she remembered me later or not, but maybe that exchange was just enough to persuade her I wasn’t a crazy person. Or maybe it was enough to signal to her that I was serious and ready.

In writing, there is luck, to be sure. And there is guidance and support. And then there are some, especially romance writers, who are generous enough to fling open a door.

(Attending a writers' conference soon? Learn how to prepare.)

I just attended my third Spring Fling conference this past May, and noticed that Courtney Milan again offered a critique. But this time, her bid sheet was competitive. No one was winning for $35 that night.

GIVEAWAY: Susanne is excited to give away a free copy of her first two novels to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Please note that comments may take a little while to appear; this is normal).

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Check Out These Great Upcoming Writers' Conferences:

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