“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Victoria Coe, author of FENWAY AND HATTIE. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll talk specifics.
Column by Victoria J. Coe, debut author of FENWAY AND HATTIE
(February 9, 2016, Putnam/Penguin). Victoria has long been a fan of
books, dogs, and the Boston Red Sox. Today she combines these
passions as the author of the Fenway and Hattie series, written in
the voice of a dog named Fenway, for ages 8-12. A teacher of
creative writing, she loves to visit classrooms and share point of
view activities with elementary students. Follow her on Twitter.
As heroines tend to do, I started out dreaming of a happy ending. Like, I dreamed that the happy ending would come right there in the opening scene. But of course no story actually works out that way. Like most heroines, I still had a lot of work to do!
In the beginning, I wrote a manuscript. I spent months writing the first draft, then revising with the help of critique partners. I began to believe.
Except my middle grade novel was written in the voice of a dog. Yeah, how cliché is that? I was sure editors were cringing before I even dared to submit. I knew I needed a passionate agent who would champion this puppy to a book deal.
Of course, an agent would be just as hard to land as an editor. But I had support from my tribe. I believed in my story and I had to go for it.
So, I whipped up a pitch, researched agents, and began querying. Soon 50 queries landed five full requests. The first four resulted in kind-hearted passes, but the fifth was another story.
Marietta Zacker – the agent I most fervently hoped would connect with Fenway (the dog) – sent me the most wonderful email ever. She even used the word “love.”
But Marietta also said the story needed a lot of work. When we chatted by phone, it was clear we shared a vision of what the story could be. She made great suggestions. While she felt she needed to pass, she offered to read a revision. I took a deep breath. This was it!
I set out to blow her socks off. For months, I revised and revised until my beta readers agreed it was ready. I sent the new and improved manuscript to Marietta a second time with hopes sky high.
Waiting was torture. At last, the email came. And it was bad news. Marietta praised the changes I’d made. But the story still wasn’t working. And worst of all, the areas that needed more work were the very ones I thought I’d nailed.
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Whoa. I’d lost the best chance ever with the best agent ever. Just like that. I was finished. Or was I? After a night of wallowing in self-pity, I took another deep breath. I thanked Marietta for her generous help and encouragement. And guess what happened?
She said if I wanted to revise again, she’d be happy to see it. A third time? The same manuscript? Really? Maybe I wasn’t finished quite yet…
With so much at stake, I reached out to my former writing teacher for a fresh look. He reviewed Marietta’s suggestions and helped me see a new way to implement them. We got on the phone and brainstormed. I hung up with a plan. It was my “Aha!” moment.
I took my whole manuscript apart, refocused everything, and put it back together, working harder than I’d ever worked before. But this time it was different. This time I knew.
I sent the manuscript to Marietta for a third time. Two days later, I went off to New York with my husband to celebrate our anniversary. Or a fun distraction from waiting.
But it turned out I didn’t have to wait. While in New York, my phone beeped with an email. From Marietta. She asked if we could set up a call. Eeeeeee! I could hardly sleep. I could hardly function. My husband had to save me from walking in front of a speeding taxi!
And then it was time for that happy ending! Marietta and I chatted the next day. She believed Fenway and Hattie had become the story it was trying to be all along. I completely agreed. In August 2013, a year after I first queried her, Marietta and I signed the contract. Just a few months later, FENWAY AND HATTIE sold to GP Putnam’s Son’s Books for Young Readers.
No bones about it, the journey was long and took lots of hard work. Before, during, and after the now multiple sales, Marietta has been the passionate champion of my dreams – even beyond my dreams! Let’s hope I never wake up!
Check Out These Great Upcoming Writers' Conferences:
- Oct. 28–30, 2016: Writer's Digest Novel Writing Conference (Los Angeles, CA)
- Nov. 19, 2016: Las Vegas Writing Workshop (Las Vegas, NV)
- Feb. 11, 2017: Writers Conference of Minnesota (St. Paul, MN)
- Feb. 16–19, 2017: San Francisco Writers Conference (San Francisco, CA)
- Feb. 25, 2017: Atlanta Writing Workshop (Atlanta, GA)
- Feb. 26–March 3, 2017: Writers Winter Escape Cruise (conference/cruise departing Miami)
- March 25, 2017: Michigan Writers Conference (Detroit, MI)
- April 8, 2017: Philadelphia Writing Workshop (Philadelphia, PA)
- May 6, 2017: Seattle Writers Conference (Seattle, WA)
- July 22, 2017: Tennessee Writers Workshop (Nashville, TN)
- Aug. 18–20, 2017: Writer's Digest Conference (New York, NY)
Your new complete and updated instructional guide
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GET A LITERARY AGENT shares advice from more
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find an agent, this resource makes a great partner book to
the agent database, Guide to Literary Agents.
Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:
- Agent Spotlight: John Weber (Serendipity Literary) seeks Young Adult and Middle Grade.
- 5 Opportunities to Increase Your Writing Productivity (Without Actually Writing).
- Never Let An Idea Get Away.
- How I Got My Literary Agent: Robert Owens (Fiction).
- Follow Chuck Sambuchino on Twitter or find him on Facebook. Learn all about his writing guides on how to get published, how to find a literary agent, and writing a query letter.