How I Got My Agent: Christian Schoon

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Christian Schoon, author of ZENN SCARLETT. 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. (Christian's agent is Adam Schear of DeFiore & Co.)
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“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Christian Schoon, author of ZENN SCARLETT. 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.

(Learn How to Find a Literary Agent.)

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Christian Schoon cut his wordsmithing teeth working as an-house
copy/scriptwriter at the Walt Disney Company, followed by a stint as
a freelance script/copywriter in Los Angeles. After moving back to the
Midwest, he bought a farm, started rescuing abused/neglected horses
and helping to re-hab wildlife: black bears, cougars, coyotes, raccoons,
assorted other critters. His animal welfare work, combined with his life-long
SF geekery, inspired Christian to write his first book, the young adult
science fiction novel ZENN SCARLETT. The book follows the adventures
of a 17-year-old novice exoveterinarian specializing in the treatment
of large, dangerous alien animals. Zenn Scarlett (April 2013) is the
first in a series and debuts in the U.S. in April from Strange Chemistry,
the stylin’ new Young Adult imprint at Angry Robot Books.

AN ASSISTANT BECOMES A FULL AGENT

My young adult spec fiction novel was picked up by a major, mid-sized NYC agency because my agent’s Kindle needed organizing.

Thanks to lurking around Chuck’s indispensable Guide to Literary Agents site for a year or so, I’d done all the right stuff when it came to crafting my query letter, targeting the agents and agencies who handled my genre and, in general, correcting some of the stupid mistakes I’d been making before I started my lurking. And I was getting bites on the book. Requests for partials, which led to requests for fulls. And, subsequently, some nice, personal replies from agents with responses like “Great concept, but not quite right for me” or “Stellar concept, grabby open, but still a bit rough. Needs polish.” Not a problem. I’m a former copywriter; feedback integration is just part of the job. I ignored what didn’t sound right to me, took the tips if I felt they were relevant, and dug back into the writing.

It was during one of these re-trenching periods that I got an email from some guy named Adam Schear. He’d been an assistant to an agent at an agency that had asked for a full of the book, took their own sweet time to think it over, then passed. By that point, Adam had moved over to another agency – DeFiore & Co. in NYC – where he’d become an agent in his own right. He was cleaning up files on his Kindle and swiped his way across the manuscript for my novel, Zenn Scarlett. His e-mail said he’d championed my book at his former agency. He also said if it hadn’t been picked up yet, he’d like to have the most recent version to look at.

(Check out our list of science fiction literary agents.)

I KEPT EXPECTING A "BUT" IN ADAM'S REPLY ... YET ONE NEVER CAME

As noted above, I’d been around the block a few times with agents saying similar things. I mean, I was glad he’d taken the time to track me down, but didn’t want to get overly stoked. I sent off the latest draft and didn’t give it much more thought. A week or so later, he wrote back. The email started off with something like “Zenn Scarlett has much to recommend it. It has the flavor of things like Firefly and” – he rattled off a few other SF-related titles but I had the distinct feeling there was a big “but” coming. Well, not this time. He went on to say that while my book had echoes of these other properties, it was a totally unique, fresh take and he’d like to work with me to find a publisher for it. And so I had an agent. And a damn fine one, if I say so myself.

After taking me on, Adam then worked with me every step of the journey to, first of all, bring the book up to submission standards and then, to deal with the over-long word count to turn it into two books instead of one. Several months after I signed with DeFiore, Adam sold my books as a series to Strange Chemistry/Angry Robot in a two book deal.

(How to help an author promote their new book: 11 tips.)

KEEP WORKING -- ALWAYS

The moral and/or post-script: ya never know, nope, ya just never know when, where or how agent-ly lightning will strike. If you’re determined to go the traditional publishing route (which I was…) you gotta keep working, keep writing, keep re-writing, keep submitting and re-subbing… and keep the faith. Hey, maybe the next Kindle having its files cleaned up will prompt your dream-agent to pause just long enough to say “Wait a minute. I loved this book. Wonder if anybody signed this writer up yet?”

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