“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Joanne Bischoff, author of the novel, BE STILL MY SOUL. 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 email@example.com and we’ll talk specifics.
Married to her first sweetheart, Joanne Bischof lives in the mountains
of Southern California where she keeps busy making messes with their
home-schooled children. When she’s not weaving Appalachian romance,
she’s blogging about faith, writing, and the adventures of country living
that bring her stories to life. BE STILL MY SOUL (Oct. 2012, Multnomah)
is her first novel. You can visit her at joannebischof.com or on Facebook.
WELL, I SUPPOSE IT'S WORTH A SHOT...
As a new author with a series in hand, I knew I was going to need an agent. I queried about 15 agencies for my Appalachian romance and one of those agencies was MacGregor Literary. They were definitely at the top of my wish list, but they mainly worked with established authors. I really didn’t qualify there, but hey, it was worth a shot.
Only problem was that there weren’t any clear guidelines—which was most likely due to the fact that if one were an established author they wouldn’t need guidelines. Yeah. I’m a slow learner. So like the amateur that I was, I sent a brief note via their contact form. Between my unprofessional query and blaring lack of qualifications, I didn’t exactly sit by the computer waiting for a response. I spent the next weeks and months working on my series and all the fun adventures that go along with writing and mommyhood.
A RESPONSE FROM SANDRA
Then one day MacGregor Literary popped up in my inbox via a message from one of their agents, Sandra Bishop. My heart did a funny little dance all the way into my stomach and back. (Let me just add that about this time, Sandra was named agent of the year by ACFW. And yes, this detail was going through my mind at about sixty miles per hour.)
I opened the email. And my heart sank.
It wasn’t addressed to me at all. It was addressed to a woman named Nancy. Nancy? Darn it. I got someone else’s message. That’s what I get for using the contact form like a dodo. Seeing as I couldn’t change my name to Nancy, I e-mailed her back, letting her know that I had accidentally received someone’s message.
Then, to my amazement, she wrote me back humbly apologizing for calling me by the wrong name and if I was still willing, to please send her what I had.
It took about one and a half seconds for that to sink in before I started jumping up and down. There may have been squealing. I could have hugged Nancy at his point. Whoever she was. So I tidied up my chapters and sent them off. And then I waited.
And waited. And waited. Because like any busy agent, Sandra had tons of contracts to sort through, clients to tend to and a family to care for. I reminded myself of this with each week that went by. A few months passed and I’d be lying if I didn’t say the wait felt so long. Then one day, her name popped up in my inbox. My heart did that funny little dance again.
Sandra wrote that she really liked what she read of my manuscript and even had an editor in mind that might be looking for such a story. What!? Me? My manuscript? There was a whole lot more jumping up and down. And squealing.
A DISCUSSION AND THEN AN OFFER
We wrote back and forth a few times, discussing details of my Appalachian romance and before long, she was offering me representation. That had to be one of the most beautiful e-mails I’d ever seen. I must have read it ten times before it sank in.
I was agented! Around this time, we scheduled our first phone call. And of course, when her phone rang, I was so insanely nervous, I was practically shaking. It went to voicemail and I blurted out, “Hi, Suzanne, this is Sandra.”
Yeah. Suzanne would be my mother-in-law and stealing your agent’s name isn’t exactly the best way to kick off the relationship. Mortified, I quickly left the most pathetic message possible and hung up. Fortunately, Sandra has a sense of humor and somehow, we managed to get one another’s names right and I’m so glad we did because after finalizing my proposal, she sent it to the editor in mind and we soon were looking at a three-book contract with WaterBrook Multnomah (a division of Random House), with the first book in the series, Be Still My Soul, released on October 2, 2012.
It was a fun, crazy road to this moment and I’m so grateful for my agent’s hard work and know-how. From the moment she first had an editor in mind, to the moment we signed the contract, I knew that woman knew exactly what she was doing. I still pinch myself that the agent of my dreams has landed the contract of my dreams and despite the bloopers and blunders, it was a great lesson to enjoy the journey. Sometimes it’s the rocky starts that end in the smoothest finishes.
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Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:
- New Literary Agent Seeking Clients: Gemma Cooper of The Bent Agency.
- Interview With Agent Helen Zimmerman, Who Seeks Fiction and Nonfiction.
- How to Publicize and Promote Your Book: 7 Tips.
- Sell More Books by Building Your Writer Platform.
- Exactly What Your Pitch Should NOT Look Like.
- 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 how to write a query letter.
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