How I Got My Agent: Julie Kibler

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Julie Kibler, author of the literary fiction debut novel, CALLING ME HOME (2013). 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. GIVEAWAY: Julie is excited to give away a free copy of her novel 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. (Update: alshultz won.)
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“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Julie Kibler, author of the literary fiction debut novel, CALLING ME HOME (2013). 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.

GIVEAWAY: Julie is excited to give away a free copy of her novel 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. (Update: alshultz won.)

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Julie Kibler’s debut novel, CALLING ME HOME (St. Martin’s, Feb.
2013) was selected by the American Booksellers Association for the
February 2013 Indie Next List. She began writing the novel after learning
a bit of family lore: As a young woman, her grandmother fell in love
with a young black man in an era and locale that made the relationship
impossible. When not writing, Julie enjoys travel, independent films,
music, photography, and corralling her teenagers and rescue dogs.
She lives in Arlington, Texas and blogs for What Women Write.
Find her on Twitter

THE TIMING

I began seeking representation for my debut novel, Calling Me Home, in late June of 2011. I had queried a previous manuscript between 2009 and 2010, and I put it away after about nine months of rejections. I was already writing Calling Me Home by then, and I had a strong sense it was the direction I needed to be going with my writing brand. I admitted to myself fairly easily that the manuscript I’d been querying was my “practice novel.” This is a strong vote for the advice frequently given to aspiring writers to start writing something new while you’re waiting. If you do have to give up on the older project, being vested in a new one means it doesn’t hurt so much to move on.

(See a growing list of fiction agents.)

RESEARCH ... AND A GUT FEELING

Once I finished writing and revising Calling Me Home, I pulled out the list of agents I’d already researched during my first round of querying. Elisabeth Weed of Weed Literary was my dream agent and number one pick the first time, and nothing had changed. I had noted, then kept an eye on the quality and caliber of the authors she worked with, and I knew her small agency was the one I wanted.

(Read examples of successful query letters.)

A LITTLE LUCK CAN'T HURT

I was acquainted online with one of her clients, Therese Walsh, and she voluntarily sent Elisabeth a referral—but only after I had already received a partial request based on my cold query, and only from the standpoint of, "I know this person and she seems nice!" Therese had not read my manuscript; I had simply expressed my excitement over Elisabeth’s request, and Teri took it upon herself to send a character reference, for which I was very grateful.

It’s said that any connection helps. Bear in mind, however, that a referral doesn’t guarantee an agent will offer you representation. The main thing is still the main thing—the story. It still must measure up to the agent’s standards. If it’s solid, though, and the agent is going to fall in love with it anyway, a referral can certainly speed things up. From what I’ve heard and experienced, a referral might mean your query is read immediately, or that your manuscript rises to the top of the to-be-read pile more quickly than it might have without it.

(Read an interview with literary agent Elisabeth Weed.)

SEALING THE DEAL

It took a little more than a month from the very beginning of my querying process until Elisabeth offered me representation, and a little more than a month of revisions and Elisabeth doing initial pitches and compiling her submission list before the manuscript went out to editors on September 6, 2011. We sold the book at auction to St. Martin's Press and several foreign territories over the next week or so, eventually bringing the total territories to 15 as of today. It was kind of a whirlwind, but I have to say, a lot of fun, too! I still need to pinch myself most days. (And I’d be completely remiss if I didn’t mention her amazing foreign rights sub-agent, Jenny Meyer, who is wise and smart and totally knows her stuff when it comes to selling books to foreign publishers.

Also: A good recipe for a great author/agent relationship:

After my very first telephone conversation with Elisabeth, my daughter called out from the next room, “It sounded like you were talking to an old friend!” She was so right. Our similar values, priorities, and senses of humor have kept things running more smoothly than I could have even imagined when I first studied the Weed Literary website more than three years ago and identified my dream agent.

I had done my research. I knew what I needed. I suspected she would like Calling Me Home and that our personalities would click. And trust me, I know how very lucky I am it all worked out as it did.

Elisabeth Weed has been exactly the champion I needed. What writer could ask for more?

GIVEAWAY: Julie is excited to give away a free copy of her novel 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. (Update: alshultz won.)

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