How I Got My Agent: Katherine Fleet

Katherine Fleet, author of debut YA novel THE SECRET TO LETTING GO, shares her journey from wishful writer to published and represented author.
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“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Katherine Fleet, author of THE SECRET TO LETTING GO. 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 Katherine Fleet,author of debut novel THE SECRET TO LETTING GO
(Feb. 1, 2016, Entangled). Originally from Newfoundland, Canada, she moved with
her family to the Caribbean island of Curaçao in 2007. The slower pace of island life
gave her time to pursue a long-time goal—writing. She is a member of RWA and several
of its chapters and is represented by Carrie Pestritto of Prospect Agency. 

Maybe I’ll Write a Book

I’m an avid reader. Growing up in the 80s, teenage fiction was limited, so I quickly graduated to adult fiction and romance in particular. In my early 30s, a strange thing happened. Like a great song that gets overplayed, I’d read so many books that I lost interest in the romance genre. My solution: If I can’t find a book I like, I’ll write one. How hard can it be?

With my favorite novels as a guide, I whipped off my first novel in 2003. I crafted a lengthy “query letter,” including a poignant history of my life, and sent it to Harlequin.

They actually requested my full!

With dreams of stardom, I submitted, not letting anyone read it first. If you know this business, you know how this ended—Rejection #1.

I’d always been an over-achiever, so rejection was a major blow. For four years, I licked my wounds, convinced that writing wasn’t for me. I work full time and have three kids. I’m too busy to write anyway. To understand why I quit so easily, read Carol Dweck’s Mindset. I definitely suffered from a “fixed mindset”.

(Querying? Read advice on how to find the most target agents to query.)

Writing is Hard Work

In 2007, we moved to the Caribbean, courtesy of my husband’s job. For the first time, I’d have extra time to do…something. After a month on the island, a friend asked, “What are your goals and dreams in life?” At 37, I hadn’t been asked this in a long time. Put on the spot, I said, “I want to publish a book before I die.” This friend, who is an amazing go-getter, said, “Your goal should be to publish multiple books, and I expect a progress report the next time we meet.”

Holy %@&! Someone was holding me accountable! I went home and started writing, but this time I was committed. I wrote an adult paranormal romance, queried and ended up with one full request, but boy was I excited about that one.

At the same time, the Twilight craze was in full swing. I’d loved Harry Potter, but had no interest in writing children’s fiction. So when my daughter introduced me to YA, I never expected to fall so in love with the genre. I joined YARWA, took some classes, and wrote a paranormal YA. This time I had three requests for fulls—definite progress!

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P Stands for Perseverance

In 2011, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, requiring a mastectomy and six months of chemotherapy. Let me tell you, cancer put a serious whammy on my creativity. For a while, I worried I’d never write again.

But in November 2012, five months after finishing chemo, I discovered NaNoWriMo. Backed by a new appreciation for life, I wrote a contemporary YA novel. This time I was really excited. It was my best work. I entered contests and won. I queried and received many requests for fulls. I could taste victory. But then the rejections starting rolling in—lots of them. Every request equaled a rejection.

In the meantime, I wrote another YA during the 2013 NaNoWriMo. Queries for this book had even less success. Months went by, rejections trickled in, and I considered throwing in the towel. I’d been at it for ten years and written five novels. I’d written the best book I could and still no agent or publishing deal. Thankfully, I had great people in my life who encouraged me through this dark time.

(Tips on how to find more agents who seek your genre/category.)

Stepping Into the Light

In September 2014, I pitched my 2012 novel at a #Pitmad event and received a fave from Karen Grove at Entangled. In the meantime, I pitched my 2013 novel to Carrie Pestritto from Prospect Agency during a YARWA event and received my first revise and resubmit. If I agreed with her suggestions, she’d take another look!

She also agreed to look at my 2012 novel, resulting in another R&R. During this time, she was incredibly responsive—answering all my questions and providing feedback. Wow…I was really impressed. An agent was actually communicating with me!

In February 2015, I received the e-mail I’d dreamed about. Entangled “enjoyed my submission and wanted to discuss possible publication.” But it wasn’t a done deal. I needed to agree with Karen’s envisioned edits, and she needed internal approval.

More nail biting ensued, but I stayed focused on my career goals. I immediately contacted Carrie, but also received an offer from another agent. Wait…now I have to choose? In the end, Carrie’s responsiveness and vision made the decision easy. She is new, but very committed and hands-on. In March, I received the offer from Entangled and signed with Carrie as well.

So, there you have it—I’m living proof that this career can be a long, hard slog, but if you stick with it, your dreams can come true.

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