“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Loretta Torossian. 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.
Loretta Torossian is a public school teacher in New York City.
She is an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers
and Illustrators (SCBWI). VOICES IN THE WAVES, her YA fantasy
about a sheltered island girl who is catapulted into a dark water
world fraught with danger when her little sister is snatched by
sea beasts, is currently on submission. Connect with her on Twitter.
My road to finding an agent began before I was looking for one.
Seven years ago I decided to take my writing more seriously and I attended my first SCBWI conference. During the conference I had the opportunity to show my work to an editor from a big house. My first two pages were polished and the editor loved it and asked to see the rest. But the rest of my novel needed work. Lots of work. Lesson learned. Never show anything to anyone, especially a professional in the industry, until it’s all done. She rejected it, of course. And I'd blown my chances of this editor ever wanting to see anything from me again.
Back to Basics After a Lesson Learned
After this lost opportunity, I knew that if I was serious about getting published I had to develop my craft and polish my style. I also learned that it wasn’t easy to catch an editor’s eye. I needed an agent. My goal – the next time any professional sees my writing, it needs to be my absolute best work. I embarked on a journey through four online critique groups, many SCBWI conferences and workshops, online Writers Digest tutorials, this amazing GLA Blog, a Mediabistro advanced novel writing class, many books on writing, and in-person critique sessions with writer friends I met at conferences. I poured over the Writers Digest Guide to Literary Agents – heavy volumes full of insight and submission guidelines. I own one for every year for the past seven years. Throughout all this, I kept writing, revising, and improving my craft. My writing passion occupied most of my evenings and weekends. I'm surprised my family hasn't disowned me yet. I'm lucky.
A "Boot Camp" Might Just Do the Trick
In the spring of 2012, Writers Digest offered a unique online tutorial called Agent One-on-One Bootcamp. In this workshop, the agent, Paula Munier of Talcott Notch Literary, would help the attendees polish the first ten pages of their novel. I’d attended other Writers Digest tutorials prior to this, all very helpful, but we’d never been given the opportunity to resubmit our revisions to the agent who was holding the workshop. This was an opportunity I couldn’t miss.
The tutorial was beyond my expectations. Paula blew me away with her knowledge of the industry. Her love of words and story structure were apparent throughout her presentation. Her revision comments brought out the best in my writing. I have to admit I was really intimidated to submit my work to her. What if she hated it? What if it wasn’t good enough? But I’d invested my time and money in this workshop for a reason. Let’s face it. No matter how great the novel is, if the beginning doesn’t catch a professional’s eye, they’ll never bother to look at the rest. Maybe I thought I was nearly there. But was I really? This would be my test.
After Paula’s initial presentation, we were asked to polish our first 10 pages and submit to her. She would take a few days to read our work, then she’d send us her comments and we’d have about a week to use her comments to revise our work and resubmit to her. If at this point she was interested in seeing more she’d let us know. When, after a final polish based on her workshop, I sent in my first ten pages, I think I bit my nails down to the quick (a terrible habit).
Two days later I received an e-mail from her and had to read it twice to make sure I’d read it correctly. She had sent me her comments, but in her e-mail she asked me if I have an agent. She liked the story even before I did any revisions! I spent a few days revising my first chapter based on her comments and sent my revisions to her. Within a day she emailed me asking to see the rest of the novel. Three weeks later (longest three weeks of my life) I had a contract. I think I screamed like a little girl and danced around my kitchen – something my family (and my dog) had never seen me do.
Now, my novel, Voices in the Waves, is out on submission. It’s a waiting game that I’m more than happy to play. Patience, after all, has been my biggest lesson on this journey. You hear stories of people landing agents or getting publishing deals so quickly. But that hasn’t been my journey. Lesson to learn from me is this: never ever give up. Even when you think your writing is awful. That you’re not good enough. That you’ll never catch an agent’s eye. Those are self-deprecating thoughts that will never get you anywhere. Trust me, I know. Maybe your journey won’t be as long or maybe it will be longer. If you feel passionate enough about writing, you’ll be patient and keep working hard until one day you find yourself so excited that you’ll do something your family has never seen you do – like screaming like a little girl (or boy) and dancing around your kitchen.
(Find more young adult literary agents.)
Writing a novel for children? Literary agent
Mary Kole, who runs the popular KidLit.com
website, has a new guide out for writers of
young adult and middle grade. Pick up a copy
of Writing Irresistible Kidlit and get your
children's book published.
Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:
- What's In a Title? Everything.
- NEW Agent Seeking Clients: Rachel Dugas of Talcott Notch Literary.
- Find Out What Writing Events Host Literary Agents as well as Sessions on Pitching.
- Discussing Credentials in a Nonfiction Book Proposal.
- Literary Agent Interview: Lori Perkins, Founder of L. Perkins Associates.
- Sell More Books by Building Your Author Platform.
- 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.
Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
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