“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Beth Buelow, author of THE INTROVERT ENTREPRENEUR. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll talk specifics.
Column by, Beth Buelow, author of “THE INTROVERT
ENTREPRENEUR: AMPLIFY YOUR STRENGTHS AND
CREATE SUCCESS ON YOUR OWN TERMS,” (November 2015,
Perigee/Penguin Random House) and “INSIGHT: REFLECTIONS
ON THE GIFTS OF BEING AN INTROVERT.” Beth is a professional
coach, podcaster, and speaker, is based in the Pacific Northwest and
serves introverts worldwide. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
The beginning of it all
My journey to signing with my agent started with a snowstorm that led to a Hollywood ending.
In January 2012, my colleague Judy Dunn was scheduled to fly to New York for the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference. She was on a mission to find an agent through the Pitch Slam event. As fate would have it, just as she was scheduled to fly out of Seattle, the region was hit with a rare blizzard, dubbed “Snowpocalypse.” Her flight was grounded. There would be no New York trip.
In the months that followed, Judy succeeded in signing with an agent. Mission accomplished! And she was left with a voucher for the brand new Writer’s Digest Conference West in October that she no longer needed. She ran a contest on her blog, giving away her ticket to the person who shared the best comment on why he or she should be the recipient of the ticket. Since I had a manuscript in need of an agent, I posted my comment and waited. And then I won. I was going to LA!
I’d been working on my nonfiction book since 2010, and had only pitched to one agent (and received a “thanks but no thanks” response). I was actually still on the fence about whether to self-publish or go the traditional route. Weighing the options distracted me, so I kept my focus on the “what”—the manuscript and building my platform—and trusted the “how” would reveal itself in time.
I’m not sure this was the best approach, but I went to the writer’s conference with a make-or-break attitude. I attribute some of this to my introvert nature; knowing how exhausting it would be to do constant, spread-out-over-time networking and querying, I decided to throw my energy into the quick, convenient format of the Pitch Slam. A recent bestseller related to my rather niched topic had opened a window of opportunity in the marketplace. I was prepared to speak to that opportunity and used that to boost my confidence.
Making the leap, introvert style
Before going to the conference, I researched the Pitch Slam agents and chose four that I wanted to get in front of. The day of, in true introvert fashion, I retreated to sit alone by the pool and visualize what I wanted to happen. Instead of mingling and nervously chatting with others, I saved my energy for the moment I was in front of an agent. My first choice was Annie Bomke. Everything about her seemed to be a fit for my book. Of the four agents I pitched to that day, three asked for a proposal with sample chapters. Two followed up from there, including Annie. One agent provided feedback that she thought it was a strong idea, but my writing voice was too touchy-feely. If I could address that, she’d consider representing me. Annie replied that she loved my voice and could see strong potential. So I made the decision to decline further conversation with the other agent and focus on working with Annie.
Over the next ten months—yes, ten months—Annie and I corresponded and tweaked my proposal. From the beginning, she seemed sincerely invested in the success of the manuscript. She also continuously reinforced to me that I could do it: that I could keep pushing myself to make the proposal better, build my platform, and produce a useful, marketable book.
Finally in August 2013, Annie made an official offer of representation. I knew by then that she was the champion I wanted in my corner, so it was easy to say yes. We continued to work on the proposal, knowing that we were close to being able to query publishing houses. On April 1, 2014, I sent her the final draft of the proposal, and we agreed that it was ready to go.
Within six weeks, we had accepted an offer from Perigee Books (Penguin Random House). The long engagement and unwavering commitment resulted in a quick marriage. It was my happy Hollywood ending!
You might read this and think, “She got lucky.” It’s true: I didn’t do endless queries, I found the right agent from the get-go, and we sold the book quickly. But “luck” means “success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one's own actions.” The snowstorm? A catalyst we couldn’t have predicted. Some might say that was lucky for me. But everything after that was about persistence, patience, and hard work. It was as frustrating as it was energizing. When others look lucky, like they have a Hollywood ending, know they achieved their success through actions that are available to you, too.
Check Out These Great Upcoming Writers' Conferences:
- Oct. 28–30, 2016: Writer's Digest Novel Writing Conference (Los Angeles, CA)
- Nov. 19, 2016: Las Vegas Writing Workshop (Las Vegas, NV)
- Feb. 11, 2017: Writers Conference of Minnesota (St. Paul, MN)
- Feb. 16–19, 2017: San Francisco Writers Conference (San Francisco, CA)
- Feb. 25, 2017: Atlanta Writing Workshop (Atlanta, GA)
- Feb. 26–March 3, 2017: Writers Winter Escape Cruise (conference/cruise departing Miami)
- March 25, 2017: Michigan Writers Conference (Detroit, MI)
- April 8, 2017: Philadelphia Writing Workshop (Philadelphia, PA)
- May 6, 2017: Seattle Writers Conference (Seattle, WA)
- July 22, 2017: Tennessee Writers Workshop (Nashville, TN)
- Aug. 18–20, 2017: Writer's Digest Conference (New York, NY)
Hook agents, editors and readers immediately.
Check out Les Edgerton's guide, HOOKED, to
learn about how your fiction can pull readers in.
Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:
- What Does a Literary Agent Want to See When They Google You?
- How to Plan a Great Book Reading: 5 Tips.
- Read an Interview with a Debut Middle Grade Author.
- Writing young adult or middle grade? New agent Sarah Nego seeks clients!
- Trust Your Instincts: Write the Story the Way YOU Think It Should Be Told.
- How a Critique and Accountability Partner Can Help Your Writing and Career.
- 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 writing a query letter.
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