How I Got My Literary Agent: Kara Isaac

Debut author Kara Isaac, author of CLOSE TO YOU (Howard Books), shares her journey to obtaining an agent and making a manuscript into a published novel.
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“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Kara Isaac, author of CLOSE TO YOU. 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 Kara Isaac, debut author of CLOSE TO YOU (April, 26, 2016,
Howard Books). Kara lives in Wellington, New Zealand. When she's not
working her day job as a public servant, chasing around a ninja preschooler
and his feisty toddler sister, she spends her time writing horribly bad first
drafts and wishing you could get Double Stuffed Oreos in New Zealand.
She loves to connect on her website, on Facebook and on Twitter.

Google has spoken
I started writing in early 2006. By 2008, I had a completed manuscript (or more accurately a chick lit tome at 110,000 words—go ahead and laugh!). I had taken no writing classes, I knew nothing about the business of writing and publishing, but some time on Google told me that I needed an agent.

(Submission Checklist: Double-Check These 16 Things Before Sending Your Book Out.)

I threw myself into querying with abandon. Many agents, oh so many agents, all just sitting in front of their computers waiting for my baby to find its way to them! I still cringe when I think about one particular agent who, for some unknown reason I was convinced was THE ONE, who I queried not just once, but sent a series of stream of consciousness emails. Bless his heart, he was so much kinder to me in his inevitable rejection than I deserved.

A year and many many rejections later two great things happened. (A) I went to my first writers’ conference where I discovered that I had no clue about either writing or publishing and (B) I got married, changed my name and could start afresh, leaving that cringe inducing wannabe know-nothing writer behind who had probably unknowingly blacklisted herself with every agent she had queried!

Getting to work
I put my head down, I studied the craft, I learned about actually researching the agents that you queried (and their guidelines) and slowly started sending out queries again. This time, I started getting requests for proposals and partials. Rejections all followed but ones that said that I wasn’t there yet but to keep going. Eventually, on the advice of one encouraging agent, I put that first manuscript aside and started working on something new.

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This story felt different. A romantic comedy that I had hopes that this one might be different but they were tempered with the reality that this is a hard business and that I wasn’t the best judge of whether those hopes were baseless or not. I entered it in a writing contest. It became a finalist. I turned my attention from querying to actually finishing the manuscript in preparation for a writers’ conference I would be attending in six months.

Freshly finished (as in the first draft completed on the plane!) I arrived at the conference and entered crazy-surreal-writers land. I pitched to five agents and all of them asked to see it. I had an agent stop me in the hallway and ask to see it because they’d heard about my pitch from someone else.

A girl walks into a bar
The last night of conference I walked into the bar euphoric, exhausted and tired of hearing my own spiel. I went there for five minutes to say goodbye to a friend. She was at a table with a bunch of other people. It was dim. From a nearby wall a football game blared.

She asked me how my agent pitches had gone. “Great,” I replied. “Everyone asked for more. John Agent even read some of my pages and laughed.” At those words, a gentleman who’d been watching the football with his back to me swung around. I recognised him as another agent. One I hadn’t pitched to but I’d taken one of his classes. “You made John Agent laugh?” he said incredulously. “Yes.” He looked at me like I’d told him John Agent had donned a kilt and danced a jig during my pitch. “John Agent doesn’t laugh. Ever.” “Well he did.” “Why?” By this point I’m a little snappy. “I guess he thought something he read was funny.” He looks at me for a few seconds then digs a business card out of his pocket. “Well, make sure you send your stuff to me too.”

(Wait a moment before you send out that query. Look over submission dos and don'ts.)

So I did. Three months later I signed with him. Two years, and three manuscripts, later we sold my debut novel, CLOSE TO YOU, to Howard Books.

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Check Out These Great Upcoming Writers' Conferences:

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the agent database, Guide to Literary Agents.

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