How I Got My Literary Agent: Lori M. Lee

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Lori M. Lee, author of GATES OF THREAD AND STONE. 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: Lori 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.
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“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Lori M. Lee, author of GATES OF THREAD AND STONE. 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: Lori 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: jennhscott won.)

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Lori M. Lee is the author of young adult fantasy GATES OF THREAD AND STONE
(purchase it on Amazon or IndieBound), which came out Aug. 2014 from Skyscape.
Lori has a borderline obsessive fascination with unicorns, is fond of talking in capslock,
and loves to write about magic, manipulation, and family. She lives in Wisconsin
with her husband, kids, and a friendly pitbull. Connect with her
on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest.

Changing things up

I’d read somewhere that writing the query before writing the book would help focus the plot. Since both an overly complicated plot and, subsequently, a query that just never felt right (despite numerous attempts to rewrite it) had been problems with my previous manuscript, I decided to try it for my next project. To my surprise, the query came easily, and the one I ended up sending out to agents changed little from that first draft.

An unexpected referral

I was determined not to repeat the same mistake I’d made with my previous manuscript by querying too soon, so I took my time making sure my book was as polished as I could get it. I decided to enter a random drawing for a first chapter critique by an author whose books I enjoyed. I ended up winning the critique, so I sent her my first chapter hoping for some insight. She responded shortly after saying she had nothing to critique and could I please send my second chapter instead. Surprised but also tentatively optimistic, I sent my second chapter. Once again, she had no feedback but mentioned that she’d forwarded my chapters to her agent Suzie Townsend (of New Leaf Literary) and hoped I didn’t mind.

At that point, my brain short circuited, and I’m pretty sure my response was something like “!!!oifseks!!!” As it turned out, Suzie loved my pages and encouraged me to query her as soon as the manuscript was complete.

(Why writers who don't have a basic website are hurting their chances of success.)

The “Call”

About a month later, I’d done all I could for this manuscript and took the querying plunge. I emailed Suzie on a Friday night at 11:45 pm (b/c when I’m tired is when I’m feeling bravest). Thirty minutes later, she responded with: “YES PLEASE SEND!!!! Right now! :):)”

Ecstatic, I sent off my ms and put it from my mind. (And by that, I mean I obsessed over it day and night.) About a month later, I got a sheepish and apologetic email from Suzie saying she’d responded within days to receiving my manuscript and wondered why I hadn’t replied. She checked her email and found it never sent. But she still wanted to talk! And she included a couple pages of revisions notes for me to look over as well.

We set up a phone call, during which I was too anxious and wired to remember to say ANY of the things I’d planned to. When she asked what else I was working on, even though I had it written down right in front of me, I blanked and went, “Um… this book about… a girl who has a monster in her… and this boy… who captures her.” And then because I could unfortunately HEAR myself, I added, “Wow, that sounds terrible.”

(Hear a dozen agents explain exactly what they want to see the slush pile. See if your work is a match.)

Suzie was kind enough to laugh and take it in stride, and despite my bumbling, she still offered me rep. Whew! After the call, I did the usual, which was to run around the house a few times (is that not the usual?) and then I contacted all the other agents in possession of my manuscript to inform them of the offer.

In the end, although I had several offers from really stellar agents, I knew that Suzie was the right agent for me. The book she signed me for, Gates of Thread and Stone, released in August, and I couldn’t be happier.

GIVEAWAY: Lori 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: jennhscott won.)

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