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How I Got My Literary Agent: Natalia Sylvester

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Natalia Sylvester, author of CHASING THE SUN. 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: Natalia 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: Pizzos3 won.)

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Natalia Sylvester, author of CHASING THE SUN. 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: Natalia 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: Pizzos3 won.)

natalia-sylvester-author-writer
chasing-the-sun-nove-cover

Natalia Sylvester is the author of CHASING THE SUN (New Harvest/Amazon
Publishing, June 2014). Born in Lima, Peru, she came to the U.S. at age four
and grew up in South Florida, where she received a B.A. in Creative Writing
from the University of Miami. A former magazine editor, Natalia now works
as a freelance journalist and copywriter. Her articles have appeared in Latina,
NBCLatino.com, Writer’s Digest, and The Writer magazines.
Find her on Twitter: @NataliaSylv.

There’s a long version and a short version of this story.

THE SHORT VERSION

I went to a writers' conference in 2010 and ended up getting offers of representation from two of the agents I met there.

THE LONG VERSION: ATTENDING A CONFERENCE

I attended the Writers’ League of Texas Agents & Editors Conference in June 2010. I was just a light polish away from completing a final draft of my novel after having worked on it for nearly four years. I felt ready enough to start pitching agents.

What I wasn’t ready for was pitching it verbally. Though I’d practiced a short pitch in front of my mirror, my husband, and my dogs, I arrived at the conference a nervous wreck. It was a Friday night, and my 10-minute consultation with Brandi Bowles of Foundry Literary + Media was on Sunday. I resigned myself to practicing my pitch by my lonesome in the corner of the room when a fellow conference attendee approached me.

(Looking to attend a writers' conference? Start here.)

“So what’s your book about?” she asked. Within minutes, I realized this conference wasn’t just about networking with agents, it was about networking with other writers. Together with about four others, my new friend and I helped each other practice and hone our pitch. We worked out the kinks and the nerves. By the time Sunday rolled around I was feeling pretty confident. I sat down with Brandi and told her about my book.

And guess what? She didn’t offer me representation right then and there. What she did offer was feedback. Really great, spot-on suggestions for how I could make my work stronger before sending it out to agents.

I took it all in. Later that afternoon, when I had the chance to pitch another agent who requested I send him a full, I asked if he’d rather I send him the manuscript right away, or if it’d be okay if I took a couple of months to really polish it. “Always send the best work you can, even if it takes a little longer,” he said. It took this in, too.

Essentially, I left the conference with an important To-Do List:

1. Keep revising, taking into account the agents feedback I’d received.
2. Meet with my new writers' group that I’d met at the conference to get even more feedback.
3. Don’t rush. Query only when the book is ready.

Four months passed before I got through all these steps. I started querying in late October and within a few months had received offers from both Brandi and the other agent I’d met at the WLT Conference.

I call this the longer, more honest version of this story because the truth is this: You may not always walk away from a conference with an offer of representation. But if you keep your mind and ears open, you’ll definitely walk away with the tools necessary to get there.

GIVEAWAY: Natalia 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: Pizzos3 won.)

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