How I Got My Literary Agent: Robin Reul

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“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Robin Reul, author of MY KIND OF CRAZY. 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 Robin Reul, debut author of MY KIND OF CRAZY
(April 5, 2016, Sourcebooks Fire). Robin has been writing stories
since she was old enough to hold a pen. Though she grew up on
movie sets and worked for years in the film and television industry,
she ultimately decided to focus her attention on writing contemporary
young adult novels. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, son and
daughter. Follow her on Twitter

Finding a dream
I’ve been writing stories since I was three years old, and when I was thirteen, I was lucky enough to have my first meeting with an editor at a major publishing house. Though my work was far from ready for publication then, she gave me incredible advice and an open door to submit directly, which for any author is pretty much on of Wonka'a Golden Tickets. So instead of hunkering down, honing my craft and churning out stories, I did just the opposite. I got scared, and self-doubt and the fear of rejection crept in, and I stopped writing. Crazy, right?

(Classifying Your Book: How to Research & Target Literary Agents.)

In fact, it would take nearly two and a half decades before I would start writing again. In between, I pursued a career in film and television and was a stay-at-home mom to two incredible kids, but I reached a point where I knew that if this was truly my dream, I needed to do something about it or let it go. My family was incredibly supportive, and I devoted my days full-time while my kids were at school to writing my first novel. I attended conferences and workshops and met other authors, creating an invaluable network of friends and colleagues who understood my crazy.

Overcoming fears
A fellow author friend offered up a referral to her agent, Leigh Feldman, then at Writers House, and I was elated when she requested to read my novel. She was my absolute dream agent. She represented amazing authors whom I admired and loved their work, and she was a well-respected, top agent who commanded industry attention and got books sold. When she passed on my query, I was devastated.

I kept writing. Four years later, I would write the novel that would become MY KIND OF CRAZY, and she was top of my list to approach again. I sent off the query and waited, but there was radio silence. Over a month went by, and I figured she probably wasn’t interested because she had been so quick to respond the first time, within days. I continued querying other agents but my heart raced every time I saw there was a new request, hoping it was from her. Then one day I saw an announcement on Publishers Marketplace that she’d left Writers House to start up her own literary agency, Leigh Feldman Literary, and I immediately wondered if she’d ever gotten the query in the first place. I gambled and sent her my query again.

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This time, I heard from her almost immediately, and she anxiously requested. She had never even received the first query, as I suspected. I remember when I hit send, I realized afterwards that I had been holding my breath. Were breathing not mandatory, I would likely have continued holding it until a few days later when I got that dream email that simply said, “Is there a good time to speak this week?”

I knew exactly what that meant. A busy agent, particularly one in the throes of setting up her own agency, is usually not interested in talking to an author unless he/she is potentially interested in representing his/her work, and she called me at noon that very same day.

Dreams become reality
My hands were literally shaking. Our conversation was incredible and we clicked from the first sentence. She completely loved and got my novel, and had incredible ideas about ways to shape and mold it to make it even stronger. I knew from the second we spoke that she was the right person for me, but the full manuscript was still out with a dozen other agents. I respectfully sent out an offer of representation letter and it prompted two additional offers. As if my head wasn’t spinning enough, one morning I woke up to an amazing email from one of Leigh’s clients, bestselling YA author Sarah Dessen, congratulating me, singing Leigh’s praises and telling me all the reasons why Leigh is so incredible to work with. Although Leigh pretty much had me at hello, that letter sealed the deal, and I eagerly accepted.

(Tips on how to find more agents who seek your genre/category.)

From day one, Leigh has believed in me and in my book, and worked tirelessly to help it find the right home. She has gone to bat for me, talked me off ledges, and kept me in stitches with hilarious emails and reality checks. She is exactly the kind of partner-in-crime I want in my corner on this crazy publishing journey, and there is not a day that goes by that I do not feel like I won lotto for the opportunity to work with her.

Dreams really do come true. As my grandmother always used to say, “The delay is never the denial.”

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