How I Got My Literary Agent: Sarah Creech

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Sarah Creech, author of SEASON OF THE DRAGONFLIES. 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: Sarah 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: burrowswrite won.)
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“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Sarah Creech, author of SEASON OF THE DRAGONFLIES. 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: Sarah 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: burrowswrite won.)

Season-of-the-dragonflies-novel-cover
sarah-creech-author-writer

Born and raised in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Sarah Creech
grew up in a house full of women who told stories about black cloud visions
and other premonitions. Her work has appeared in storySouth, Literary Mama,
Aroostook Review, Glass, and as a finalist for Glimmer Train. She received
an MFA from McNeese State University in 2008 and now teaches English
and creative writing at Queens University of Charlotte. Her debut novel is
SEASON OF THE DRAGONFLIES (August 2014, William Morrow), women's
fiction -- a story of flowers, sisters, practical magic, old secrets, and new
love, set in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Find Sarah on Twitter.

PREPPING FOR BAD NEWS

My husband and I were talking through Target on a Friday morning, and my phone rang. My husband said, “Is that New York?” and I said, “No, it wouldn’t be.” I was right. It was my mother. In the past week, four of the five agents who requested my novel Season of the Dragonflies had rejected the submission, for various reasons. I was expecting the fifth and final agent, Alexandra Machinist, to send me an email in the next few days with a similar vague reason for why she couldn’t represent me.

I’d spent the last year rewriting my query letter and researching agents. Each day after I finished my writing session, I switched on my logical brain and conducted Internet searches. WritersDigest.com became a critical tool for finding new agents and reading sample query letters. Mostly, I read and researched novels similar to mine and looked up the agents who represented those authors. I maintained a detailed Excel spreadsheet of agent names, their contact information, and who they represented. I made notes on how my novel was similar to the novels I read and liked. I ranked the agents by experience. At the very top of the list I had a special block, highlighted gray, for my “dream agents.”

(Read tips on writing a query letter.)

I'D HAD PRACTICE WITH REJECTION

Once my novel had been revised multiple times and read by multiple close friends and revised again, I felt confident submitting to agents. I decided I would start by suffering the rejection of my dream agents first, and then work my way down the Excel spreadsheet list. To my deep surprise, the first five dream agents I submitted my query letter to all requested either a partial or a full. Euphoria ensued, but it couldn’t last. Over the next week, I’d open my email account and shudder at the sight of an agent’s name. I’d hesitate before clicking on the e-mail. I could tell by the tone of the first few words that the agent wouldn’t represent me. I also knew that if the agent did like my work, I wouldn’t receive an email, I’d receive a phone call. That’s what I’d been hoping for, a story about a random call from an amazing agent.

I’d had practice with rejection. I wrote two books before Season of the Dragonflies and submitted them to agents. With both of those books, I stopped after the first round of rejections to move on to the next project. My intuition told me those projects weren’t right, and the agents agreed. But Season of the Dragonflies was different. I was confident in the novel in a way I’d never been before with anything else I’d written. So even though four out of five dream agents didn’t want to represent me, I knew I wouldn’t move on just yet. Still, I needed some time to recover.

I was feeling pretty low on that Friday morning in Target. My husband encouraged me to take the weekend off and start querying a new round of agents on Monday. That same afternoon my husband left to pick up my stepdaughter and bring her to our house for the weekend. I stayed with our three year old daughter and attempted to put her down for a nap. She wasn’t going willingly, and then my phone rang.

(How to be an agent's dream client.)

A CALL FROM NEW YORK...

I figured it was my mother again, but when I checked the phone, the number had a 212 area code. Only one person from New York would be calling me. I picked up the phone and she said, “Hi Sarah, this is Alexandra Machinist. I just finished your novel and I had to call you.” I thanked her (profusely) for calling me, but asked if I could call her back because my daughter was standing at the top of the stairs demanding a drink before she’d nap. She said, “No problem.” I hung up, gave my daughter water, ran downstairs and called my husband who said, “I knew New York would call you today.”

I called Alexandra back. She stayed home sick from work that day and decided to read the slush pile submissions she’d requested. She started reading my novel at nine in the morning and called as soon as she finished. We talked on the phone for an hour. We made jokes and laughed like friends. By the end of the call, she offered to represent me. I knew she was the best agent for the book. One month later she sold the novel in a six-figure contract to William Morrow.

Dream agents. That’s what they do.

GIVEAWAY: Sarah 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: burrowswrite won.)

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