“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Rebecca Phillips, author of FAKING PERFECT. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll talk specifics.
Rebecca Phillips has been a fan of contemporary young adult fiction ever since she first discovered Judy Blume at the age of twelve. After a brief stint writing bad poetry as a teenager, she finally found her niche with realistic, coming‑of‑age YA. Her third novel, OUT OF NOWHERE, was a finalist in the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. She's also the author of the JUST YOU series. Her next YA novel is FAKING PERFECT (Kensington Publishing, June 2015). Visit Rebecca on Twitter @RebeccaWritesYA.
I WAS A LATE BLOOMER
As far as my writing career goes, I guess you could say I’m a late bloomer. I’ve been writing all my life as a pastime, but between marriage and kids and work, I lacked the time and focus it took to write full time. It wasn’t until I was in my early thirties that I got serious about getting published. Now, at 38, it amazes me that I ever thought about doing anything else.
Five years ago, when I started looking for an agent for my first YA novel, Just You, I had to actually look up what “query” meant. That’s how clueless I was about the world of publishing. But like most writers, I learned on the fly. I researched how to write a query, and wrote one. I emailed agents and waited anxiously for the responses to roll in. I didn’t have much luck with that first book, but at least I learned a lot along the way.
A CONTEST = MY TURNING POINT
Most people probably can’t pinpoint the exact moment their writing hobby turned into a writing career, but I can. It was 2010, and I was reading Sarah Dessen’s blog. She mentioned something about being a guest judge for that year’s Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. Curious, I Googled it. Soon after, I entered it. Just You got to the second round that year. I entered again in 2011, but was cut in the first round. In 2012, I entered a different book, one I recently finished writing called Out of Nowhere. That time, I made it all the way to the top three.
It was the turning point I needed. Being an ABNA finalist gave me something I’d been missing until then—confidence. When I didn’t win the contest, the first thing I did was start querying agents. Some people like to send a few queries at a time and wait, but I sent out dozens at once. It took only a few days for the requests to start pouring in. One of those requests was from P.S Literary Agency, who asked for a partial and then a full. Two days later, I received my first offer of representation from agent Carly Watters. A week later, I accepted.
It all happened so quickly. I had an agent! And she was nice and eager and Canadian like me. After several weeks of revision and preparation, Out of Nowhere went on submission at the end of August 2012. I dealt with my stress by focusing all my attention on writing another book. In May 2013, I sent this new manuscript—still untitled—to my agent. At this point, Out of Nowhere was going…well, nowhere. Ultimately, it didn’t end up selling to a traditional publisher, so I decided to self-publish it.
CARLY SUBMITS "FAKING PERFECT"
Two weeks after Out of Nowhere was released, my new book—finally titled Faking Perfect—went out on submission. Months went by with sporadic passes from editors and I remember thinking Here we go again. Would I ever get an offer? Would I ever see my book sitting next to other YA titles on a store shelf? I’d already self-published three books and I figured this would be Faking Perfect’s destiny too. Then April 2014 hit.
I was standing at the grocery store check-out when Carly gave me the news we’d been waiting a year and a half to hear: I had an offer. But it didn’t just stop there. A few days later, we got a second offer. And a few days after that, a third. After seven months of nothing, we had three different offers in one week. It was chaotic and confusing and exhilarating, and I was never more thankful to have such a level-headed, knowledgeable, amazing agent in my corner.
A good agent doesn’t just pitch your books. They help guide your career. They talk you down off ledges. They go to bat for you. They never give up. Thanks to Carly’s support and a lot of hard work from each of us, I ended up signing a two-book deal with Kensington Publishing. Faking Perfect came out June 2015, and Any Other Girl is set to be released in February 2016.
Now, here I stand—almost 40, mom of two teenagers, and living proof that it’s never too late to bloom.
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- July 22, 2017: Tennessee Writers Workshop (Nashville, TN)
- Aug. 18–20, 2017: Writer's Digest Conference (New York, NY)
Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:
- Agent Spotlight: Whitley Abell (Inklings Literary Agency) seeks YA, MG and select Upmarket Women's Fiction.
- The Thrifty Person's Guide To A Successful Book Launch Party.
- Self-editing Advice: Tackling Character Consistency.
- 11 Steps To Finding The Agent Who'll Love Your Book.
- Follow Chuck Sambuchino on Twitter or find him on Facebook. Learn all about his writing guides on how to get published, how to find a literary agent, and writing a query letter.