How I Got My Literary Agent: Rebecca Phillips

Publish date:

“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 and we’ll talk specifics.

(The Do's and Don'ts of Attending a Writers' Conference.)

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 6.02.29 PM
Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 6.02.17 PM

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.

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.

(4 ways besides query letters you can contact literary agents.)


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.


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.

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 10.47.36 AM

Writing books/novels for kids & teens? There are hundreds
of publishers, agents and other markets listed in the
latest Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market.
Buy it online at a discount.


Check Out These Great Upcoming Writers' Conferences:


Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

Sole vs. Soul (Grammar Rules)

Sole vs. Soul (Grammar Rules)

Learn how to distinguish the sole from the soul with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

How to Make the Most of a Virtual Writing Workshop or Conference

How to Make the Most of a Virtual Writing Workshop or Conference

In this brave new world of virtual learning and social distance, Kristy Stevenson helps us make the most of the virtual conference.

When Is Historical Accuracy Inaccurate?

When Is Historical Accuracy Inaccurate?

Writers of historical fiction must always ride the line between factual and fictitious. Here, author Terry Roberts discusses how to navigate that line.

What Is Creative Nonfiction in Writing?

What Is Creative Nonfiction in Writing?

In this post, we look at what creative nonfiction (also known as the narrative nonfiction) is, including what makes it different from other types of fiction and nonfiction writing and more.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: Four WDU Courses, a Competition Deadline Reminder, and More!

This week, we’re excited to announce four WDU courses, a Competition deadline reminder, and more!

Funny You Should Ask: What Is Going to Be the Next Big Trend in Fiction?

Funny You Should Ask: What Is Going to Be the Next Big Trend in Fiction?

Funny You Should Ask is a humorous and handy column by literary agent Barbara Poelle. In this edition, she discusses the next big fiction trend, and whether or not all books are the same.

From Script

A Change in Entertainment Business Currency and Disrupting Storytelling with Historical Significance (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by, learn about how crypto currency is making a wave in the entertainment business, what percentages really mean in film financing, the pros and cons of writing partnerships, an exclusive interview with three-time NAACP Image Awards nominee, co-creator and former showrunner of CBS’ 'S.W.A.T.' Aaron Rahsaan Thomas and more!

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Putting Off Submissions

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Putting Off Submissions

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake is putting off submissions.

The Transformative Power of a Post-First-Draft Outline

The Transformative Power of a Post-First-Draft Outline

Have you ever considered outlining after finishing your first draft? Kris Spisak walks you through the process.