How I Got My Agent: Regina Jennings

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the GLA blog. 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: Guest columnist Regina Jennings is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within one week; 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: Barbara 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 Regina Jennings, author of SIXTY ACRES AND A BRIDE. 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: Regina 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: Barbara won.)

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Regina Jennings is homeschooling mother of four from Oklahoma.
She enjoys watching musicals with her kids, traveling with her
husband and reading by herself. Regina graduated from Oklahoma
Baptist University with a degree in English and a history minor.
She has worked at The Mustang News and First Baptist Church
of Mustang, along with time at the Oklahoma National Stockyards
and various livestock shows. For more posts by Regina or
information about her novel, SIXTY ACRES AND A BRIDE (Feb. 2012
Bethany House), please visit her website - find her on Facebook or Twitter.

If you were an agent would you want to represent an aspiring novelist whose professional claim to fame was that she weighed pigs at the Oklahoma National Stockyards?

That’s what I thought.

When I decided to write my first book I had no contacts. I didn’t know a single author. There were no friends to introduce me to an agent and no opportunities to cross paths with literary types at cocktail parties (do they still have those in the big city?). I was blazing across new territory.

Or that’s how I felt, but I saw evidence that others had been there before. Their desperately carved messages scarred the canyon walls—Agents don’t look at emailed submissions. You have to know someone to get published. No one signs newbies unless you’ve been on TV wearing a swimsuit… and America’s Funniest Videos doesn’t count.

But among the doomsayers were those dispensing encouragement as well—Learn the art of querying, Go to conferences, Miracles happen. And a miracle was what I needed.

ON A QUEST

I’d had my eye on a certain writer’s conference, one that would be attended by an editor with my dream publishing house and several agents I’d been stalking. Was my writing good enough? We would soon find out because my husband bought me a ticket for my birthday. In a few months I’d be pitching my novel to a real-life, fire-breathing, rejection-shooting agent.

That would be great, wouldn’t it? The only problem I saw was that the week after conference every agent in attendance would be flooded with submissions. Their normally empty inbox (yes, I was that naïve) would suddenly be filled with proposals from optimistic conference-attendees. How could a greenhorn like me get noticed?

(Writing a synopsis for your novel? Here are 5 tips.)

A TRULY TERRIBLE IDEA

My original solution was to send my proposals before conference. I’d read that it could take three months for an agent to respond, so I’d submit two months before conference. Then when Ms. Agent became my new best friend at conference, she would remember my submission…or even better, she’d go back to her hotel room and there it’d be—the next in the queue.

Awful plan. Before the conference I’d already heard back from a couple of agents. Rejected before I’d even stepped foot in the sacred Appointments Galley. Why weren’t they procrastinating like they’d promised? In fact, I’d requested an appointment with one of these deniers. What now?

And it got worse. At the conference, the line, “Hey, I submitted to you a few months ago, do you remember it?” earned blank stares all around. Only one person asked me to resend and then I learned the trick… there’s a magic phrase they’ll tell you to put in the RE: line if you meet them at conference. That phrase can be the difference between a quick scan and a thorough consideration.

Expensive mistake, but I still had a shot at an editor.

AVOIDING DISASTER

The editor appointment had the potential to be a total catastrophe. I’d scored a meeting with my dream publisher, a leader in historical romance, and the one I’d had in mind when I wrote Sixty Acres and a Bride. Thankfully, God granted the miracle I was praying for and they requested the full. Before long it’d passed the editorial board and was moving on to the pub board, and this is where I saw something amazing happen. Even better than the secret conference code on the email is the opening line—This manuscript is being presented to the pub board next week. Doors opened and I signed with Rachel Kent from Books and Such Literary Agency.

Rachel walked me through the signing of a three-book contract and continues to help by brainstorming, finding marketing opportunities and protecting my editor from some of my half-baked ideas. I’ve discovered how much an agent does even after the contract is in hand.

(Is it best to query all your target agents at once? -- or just a few to start?)

WHAT I LEARNED

I’d like to think that my manuscript would’ve been chosen out of an agent’s slush pile even without a publisher’s interest, but I’ll never know… and I can live with that.

I can also live with the mistakes I made along the way, knowing that they didn’t keep me from my goal. Getting off-course isn’t cause for panic, because when you need one, an agent will appear.

So that’s the message I’m carving in the wall for the next traveler—Have faith. Work, learn and when the time is right it’ll happen. Enjoy the journey.

GIVEAWAY: Regina 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: Barbara won.)

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