How I Got My Agent: Jennifer Bosworth

“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. GIVEAWAY: Jennifer 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. (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 Jennifer Bosworth, author of STRUCK. 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: Jennifer 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. (Barbara won.)

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Jennifer Bosworth lives in Los Angeles, California, where
lightning hardly ever strikes, but when it does she takes cover.
She is the writer half of a writer/director team with her husband,
Ryan Bosworth. Learn more about her and view the book trailer
for her YA novel, STRUCK, at jenniferbosworth.com.

A FEW GLASSES OF WHITE WINE...

The first time I met my agent, Jamie Weiss Chilton of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, I’d drunk way too much white wine while standing in the hot sun, and ended up telling her an extremely embarrassing (and rather raunchy) story.

This auspicious first encounter occurred at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference, during their agent meet and greet event. It was my first time at the conference, and I knew a total of zero people. I showed up at the meet and greet, and immediately relegated myself to the sidelines, too afraid to approach any of these complete strangers and say words to them.

(Headed to a conference? Learn how to approach an agent.)

Lucky for me, a group of writers noticed me in seclusion and invited me into their inner circle. Fast forward: a couple of glasses of wine later, we were all pretty gregarious, and I was feeling far less shy when, suddenly, a couple of agents appeared in the mix. I was in the middle of a . . . ahem . . . a somewhat embarrassing and colorful story. I had no choice but to finish it and deliver the racy punchline. I won’t tell you the story. Suffice to say that it was not one I wanted prospective agents to hear.

Afterward, introductions were made and I found out I was pitching to not one, but two of the agents at the next day’s pitch fest. Gulp. But, hey, at least I made a first impression, right? I wasn’t sure if it was a good one, but it was an impression.

A HURRIED FIRST DRAFT

The next day, nursing a white wine hangover, I pitched my book, STRUCK, to Jamie Weiss Chilton, and she seemed to love the idea. She asked me to send her the first 50 pages, I told her I would, and we went our separate ways.

Whew. I was relieved that my naughty story hadn’t scared Jamie away. But what I didn’t tell Jamie was that the book I’d just pitched to her wasn’t even half finished. Still, I figured it would take her a while to get back to me, so I had time to complete a first draft.

Oops.

She read the first 50 pages and asked for the rest. I still wasn’t finished. Wasn’t even close! But I was too afraid to admit that to her, so I said I’d have it in her hands in a week. Then I sat my butt in my computer chair and didn’t leave it until STRUCK was finished. I wrote about 150 pages in 7 days. When I sent the full manuscript to Jamie, it was raw. Like, give-you-salmonella raw.

Wouldn’t it be annoying if I told you Jamie offered to sign me on a complete mess of a first draft? Not to worry. She didn’t. But she did ask me to do an exclusive revision for her.

The problem is, I’d never successfully revised a manuscript. I didn’t exactly know how to address Jamie’s notes, and I ended up completely rewriting the book. When I gave Jamie the new draft, it was unrecognizable from the first. She didn’t immediately fall in love with this new draft, and while I was devastated, I felt the draft I’d delivered was good enough to get me an agent. It just wasn’t what Jamie was looking for.

So I told Jamie thank you for taking a chance on me, but I was going to shop the manuscript around and see if I got any bites.

(Do writers need an outside edit before querying agents?)

"UPON FURTHER CONSIDERATION..."

A week or two later, Jamie contacted me and made an offer. She’d reconsidered, decided the manuscript still had potential, it just needed a bit more finessing, and she wanted to represent it.

Triumph!

Jamie guided me through another couple of drafts, and when STRUCK sold, it did so at auction. Not only that, but my edit letter from my editor was only two paragraphs long. I credit my rock star agent for holding my feet to the fire when it came to revisions. She never let me get off easy, and that’s good, because writing books isn’t supposed to be easy. If it were, everyone would do it. Jamie gets that, and now so do I.

One more funny story about Jamie and me. Jamie doesn’t even know about this one. We both live in L.A., so we met up (after SCBW, but before she’d signed me) for drinks and chatting. Jamie chose and appetizer for us, and I ate it without question, not realizing it had walnuts in it. I am . . . very allergic to walnuts. But I didn’t want Jamie to feel like she’d poisoned me. How was she to know I was allergic to walnuts? So I fought the allergic reaction with all my might. I wonder if Jamie noticed at any point in our conversation that my skin was turning bright red and my lips were turning blue. If so, she didn’t say anything. I fought the good fight until the reaction subsided.

The walnuts didn’t kill me, and neither did the revisions.

GIVEAWAY: Jennifer 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. (Barbara won.)

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