How I Got My Literary Agent: Author Steph Cha - Writer's Digest

How I Got My Agent: Steph Cha, Author of FOLLOW HER HOME

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Steph Cha, author of FOLLOW HER HOME, a mystery. 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. This column is written by Steph Cha, author of the 2013 mystery debut FOLLOW HER HOME (Minotaur). Steph's agent is Ethan Bassoff of Lippincott Massie McQuilkin.
Author:
Publish date:

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Steph Cha, author of FOLLOW HER HOME, a mystery. 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.

(New for 2013: MORE Tips on Writing a Query Letter.)

Steph_Cha
follow-her-home

Steph Cha is a graduate of Stanford University and Yale Law School.
She lives in her native city of Los Angeles, California. Her debut novel
is FOLLOW HER HOME (Minotaur, April 2013), a mystery that follows
main character Juniper Song, who the LA Times called "a compelling
and original protagonist … One only hopes that Cha and her driven,
neo-noir detective have more opportunities to explore those troubling
intersections over many books to come." Connect with Steph on Twitter.

THE "GLAMOROUS LIFE" OF A WRITER

I finished the first draft of Follow Her Home while I was in law school, and by the time I graduated, I was determined to pursue the glamorous life of a writer. To that end, I moved home with my parents and spent my days writing and querying in bed, as I had no desk in my room...

I’d be the first to admit that my life has been exceedingly easy, but, in relative terms, this short part of it was pretty hard. Every writer knows that awful dread that the road never ends. For six months after the bar exam, I spent a lot of time wondering if I’d put all of my eggs in just the stupidest basket.

Here’s my timeline – I completed the first draft of my manuscript in December 2009, started querying in March 2010.

STARTING OUT COLD

I started the query process with no writing credits and no connections. I educated myself online and just got started. In the first wave, I hit around three dozen agents and got five requests for partials/fulls. I was thrilled with this success rate, and I remember thinking, “Maybe it will be this easy. Maybe this agent will love my book and we’ll sell it before graduation.” Ridiculous. So ridiculous! But it’s hard not to fantasize when you’re dealing in dreams.

I got my first rejection on a full manuscript on March 31, 2010, which was my boyfriend’s birthday. It was the first time I’d gotten feedback on the novel as a whole, and it was a short letter that said, “Although you have a thrilling story, I did not fall in love with the characters as much as I had hoped for.” I was devastated. I picked a fight with my boyfriend and cried a lot and basically ruined his birthday. Until that rejection, I thought my book was really good and that if someone would just read it, things would fall into place.

(How many blog page views are enough to impress an agent?)

My relationship with agent Ethan Bassoff [of Lippincott Massie McQuilkin] started in March 2010, when he responded to a query I had sent to another agent in his agency. He asked for a partial, then a full two months later. A week after that, we spoke on the phone, and he invited me to his office to talk about the manuscript. He gave me extensive notes, laced with lavish praise, and said he wanted to see that I could edit. I left feeling hopeful, and told him I would get him a revised draft in the fall. I sent him my first revision in September 2010. He sent me an email in December apologizing that he hadn’t gotten to it yet, but that he planned to very soon.

THE ANTICIPATION BUILDS...

That stretch from June to December was really stressful. Because I had met with Ethan, I felt he was my one point of entry into the publishing world, and I kept thinking I would never succeed if he decided to drop me. At various points, I thought he’d rejected me silently, and that I would never know for sure what had happened.

With Ethan’s help, my manuscript had become a lot more presentable, and I decided to send out a new round of queries. This time my success rate was much higher – my query letter was stronger because my book was better. Within a few weeks, I received an offer of representation from a well-known agent who wanted me to take my book in a more commercial direction. He was a bigger name, but by that point I was pretty attached to Ethan. I followed up with him, and he offered me representation on the spot.

The process went about as smoothly as I could have hoped, but it still felt long and painful while I was in it. There’s an easy parallel to dating here. I haven’t been single for a while (just got married, actually!), but I remember sitting around staring at my phone, waiting for texts from guys I didn’t even like. It was terrible, and the agent process was terrible in a similar, magnified way. There were times when I sat staring at my inbox waiting for the smallest communication because I’d put out dozens of missives and a response could come and crush me or change my life at any time.

It was all worth it, of course. Ethan and I are still together, and we’ve sold two books with remarkable ease. That said, you couldn’t pay me enough to go through the process again. Even writing about it is making me anxious.

Image placeholder title

What could be better than one guide on crafting
fiction from wise agent Donald Maass? Two books!
We bundle them together at a discount in our shop.

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

Image placeholder title

Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
Create Your Writer Platform shows you how to
promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
and more.
Order the book from WD at a discount.

Hall_10:27

Seven Tips for Intuitive Writing: The Heart-Hand Connection

Award-winning author Jill G. Hall shares her top tips for how to dive into your latest project head-first.

bearing_vs_baring_vs_barring_grammar_rules_robert_lee_brewer

Bearing vs. Baring vs. Barring (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use bearing vs. baring vs. barring on with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

15_things_a_writer_should_never_do_zachary_petit

15 Things a Writer Should Never Do

Former Writer's Digest managing editor Zachary Petit shares his list of 15 things a writer should never do, based on interviews with successful authors as well as his own occasional literary forays and flails.

Green_10:26

Evie Green: Imaginary Friends and Allowing Change

Author Evie Green explains why she was surprised to end writing a horror novel and how she learned to trust the editorial process.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: The 3 Prime Rules of Horror Writing, Contest Deadlines, and More!

Welcome to the first installment of a new series! There's always so much happening in the Writer's Digest universe that even staff members have trouble keeping up. So we're going to start collecting what's on the horizon to make it easier for everyone to know what's happening and when.

Bell_10:25

Lenora Bell: When Fairy Tales Meet Reality TV

Bestselling historical romance author Lenora Bell discusses researching, avoiding info-dumps while still charming readers, and how her latest book was inspired by her life.

Major_10:24

Three Keys to Crafting Chemistry Between Characters

Romance author Michelle Major explains her three go-to tips for ensuring your characters have believable chemistry.

Saving Money on Your Screenwriting Career

Take Two: Saving Money on Your Screenwriting Career

No one wants to break the bank to learn how to write a screenplay. Jeanne Veillette Bowerman shares practical tips on saving money on the pursuit of a screenwriting career.