Friday, April 24, 2009

How I got my agent.

Since someone had asked back at the beginning of this blog, I thought I'd post how I got my agent. 

It took: 

- Five finished books before this one, Possum Summer. That's a total of a lot of words, I don't want to count them. Usually a lot of story comprised of backstory. Le sigh.
- Countless bad queries. Thankfully this was before the advent of email so I didn't make such an idiot of myself. I had to mail everything from Europe. That hurt the old bank account.
- Queried two of those books. Had perfectly horrible query letters (although I thought they were brilliant at the time). 
- Joined AW and learned and learned. 
- Was rejected, rejected, rejected. In all, probably over 250 rejections (all books considered). 
- Decided to write the one book I'd had in my head since I was 10, and never wrote because I didn't think I was up to it. Was also not the genre I "thought" I wrote.  
- Edited it and sent it out to my three top agent picks Christmas Day. (Yes, I was one of those). 
- Got the request from all three that night. Sent out partials *except to one that already wanted the full*. 
- Next day, got a request for a partial. 
- Next day, got the request for the full from two best agents. 
- Next morning (this was Monday; all this had happened over the holiday weekend) got the email: I love your book. Let's talk! Other agent said yes, I love it too! Don't do anything without me! Promptly got a phone call from other Top Agent (she was crying) call me, let's work together!
- Then I had a breakdown. *** (see below)
- Accepted one, and now we're subbing. 

*** Don't ever, ever let anybody tell you it's great to have more than one offer. It was worse than *anything* I'd gone through. How do you make that sort of decision? In my case, I asked writer friends; went through AW for all the information I could find on them, wrote down pros and cons, and decided after all that based off my gut decision. It was so hard. But the choice was the perfect one; I couldn't be more happy with the agent I decided upon. 

But if you wanted the short answer to this question, it would be perseverance. And patience. And optimism. Getting back up after a devastating no. It didn't happen overnight, for all that it looks like it did. It took five years of gradually learning and doing before I got this far. 

But if I can do it, you can do it. No problem. :)

(ps - if you have any particulars you'd like to hear about, let me know in the comments...I'm here to help you and support you all, more than anything. Pick my brain! Well, what's left of it.)


  1. I also wrote many books in the genre I just "knew" I must write in. My closets shelves are filled with those manuscripts. One day, inspiration struck in another genre. Two weeks later, I had banged out the rough draft. Two years later (last summer) I began the query process. I'm still querying.

    Still, I find it ironic that my genre of choice, really wasn't the genre I should be writing in.

    Congratulations on your success so far.


  2. Interesting story! I can't imagine having more than one agent vying for your work at the same time. Amazing they thought something you'd written was so worthwhile but a dilemma nonetheless.

  3. I am working toward the same thing myself, and I am right behind you. I am just completing my third novel and will start the query process very soon. I learned so much from writing the previous two that I now feel that I have found my voice. I now have a particular style of writing, where previously I did not. Let's see if there are people who like that style, but I'm optimistic.

    I still have to send you one of my query letters. When I get the latest done I will.

  4. Thanks for the story. It is encouraging to hear that after so many rejections a person can still find a way to make it. It's also interesting to hear how quickly they responded to your current book.

  5. Great post! often do you keep in contact with your agent? And also, what does the agent ask you to do for your, oh...marketability...while you wait on the subs?

  6. Great congratulation to you.

    Thanks for sharing with us your real experience which leading you to your success story. I found it very encouraging and inspiring. I want you to know that your words added fuel to my burning desire to follow your footstep.

    It was very kind of you to offer your assistance to any of us, which I am always looking for and greatly appreciated.

    It is my pleasure to invite you to be my mentor. I have no doubt at all that the great success will be his /hers, whom you accepted as your student, so to speak.

    God bless

  7. That's just a crazy story! It goes to show that all it took was the right book. Jessica Faust blogged about this a few days ago. She said that if you aren't getting any requests from your queries, there could be a few reasons. 1) You didn't do your homework and are sending queries to agents who don't represent that genre. 2) Your query isn't written well. 3) Your book doesn't have a story that outshines the rest. I'm not directly quoting her, but what she said was something like that. It totally makes sense though. If you have a knockout query or idea, then agents will be hungry for more. That's my goal.

    Lynnette Labelle

  8. Thanks, Scott, and Anthony, for your well wishes. I hope you find your right agent, too.

    Cindy, evidently they did like it.

    Douglas, I'm waiting for it whenever you're ready.

    Dave, it is amazing. I twiddled my thumbs through the last few books but this one - BOOM. I think that's how it goes with any of this whole publishing thing...nothing until somebody shows interest and then kazamm.

    Patrick, I'm in touch pretty often with her, but not necessarily about subs...that would be a good blog post, actually. Look for that this week.

    Thanks James. Right now it's difficult to take someone as a mentee, as I don't feel I'm qualified yet to do that without a pub deal. But keep coming here to AICW and I'm here to help as much as possible.

    Lynette, good point> I saw that blog post. I really like Jessica, she is straight on the money.

  9. Lynnette I saw Jessica's post as well. It was very interesting.

    JK the thing that's really good about your post is that it gives the rest of us hope. Thanks for posting.

  10. Douglas, exactly. That is precisely why I posted it...I never thought past the agent thing and then I was flummoxed when I got it (after so long)...I want to help you avoid the same fate.


  11. this has to be one of my very fav agent stories. because it's not about luck or being in the right place at the right time or any of that nonsense: it's about hard work, blood, sweat, and tears, and nitty gritty determination and perseverence. that's kick-butt cool. you rock, grrl :D


Join the conversation, add insight, or disagree with us! We welcome your thoughts.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.