First, find a large wooden box and about ten feet of rope.
Ha, ha! Just kidding! That’s creepy. Don’t do that.
There is no clear path to agent-hood, just like there is no
clear path to publication, thin thighs or well behaved kids. This stuff takes
time and effort, and above all else, PERSISTENCE.
However, as my one year agent anniversary is approaching, it seems like a good time to share how I signed with my
agent, Kathleen Rushall of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. She is such
an amazing lady. And friend. She is my lady friend. I digress.
When I began querying agents, I only had nine names on my
list. Right up at the top was Kathleen. She passed, but offered to review
my work in the future. This is agent code for “I think you can do better with more
practice.” And, as always, Kathleen was right. I kept writing and editing and writing
and editing and writing and editing and, well, you know.
I subbed poems to
magazines, sent stories to blogs, and collected rejections like my grandmother Mimi
collected buttons.I also sent a manuscript out to a few slush piles. Then (drum
roll please) I got an email from Sterling Publishing! They liked my book. I
responded by running out into my driveway screaming and sobbing. That’s normal,
Anyway I eventually calmed down and contacted Kathleen with the
news. She offered to read more of my stories. And then more. And a couple
more. That same day we talked on the phone. She was brilliant. I was babble-y. She offered
representation. I accepted.
Kathleen then worked with Sterling on my behalf (seriously,
she swooped in there like some literary paratrooper, all business and awesomeness),
and obtained a wonderful contract for me. We are now working on a second book.
For you numbers people, it took about six months to find an
agent. I queried nine of them. Two showed interest. And one was perfect.
And for you list people, here are some tips that helped me:
(1) Research your agents - my list was short but solid. (Like me!) I used Verla Kay's Blueboards and Publisher's Weekly, and did many, many Google searches.
(2) Pass the time between rejections WRITING. Not weeping. Well, you can weep a little, But write too.
(3) Join groups like Julie Hedlund's 12x12 and PiBoIdMo to get motivated and build your portfolio of work.
(4) Have at least five polished manuscripts before you query.
(5) If you are subbing to publishers while querying, don't use the same manuscript.
(6) Be prepared to actually to speak to an agent. Thankfully I had a list of questions for Kathleen that I'd compiled from Blueboard posts. The list kept me (slightly) calm and on track.
(7) Do. Not. Give. Up. If your short list doesn't work out, find more agents. Write more. Research more. Send out a few more magazine subs. Revise your query. Do. Not. Give. Up.