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How I Got My Agent

I've received a few requests to share the story of how I got my agent. As most of these types of tales go, it's a bit meandering but has a happy ending. So sit back, relax, and enjoy...

Part I: The Journey

A few years ago, I'd just finished grad. school and was convinced that as a children's book writer, I didn't need an agent. At the time this was generally true since a lot of publishers were still open to unsolicited manuscripts. My first order of business, however, was to get a manuscript ready for submission.

By mid-2007 I had a polished YA manuscript, and I used the few publishing connections I had to try to get it published. I got some helpful advice, but had no luck otherwise. When I began to look around to see where else I could send my book, I realized that getting an agent was my best bet.

At the beginning of 2008, without doing much research on the subject, I queried an agent who I'd heard speak at a conference. Amazingly, he requested the full manuscript. I waited and waited, praying he liked what he read. After a while, I sent a follow-up email. Months went by, and I never heard back. *Sigh*

At that point a friend of mine recommended that I contact her agent. I queried, got a request for the full manuscript, and the waiting began all over again. This time I actually did hear back, and it was encouraging news: he wanted me to do a rewrite! I got to work, tweaking and adjusting, and finally sent him the revision. He had kind, encouraging things to say about my book, but ultimately he decided to pass. *Sigh*

With my newly revised manuscript, I decided to give the agent search a real shot. I researched agents, query letters, synopses, etc. Who knew instead of waiting to hear back from one agent at a time, I should have been querying widely from the beginning? Armed with my new-found knowledge, I sent out a bunch of queries and sample pages. Some requests came along, as did some rejections. I got some helpful feedback, but ultimately nothing panned out. *Sigh*

Then NaNoWriMo rolled around and I decided to start a new MG project, one my husband had given me the idea for. I wrote furiously in November and revised even more furiously in December. Then, figuring it couldn't hurt, I sent off the manuscript to the 2008 PEN New England Discovery Award.

To my surprise, at the beginning of 2009, I was notified that my manuscript was one of the winners! I put my old YA manuscript aside and took my new, shiny MG novel and began querying agents with it. In the meantime, I went to the PEN New England reception where a super nice agent named Ammi-Joan Paquette encouraged me to send her my manuscript.

After some more tweaking, I sent the manuscript to Joan in early May. A few weeks later, she contacted me saying she loved the book and wanted to chat with me on the phone. The next day another agent who I'd queried earlier contacted me saying she loved the book and wanted to chat with me on the phone. I was in shock!

I spoke with the two agents, and they were both lovely and enthusiastic. They both offered representation. At this point, it had been over a year since I'd sent out that first query to the agent who never got back to me, and I was overwhelmed to suddenly be in the position of having to decide between two amazing agents. Finally, in mid-June, I went with my gut and signed with Joan.

Part II: What I learned along the way

-I was so naive when I decided I wanted to be a writer! Though I'd learned a lot about writing in grad. school, finding an agent was a whole different animal; I needed to do some serious research before I got it right.

-There were times when I was so discouraged that I just wanted to quit. But I'm so glad I didn't! Even if it takes super-human patience and perseverance, you can never give up.

-Sometimes you have to be willing to put one project aside, as I did, and realize that it might not be the one that's going to get you an agent/get you published/etc. That's why you should NEVER stop writing, because you never know which manuscript will grab someone's attention.

-The ups and downs of my journey were hard at the time, but I think they were necessary. Without them, I would have never realized how lucky I was to find an agent who I connect with so well. (The journey also prepared me for the ups and downs of the agented submission process.)


For those of you with agents, how does my story compare with yours? If you're currently in the midst of your own "finding an agent" tale, feel free to ask me any agent- or query-related questions. I'll do my best to give some helpful answers.

 Originally published at 

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Thanks for sharing your story. I agree about the super-human patience and perseverance.

I'm still on my agent hunt, but what I've learned is to remember that just because a manuscipt doesn't get you an agent, it doesn't mean it never will be published. It is simply unlikely to be your first publication.

That's absolutely true! I think sometimes the planets have to align a little bit and the right manuscript has to get to the right person. Good luck!

What an inspiring story, even with the sighs. And having met Joan, I know how lucky (in the hard work beforehand sense of lucky) you are. Hope 2010 is great for you!

Thanks Jeannine! Joan has been wonderful to work with so far. I hope your 2010 is equally great. :-)

From what I've read online, your journey seems relatively brief! Lucky you, but of course you must also have talent and follow-through (as obviously you do). I will be querying agents in the spring. Wish me luck!

I guess my journey was on the shorter side compared to others, though it certainly didn't feel short at the time! I wish you an easy and speedy querying process. :-)

Thanks for sharing your story. I hope you're able to update us with very good news sometime this year!

Thanks! I'm hoping 2010 is the year of good news all around. :-)

Anna, you were linked to Cynthea Letiticia Smith's blog roundup for this entry, I think she likes your blog!

I just saw that too! I LOVE her blog and am kind of in awe that she'd link to my posts. Thanks for letting me know. :-)

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