How My Agent Found Me

agent found me

My agent found me.

It’s true.

I didn’t believe it at first either.

And I am oh, so grateful. Her council, editorial skills, business savvy, and contacts make a huge difference in my budding career.

And I know… it doesn’t seem fair.

How exactly did she find me?

Through two chapters released to The Festival of Faith and Writing in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 2012. As a participant of the conference, I submitted part of my memoir for agents to review.

Sarah Joy Freese found my chapters, and contacted me for the full manuscript.

But why did she find me?

Because people I met along my writing journey told me to work hard.

And I need to be able to say this although it feels a little strange, like a pat on the back or something, but I realize now that I did work hard. I worked hard and long for her to find me.

If you want an agent to find you, here are four things you can do.

1) Write well.

Make sure your writing continues to improve. Read a lot. Write even more. Attend a class. Submit your work for critique. Spend time in the chair, churning out pages. If your writing isn’t at its best, even if an agent finds you, he probably will pass.

2) Build your platform.

Gone are the days of a writer hiding away in an upstairs attic penning the next great American novel. In the publishing world today, writers have to do more than write beautifully. They need to build a following. Want to learn more about this idea? Read Seth Godin’s book Tribes.

Warning: when you begin to work on a platform, you will feel ridiculous. When I started a Facebook author page, I joked with my friends about ‘fans’ liking the newest dirty diaper I changed at home. As a stay-at-home-mom with four children to wrangle, I didn’t think I was qualified to have a fan page, but I did have a goal: to publish a book. So I began.

Other platform ideas: blogging, speaking, writing e-books, the list can get really long and daunting. The important thing is to start, and to remember platform building as an important element to your future in publishing. It needs to grow with your writing skills. You need to be a package deal.

3) Have polished, edited chapters of your current work in progress ready.

Spend time on a couple of your favorite chapters in your work in progress. Make them strong. Hire or ask someone you trust to edit them. Rewrite them. Rewrite them again. Make sure that even if you don’t know every nuance of the book that you have a general idea of the story arc, so that your chapters fit when you pitch the idea to the agent.

My husband and I cobbled together funds so I could pay two freelance editors to work through drafts of my recently published memoir Sun Shine Down. After writing a third draft of the same book, I started to feel like I had something I could show someone with my head held high. Yes, it takes work, and time, but your best work is worth it, and it is your best chance to have an agent ask to see more.

4) Attend writers conferences.

Before attending conferences, I queried countless agents to no avail. I hardly got back a standard rejection email.

I can’t stress enough how helpful conferences were/are to my career. In 2012, I attended Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, and the Festival of Faith and Writing, where I met my agent. Both were amazing experiences. I shook hands with people, passed out and retrieved business cards, and submitted my work for review and critique. While buoyed in my fervor for the written word, I soaked in lessons about the craft and business of writing.

I think every writer should attend as many conferences as they can.

Be encouraged.

If you want an agent to find you: do good work, put yourself out there, be ready at a moment’s notice to submit, and go where the writers, agents, and editors go.

If this stay-at-home-mom, queen of diapers and ruler over tantrums can do it, so can you. I’m rooting for you!

Now get to work. Your agent may be looking for you right now.

*Do you have an agent? How did that relationship come to be? Do tell.

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23 thoughts on “How My Agent Found Me

  1. Lovely to find this post tonight. I have been too strung out worrying about writing this week to actually write and have been trying to decide if I should attend a small writer’s conference in a couple of weeks to get some feedback. I think you just answered the question for me. Congrats on your well deserved successes and thanks for the encouragement.

  2. You did all the right things and it paid off. 🙂 It was funny, when my critique partners and I started writing, we started Novel Journey(which became Novel Rocket) and had no idea we were “building a platform.” We were simply filling a void in blogosphere. 🙂

  3. Pingback: How my agent found me | Gillian Marchenko

  4. Very useful. Like you I am on the Down syndrome advocate writing, blogging speaking trail. I have the following, now to complete the work and get it out there. Hayley

  5. Hey Gillian, this is very helpful and encouraging. I’m so happy for you that you found your agent or your agent found you. It gives me hope that my editoral/representative/agent match is out there somewhere. I am doing some of the things you listed to help your agent find you and I will take your suggestions that I haven’t yet implemented. I have a just about finished my third middle grade novel, but all three need a lot of polishing. I haven’t pursued sending them anywhere yet because I’m slowly working through them with my writer’s group. I did my first conference, writeoncon.com, an on-line conference which was less intimidating and more do-able for my schedule and budget, but I’m getting ready and excited to go to my first SCWBI conference in June. It’s really encouraging that a conference helped you find your agent. It confirms to me I’m going in the right direction.

  6. It’s so nice to hear stories about agents finding authors — it’s like a real-life fairytale for those in the writing biz! 🙂

    For my second book, I got the contract largely because of my blog. Although my first proposal hadn’t been quite what the publisher was looking for, the acquisitions editor liked what he saw on my blog and he suggested that I recast the proposal slightly. I did, and got a book contract. It was such a fortuitous process, and a reminder that a blog can be your best calling card.

    It is hard as a writer to know how to balance all of it — how much time should I put into the blog/platform versus how much time writing the manuscript? I do think that blogging can become a distraction, but at the same time, I understand why agents/editors find them useful in evaluating a writer. Like so much of life, I think it’s about balance … and faith, and perhaps a little luck, too.

    • I hear you, Ginny. I struggle with that balance often. If I spend too much time on my blog, I find my book writing suffers and vice versa. Balance, faith, and a little luck, indeed. God bless~

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