Wednesday, December 21, 2011

How I Got My Agent!!

I'm a believer in writing short blog posts. If you're a believer in reading short posts, then simply read the next sentence, skip down to the bottom, and leave a comment; that will work out fine. :)

Short story:
I wrote a query letter, and she liked it.

or ... check out the ...

Long story:

2009, January: I decided I wanted to change careers and pursue a long forgotten dream of becoming a published author (sound familiar?). I purchased Janet Evanovich's HOW I WRITE and Writer's Digest's GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS, and I began my research into the industry.

2009, July: I finished my first manuscript, MANIFESTED, and I started sending out query letters.

2009, August: Rejections started flooding in. I thought I had a pretty tough skin. I knew rejections were part of the process, but one in particular really bothered me. The agency's website had listed SO MANY specifics of what needed to go into a query for them to consider your project; it was a lot of work to tailor my query letter to meet their exact specifications, but I did it. So ... when I received back (via snail mail) a form rejection that was crookedly photocopied and addressed Dear Author ... for some reason that one rejection sent me over the edge. I lit it on fire. Literally. I went outside with a match and sent the piece of paper up in flames. I found it quite liberating. And, then I went back to work and sent out more query letters.

2009, Fall: In the meantime, I knew (based on my industry research) that the most important thing I could do after finishing my first manuscript was to start the next one. And, that's what I did. But, I also, bought more books on the craft of writing, subscribed to magazines and journals that would help me better my skills, and wrote flash fiction to tighten my story telling. And, I hooked up with some great critique partners that I met through the Writer's Digest Community online.


2010, April: Even though I'd received requests for partials and fulls, I came to the harsh realization that my first manuscript, MANIFESTED kinda-blew-chunks-even-though-my-kids-thought-it-was-great (aka was-not-so-good) in the writing department. I shelved it and stopped sending out query letters for it. I focused my time and effort on learning the craft of writing and finishing my next manuscript.


2010, August: I finished my second manuscript, THE EDUCATION OF THIA, and started sending out query letters.

2010, September: I received a very different response from agents regarding this ms vs the first one. I received quite a few requests for partials and fulls right away, and I just KNEW this was going to be "it!" I was so excited!! When rejections came back from the full requests, I paid attention to the feedback received from the agents. But it was tricky, because while one said, "The main character is too naive" another said, "The main character sounds too adult." Okay. Revisions, none-the-less.

2010, October: With a bright and shiny revised version of THE EDUCATION OF THIA, I headed off to my first ever writer's conference. I met up with my first critique partner, Melissa, who'd I'd met through the WD Community, and we had an absolute blast at the conference. Furthermore, I left the conference with two agents requesting the full ms, and they were very excited about the pitch I'd given them. I just KNEW this was IT!! One of these fantabulous agents was going to offer me a contract. Yes-sir-ee!! Let's celebrate! I went home too excited to work on any writing. I was waiting to hear from the agents. I stopped sending out queries, because I knew one of these agents was gonna be THE ONE!! Wahoo!!

2010, November: I sent very polite follow-up emails to the agents who'd requested fulls at the conference. Both responded right away explaining how busy they were (of course, I get that, I want them to take care of their current clients first, that makes sense). But I was extremely demoralized. I couldn't seem to start a new ms. So, I pulled out MANIFESTED and dusted it off. I figured I could work on rewriting it and improving it until I found my writing mojo again.

2010, December: I started sending out new query letters for THE EDUCATION OF THIA. I changed the title, twice, and changed the query letter many times. I stopped getting requests for partials or fulls for it. Just rejections, or worse yet, no responses at all.


2011, February: Received email from one conference agent (who had been SO EXCITED about my pitch) telling me that she had decided to shelve my ms, unread. She was no longer looking for new clients, but when she was ready to look again, she'd read the ms then.

2011, May: Received email from second conference agent (who had been SO EXCITED about my pitch) apologizing for the delay in reading my ms. She said the writing was great, but it just didn't excite her. *sigh*

2011, Summer: I went through ups and downs working on rewrites of MANIFESTED, sending query letters for BUT HE LOVES ME (aka The Education of Thia), and trying to rekindle my passion for writing. But, honestly, I was bummed! The "conference experience" had messed up my motivation and broken through my tough skin.

2011, September: I was diagnosed with a pineocytoma, or a cyst, or a tumorous module, or a lesion, or something (ah ... my love for the medical community really soared during this time period). I became distracted with that process and forgot about writing for awhile. But, when the doctors decided it was too dangerous to remove the 12mm thing in the middle of my brain, I had to decide if I was going to be happy or sad and move forward. I chose to be happy and get back to writing.

2011, Fall: I decided I would finish my rewrite of MANIFESTED, and I seriously got back to work. I wanted to achieve my goal. I had hit a tough spot in 2011, but I was finally ready to pick myself back up and get back to what I loved: writing.

Hold on to your seats, here comes the exciting part ...

2011, November (aka 11-11-11): I sent out 11 queries for BUT HE LOVES ME. The eleventh agent (for reals!) I queried that day requested a partial the same day (it was a Friday). Monday, she requested the full. Wednesday, she requested a phone call. Thursday, we discussed ideas for revisions. I LOVED all of her ideas, and my MOJO exploded with excitement!! She said if I could accomplish these revisions, she'd offer me formal representation. So, I put my head down and got to work. I was on fire!!  I sent her the revised ms about a week and a half later (I know, I know, it's sounds like I rushed it, but I'm telling you: I was ON FIRE!!). She read it right away and requested more revisions. At first I was sad I'd missed the mark, but then I realized, she didn't reject me; she wanted to keep working with me!! So, I got right back to work on more revisions. YAY! I was still so excited about the process of writing and revising. And I was SO THRILLED to think that someone had caught the "vision" of my story. So, while I was busy working on more revisions. She surprised me and mailed me a contract!!! ACK!

2011, December (aka 12-12 (for reals!) 2011): Brianne Johnson of Writers House sent me a contract for representation. And, I haven't stopped smiling since. My husband got up in the middle of the night last night to go pee (I know, TMI), and it woke me up. I couldn't go back to sleep, because I was just so excited about the fact that I, Margo Kelly, have an agent!!! YAY!

So ... that's how I got my agent.

Simple formula for getting an agent = write a manuscript, research the industry, get a critique partner, listen to feedback, revise, revise, revise, write a query, revise it, send query, revise it, write another ms, research the industry, learn from the research, better your skills, revise your query, never give up, keep writing, send more query letters, find another critique partner, listen to feedback, write more, learn more, never give up, send more queries, revise, revise, revise, write more, research more, ... and eat chocolate, lots and lots of chocolate ... and then start the process all over again.

Oh wait ... maybe that's not a simple formula.

How about you?
Do you think there is a "simple formula" for getting an agent? If so, what is it? :0)


  1. Nah, everyone's story is different. Yours is one of perserverance and focus, and I enjoyed reading it (I also revise quickly, so I get that "being on fire" thing)! Congratulations again. Here's to a quick and fabulous sale!

  2. No formula, but what a wonderful story! Good for you for sticking with it, even through the rough patches. Congratulations on signing with her!

  3. Congratulations!! I'm really glad that your perseverance paid off. I can't wait to hear about the next step in the process.

  4. Congratulations, Margo!!! This is so exciting! What a wonderful early Christmas present!

  5. I don't think there is a formula (I wish). The trick seems to be; work hard and keep getting better.

    Sounds like you did just that. Congratulations and best wishes for a quick sale.

  6. I am so excited for you! Your excitement and joy is palpable and just hearing you talk about it gets my heart racing with unabashed joy=) You worked hard, and you deserve this!

  7. I am not a writer, but my mom used to write. This post was interesting to read and I'm thrilled for you. You worked hard for this and you have a great attitude.

  8. Thank you so much for sharing your story! It made me laugh and gave me hope. I especially enjoyed you burning the one rejection, LOL! I am so excited for you because it is a true accomplishment. I hope your books become bestsellers! :-)

  9. Great post, Margo! I'm so happy for you and am thrilled to have been a part of your journey!!

  10. You, my dear, sound like you did everything right. Revision, research, learning... And you KEPT WRITING.

    I don't think there's a simple formula for getting an agent (or a pub contract). Just write, and write well, and prove you've got what it takes to handle the process. All of which you've done. ;) Huge congrats again!

  11. I feel inspired by your story about how you landed that agent contract. The good thing is that you didn't give up and your determination got you through those rough moments.

  12. I love to hear that you got an agent!!

    I actually had an agent a couple weeks ago ask for a partial. I'm anxious to hear what she thinks! It's amazing because I had only sent out two query letters at that point... I was expecting way more rejections before that point!

  13. When I saw all those pages pinned upon your wall, I knew you were destined for big things, Margo.

  14. What a great story, and congrats to you! It's so interesting how writers' stories are all different in the details/time periods, yet many are similar in the need to let go of the old project and start a new one. That seems to be key. Often, you can come back to the thing you gave up on and make it better, with the eyes of experience...sigh.

    And I do hope your cyst is going to be alright?

  15. That's a great story, Margo, and I'm happy for you.

    I'm so glad your perseverance paid off. I'm also glad (from a selfish yet-to-be-published point of view) to hear how it took perseverance. For me, there's nothing more demotivating than hearing stories from people who dashed off a manuscript in a few weeks, got an agent a month later, and signed a three book deal two months after that.

    The reality for most of us is, there is no simple formula, just hard work and perseverance.

  16. There is definitely no formula, but I think the common thread in most stories I've heard is: HARD WORK!

  17. Interestingly, I find your post both off-putting and encouraging. I wish you all success into the future.

  18. What a great story! I love that you did the short story and long story. I normally like the short post but so glad I read the long. Congratulations, Margo!!! You just inspired me for keep on keeping on!

  19. I'm absolutely over the moon for you Margo. Your hard work and perseverence are inspirational. A great, big, pat-on-the-back! Onward and upward!! It'll be great to see your novel on the bookstore shelves! By that time you probably won't be able to stand up for all the excitement :) You go girl!!! SOOOoo happy for you. :)

    Elizabeth: elibet1 Writer's Digest)

  20. Your story really spoke of never giving up, through all the revisions and all the moments when you felt discouraged. Good stuff! I'm glad you didn't give up! Congrats to you on your new agent!

    I think everyone's formula is different, but just a little. It always involves an MS as polished as you can get, a query that you have to revise over and over again, and great people to pass your MS by. Then it's just you and the hours of research and sending queries. Getting published isn't a goal of the faint of heart! Glad you pushed through!

  21. Yay, Margo! I am so happy for you!

  22. So glad to hear your story! And for your first ms! That gives me SO much hope! I just rewrote a ms I loved and I'm hoping somehow it will find a home this time.
    I just love your story... and so excited for you!! Kudos for never giving up!

  23. What a wonderful (and familiar) story. Apparently I'm just before the AFLAC duck picture right now. Sure would like to get over that hump. Great job on getting representation! Best of luck to you in your future.

  24. You're a sweetheart, I know the struggle for your dreams when pressed with your own health and the health of those you love. I wish you the best and God bless. Also, keep writing, you've just made my day-LH

  25. I've finished my second book and my first middle grade. I've revised it, about a hundred times. I started sending out queries and, told my daughter, after nine rejects that I was just going to epublish it. She begged me to continue. She's a teacher and says that all the authors who have come to her class have sent out around sixty-three queries before they found an agent. I'm only at twenty-four out so far. I have revised that darn query letter close to fifteen times. I've begun writing another book and am not giving up. I'm so happy for you, Margo. Your story is an inspiration and I love your attitude. Congratulations.

    1. Keep at it. It's a matter of finding the right agent at the right time with the right material. You can do it! And just keep writing in the meantime. :)

  26. Revision is key. Thanks for the insight into finding the right agent. Good work! Smiles, Anna