How I Found My Literary Agent

So it has indeed been a journey. If you read my post untitled, “My Story to Getting Published”, then this is part two of it. I promised to keep you all updated, so here it is.

As most of you know, writing is a very competitive field. Finding a literary agent to manage your writing career, and one who actually believes in you is just as difficult as people say.

In my post about the publishing industry, I talked about the process and the different options writers have nowadays (there are many). It all depends on where you see yourself going as a writer-career wise.

For me, I decided that I wanted to be traditionally published and represented by a literary agent. Now, I knew that finding an agent would be such a tough road. I was warned in Grad School and everywhere else, but I was ready for the challenge. Some of today’s greatest writers were rejected more than forty times before they were able to find that agent who believed in them. I had faith that the day would also come for me. So I polished my manuscript to my best ability over and over again. I went through many drafts and even had to leave the manuscript alone for about six months when I started to hate the story after reading it so many times. I needed a break from it. I recommend that all writers do this for their own good. Sometimes it’s best to let it sit for a while. When I came back to my novel, it was as if I had a new perspective and a new set of fresh eyes. I was able to look at my story differently, and I eventually realized that it is actually a good novel. I went through one more set of revising and then of line editing before I decided to query a few agents. At that point, I just wanted to see how many rejection letters I would receive back. I honestly did not think that I would receive an acceptance from anyone. I just wanted to taste the waters. I queried about 5 agents to start off with, and one independent publisher who had actually requested my manuscript. I did my research on every single agent I queried BEFOREHAND to make sure that they would be a good fit for me. They all represented my genre—women’s fiction. I followed all the submission guidelines precisely, and once sent, I did not think about it anymore. Ok, I lied. I tried not to think about it.

About a week or so later, one particular agency wrote me back. Before I even read the email, I expected to read something such as, “Thanks for the submission, but this is not the right project for us.” Instead, the editor of the agency requested the next 50 pages. I was over the moon. I could not contain my joy. I was at the airport traveling when the email came in—in a line of some expensive burger joint, so I tried not to get too excited because she had only requested the next 50 pages. Plus, I looked silly with that goofy grin on my face around all these strangers. I wanted to run around the airport screaming, “SOMEBODY DOES WANT ME!” but I didn’t.

Plus, I thought, “There is still a chance for her not to like those 50 pages.” I tried to stay positive, but it wasn’t that easy.

About a week later, the editor of that agency responded and requested the full manuscript.

WHAT?

Full Manuscript?!?!?!?!?

Okay, I was going insane at this point—in a good way, of course.  It took a few hours for me to get myself together. I considered reading the manuscript again before sending it to her, but then I didn’t want to make her wait too long.  I started reading my manuscript again anyway, but after a few pages I stopped myself.  Something told me to just send it. After all, I had already done my best with my many revisions. I just reviewed the formatting and went by faith.  I sent it to her and just left it in God’s hands. A few weeks went by. During those weeks, I took the time to do some further research on this particular agent. Before I submitted to her, I’d seen that she was specifically looking for women’s fiction. After further research, I found that she was specifically looking for women’s fiction with African Diaspora themes.

“Seriously?”  I thought.

It is not so often to find an agent with this request. My novel was perfect for her.  (If you are not aware, my novel deals with a very dark theme about a raped Congolese victim from D.R Congo who finds herself in a religious cult in Texas.)

After a couple of weeks, I finally received a response. This was it. My heart was beating fast as I opened the email.

She asked me a few questions about the novel and about my writing goals.

I had done my research on the querying process, so I knew that this was the first step to possibly being offered representation. I already had the answers ready. I was prepared for the questions. I replied. A few hours later I received an email from Nikko at Holloway  Literary. The subject line read,“Offer of Representation.”

I stared at it first. I couldn’t believe it. Then I finally opened the email, quickly scanned through it and literally jumped around the kitchen, screaming in joy. Unfortunately, I was home alone. So I immediately called my husband who was at work. No answer. Dang it. I needed to share my joy with someone. So, I texted him instead and forwarded the email. Then I texted my First Reader, a good friend of mine, and her answer said, “I told you it was good!” Third person I texted was my dad; he was thrilled.

After I finally calmed down, I actually read the email entirely. Not only did she want to represent this novel, but she wanted to manage my writing career. This was exactly what I was looking and praying for.

To make a long story short, I took a few days to think about it and stalk some of her writers to see what they had to say about her. Then I put together a list of questions I had for the agent and emailed it to her. After further research and having all questions answered, I accepted the offer. At last. I found my agent. Well, maybe I shouldn’t say at last, because honestly, it didn’t take that long for me.  Then she sent me an agreement and I had a lawyer friend take a look at it, and here we are today! I’m now officially represented by a literary agent.

Many writers query for years before they get that lucky. But for me, it happened fairly quickly. I must add that many writers query with their “not so best draft.”It is very important to revise and edit as much as possible, which I did. Also, many agents are looking for writers with an online presence. Meaning, as a writer, you should have a website or some sort of blog. You should have a Facebook page or a Twitter account. You should make it easy for your agent, future editor, and publisher. It is important to already brand yourself as a writer, which is something I’ve been doing for the past few years.

This is only the first step, though. Because I will go through more rounds of revisions with my agent before she starts the process of selling my novel for a book deal with a publisher. Until then, I’ll be writing my next novel. Let me add that all agents I queried were found on Writer’s Digest, so if you don’t know where to start looking, start there!

To all aspiring writers and novelists, do not give up if you are looking for a literary agent. It is not an easy road, but work hard and someone will obviously give you a chance. If it has not happened yet, then take the time to reevaluate your manuscript. Maybe it’s just not ready yet. For me, being part of a writing community really helped. All the feedback I received throughout the years helped me grow as a writer. It all helped me to polish my craft. So, do not give up on your dream of getting published or on finding an agent. Do not take the short cut either. It will happen if it is meant to happen, but you must do your part first.

To everyone else with a dream—work hard and you will achieve it. I have not reached that point yet myself, but soon and very soon, I will.

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Debz

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