How I got my Agent

Posted on June 20, 2012 in Blog

I wanted to document my incredible journey to find agent representation, as I always used to gain inspiration from the stories of how other writers got signed.  Oh, and of course I have also fantasised for years about writing a piece with the title of ‘How I got my Agent’ !!

I wrote SMART as a short story for an MA assignment.  When I’d finished, I felt very pleased with it.  When I took it to my MA workshop for peer review, the response was overwhelmingly positive.  Without exception, everybody loved the main character, Kieran.  This reaction is quite unusual!  I really felt I’d got something special so I decided to develop the story into a novel for Young Adults.

I wrote 7,500 words and decided – probably not the best decision – to send the first three chapters out to six London agents.  Unbelievably, I got three requests back within two weeks for the full ms.  So, I wrote the remainder of the novel, working morning until night and averaging 3-4K words a day.

And so began the rollercoaster of hope and excitement that ultimately culminated in disappointment.

Two agents eventually rejected – with feedback – and I never heard from the third agent.

As time went on during the submission process, I started to get that heavy-heart feeling that all debut writers recognise and knew there was a chance that, even with the interest of three agents, I might end up with nothing.

So, I formulated a plan.  I believed in SMART and wasn’t ready to give up on it.  Yet when two major agents rejected it, I knew it was foolish to carry on sending it out without revisions.

The problem was, despite my five years of university writing training, when it came to this particular novel, I felt too emotive and close to it to successfully kill my darlings, to coin a famous phrase.  So, I decided to invest in the opinion of a Literary Consultant.

Key issues raised in the editor’s report, included the suggestion that the novel should start at chapter four, with the three earlier chapters to be incorporated into other areas of the book. The editor warned me not to let the story become too bleak for the main character and advised against certain types of repetitive dialogue.

The editor said if I was able to make these revisions, she believed in the novel enough to submit it to the literary agents she works with. I ended up cutting around 3K words from the ms.  I completed the revisions within a week and resubmitted it to the editor for a re-appraisal.  Result: She loved it!

A week later, SMART had been submitted to six agents and had apparently been received very well.  You can imagine the sense of hope and excitement I got.

From then on the fairytale unfolded.  Within hours, one by one, the agents offered representation.

Then I got an amazing email through from an agent at one of the largest London agencies, saying how much she loved SMART and, although she had only read half of the novel, she was absolutely certain she wanted to offer me representation.

The dream went on.  Ultimately, I had five offers – I was going to CHOOSE which agent I wanted!  It was the craziest thing you could imagine!

All the agents were amazing.  But from the beginning, I was dazzled by the Darley Anderson Literary Agency, one of the biggest agencies in London. Their massively talented staff just stood out in every way.  They were as passionate and enthusiastic about SMART as I am.

I am excited and amazed at this whirlwind journey and I would urge writers to persevere and also to seek professional editing help if they need it. However, remember that we writers can be quite vulnerable when seeking agent representation because we want it so much. I would always urge caution in checking and fully understanding the contractual obligations entered into when engaging the services of an independent editor. Not all editors demand ongoing commission if the book is successful but some do and payment can be very expensive and seem never-ending, long after your interaction with the editor has ceased.

In the meantime, am trying to catch my breath to see what comes next!

2 commments on “How I got my Agent”

  • Duncan Pile says:

    Hi Kim,

    It was great to meet you yesterday. Co-incidentally, I received a rejection from Sophie Gordon this week! Even though I am selling decent numbers of Nature Mage both here and in the States, I think I’m going to follow up on the advice above and have it submitted for professional assessment. Every novel has flaws, and it would be good to understand those from my own work. Well done once again for getting such a great agent. I’ll follow your story with interest.

    A fellow Nottingham writer,

    Duncan

    • kimslater says:

      Hi Duncan,
      Good to meet you too. Thanks for your comments, I’d definitely recommend getting your work critiqued. Good luck in your agent hunt!
      Best wishes,
      Kim

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