Author K.L. Brady has stopped by today for the Soul Of The Band Blog Tour with a guest post.
How I Landed a Literary Agent.Well, landing a literary agent wasn’t easy for me. Not even close. As a matter of fact, if there’s a more circuitous route to getting an agent, I don’t know what that would be.
I wrote my first novel in the summer of 2008, entered it into a contest in January 2009 and was disqualified early on. Very early on. The next question in my mind was—now what? I had no experience in the publishing industry. I really didn’t know what a literary agent was until I started networking more frequently with author-friends. Everyone kept saying that they were querying agents to get their books into publishing houses. When I visited the sites of major publishing houses, nearly every single one said submit your work through a literary agent. So the first thing I did was begin to Google literary agents. I wanted to find out who they were and what they did.
Great. Now I’ve done all of my research, getting a literary agent will be a piece of cake, especially since I’ve written the greatest literary work since Gone with the Wind or War and Peace…or whatever great book was topping the charts at the time.
Ha! The joke was seriously on me. I queried agent after agent after agent…and got rejection after rejection after rejection. Some agents were nice enough to provide a reason why my work was rejected. Some just shot me a barely one-line response—“Not for me.” Others sent out the form letter that began, “Dear Author/Screenwriter/Playwright.” But every single time I got a rejection with substantive comments, I went back reviewed my work carefully and revised as I saw fit. Most of the time, they were absolutely right. My work needed revision.And then my revisions needed revisions. And then my revised revisions needed revisions. I now understand that as a first-time novelist, this was not only normal but expected.
Over time, the notes about revisions became fewer and fewer and the requests for partials and full manuscripts increased more and more. I knew I was close. I finally sent my work to a couple of agents who I’d met at a writer’s conference, one rejected it with a note about pacing, and the other said that she was very interested and wanted to pass it around her office. A few weeks later she wrote back that while she believed in it, she couldn’t get her bosses on board, so she’d have to pass.
Well, by this time, I’d done a lot of research on self-publishing. I learned all the ins and outs of distribution and getting my books into stores and on ereaders. Eventually, I made one last revision based on another agent’s notes, a very prominent agent who represents a heap of NY Times Bestsellers, and I decided to self publish. I gave up on the traditional process and didn’t look back. I believed in my work and knew in my heart I’d done everything I could to improve it and address the issues folks had brought up.
So, I released my book in October 2009. Promoted like a crazy person. Sent my book to every book club and reviewer I could find who would accept it and started to get reviews. Not good reviews, great reviews. Eventually, an executive editor from a prominent publishing house contacted me and expressed her interest in acquiring my novel. With an interested editor in hand, I actually queried a few agents I hadn’t previously queried who had worked with the editor in the past, one of whom represented two very well-known African-American bestselling female authors. I thought my work would be a good fit because he understood the market yet they write in completely different genres.
He read my novel and within a day or two offered me representation. He eventually helped me get a two-book deal with Simon & Schuster.
It’s important to understand that getting a literary agent is just another beginning—not the end. Your agent may not be able to sell every book you submit that he likes. He also may not like every book that you submit to him. It really is a constant cycle in which your only real success will come from hard work, perseverance, and if you’re fortunate…a little bit of luck.