How I got my agent

I just got my contract in the mail.

This news is about a week old, and I’ve been sitting on it, trying to figure out how to turn it into a post that contains words outside shrieking in caps. I’ll just say it first –

I’m now officially represented by Sarah Davies of the Greenhouse Literary Agency!

I sent my first query mid-November. By January 4th, I’d gotten over twenty full requests and had six offers of representation.

My holidays were filled with a lot of happy yelling, dazed wandering in circles, and breathlessness at the decision I had to make. I was incredibly lucky, got a gigantic amount of help, and the best thing I can think to do is share the three most important things I’ve learned throughout this whole crazyamazing process.

Take your first book with a grain of salt. 

It all started with my first book. My awful first book. Everybody has one. Mine was an urban fantasy wish fulfillment thingy. At fifteen, I decided that it would obviously shoot me into success, but never worked on it seriously until the summer before last. I did, however, make a playlist for it, doodle its title in pretty notebooks, compose music videos for it in my head – pretty much anything except actually write it, and when I did write it, I had no idea what I was doing.

I figured I had plenty of time, and the idea of actually sitting down and working sincerely on something I needed to form my career scared the heck out of me. I figured if I ditzed around long enough, it would pop fully formed into the world and magically get published. The concept of genuine hard work hadn’t really entered my head.

The summer I did get down to business was when I’d just turned nineteen. I met up with an online writer friend in person and realized how seriously she was taking this writing thing – and how seriously I wasn’t. I did what I now understand I’m capable of doing with every book, which was to write the big first draft in about a month. That was me learning that I could work hard. And that I liked it. And I wanted to keep doing it.

But there was the problem with the book itself being awful. I sent out four queries for it. I knew it was bad and I knew it wouldn’t go anywhere, so I didn’t bother with more. It didn’t go anywhere. The nice thing about not expecting anything is that you’re not super disappointed when you don’t get anything, so I was okay. The thing was, I’d loved First Book. Of course I did. It carried all the threads of everything that’d inspired me to become a writer. But I had to let it go.

Experiment with all different genres, all different styles.

The next mistake I made was to immediately start work on something that was the same genre as First Book. A huge problem I’d had with First Book was that I hadn’t figured out yet how to untangle worlds in my head and build them, and I started my next project, a fantasy, with the same issue. I wrote 50k words in a month, as First Book had taught me was my writing style, but my worldbuilding was a train wreck. And it was way too long. 50k words brought me to the halfway point. I’d started off with something that had a lot of the same challenges as First Book, and the same challenges brought me up short.

The thing was, I’d always envisioned myself as a fantasy writer. The idea of writing a contemporary was boring.  What’s the point of writing about your own world when the whole point of reading (to me) was to escape it? Sure, a contemp would involve less worldbuilding/be shorter/give me a chance to actually tackle character before geography and culture/probably be more appealing to agents, but I was a fantasy writer! There was no way I could write a contemp!

Then, the summer after I’d banged out First Book, I worked as an intern for a literary agency in NYC. It was amazing to see all the different kinds of projects flowing in and out, and it made me realize that if I wanted to get published, I couldn’t waste time. If one thing hadn’t worked out for me, it was time to try something new. I wanted to write a contemp. I was apprehensive about such a big change, but I shut myself in a Starbucks for the day, watched the sun set, and left with the idea for the book that would get me an agent.

I made it different. Where I’d been wordy before, I was sparse. I wrote in first person instead of third. I went in an entirely new direction and it worked. The draft came out so easily and naturally I could hardly believe it was real. I’d found my place, and it was only because I gave a different genre a chance.

Find someone with more experience than you, and ask them for help.

So it was a year after I’d written First Book, I had a new book I was ready to send out, and despite research, despite my internship, I still didn’t really know what I was doing. I hadn’t done this before. I would have made a thousand beginner mistakes if it hadn’t been for a couple older writer friends with years more experience. Having someone to ask about little things and big things makes all the difference in the world. The only reason I didn’t make those beginner mistakes was because these people made them first, and showed me what to avoid.

Even with that first draft I felt confident in, there’s no way I would have gotten an agent if it hadn’t been for all the help I received – with my query, with revisions, with every step of the process. You guys are amazing. I owe you a chocolate cake for every day of the month.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. To my writing mentor who walked me through every step, to my beta readers who took time to make my book better, to the LitBitches (you guys are so cool!), to the amazingly supportive and helpful people on AbsoluteWrite, to everyone on Twitter who said congrats, to all the agents who read my manuscript over the holidays and gave polite rejections, helpful feedback, encouragement and belief in my work –

Thank you so much.

For anyone who wants to take a look, my Querytracker interview is here. For anyone else who has multiple offers and is struggling to decide, my new agent Sarah wrote an excellent blog post about the decision process.


Total books finished: 2
Queries send out for Book Two: 76
Form Rejections: 29
Full Requests for Book Two: 24
Offers of Representation: 6

This entry was posted in Agents, PLEASE DON'T TELL News, Querying, Writing Advice and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to How I got my agent

  1. Amanda Foody says:

    Congrats! Your query sounds really awesome šŸ™‚

  2. Ellen says:

    Congratulations!!! Sounds like an awesome story šŸ˜€

  3. Rachel says:

    Laura, thanks for sharing this. I loved looking at your full stats and its so interesting to see how your query evolved. I'm so glad you made the right decision and cannot help but admit I'm a little jealous you had so many offers. šŸ™‚ I also know that this is a human quality (I hope, right? LOL!) and my time will come. Eventually. šŸ˜‰ I'm excited to hear about revisions with Sarah and then submissions. xoRachel007 from LBs

  4. Laura Tims says:

    Thank you so much! (Unrelated but I love your last name)

  5. Laura Tims says:

    Thanks Rachel! ā¤ I'm so excited to find out what happens with your R&R, I'm sure you'll rock it.

  6. Yael says:

    This book sounds amazing. Please get it published.

  7. Kiersi says:

    I WANT TO READ THAT BOOK SO BAD!You are the queen of the query./end transmission

  8. Dahlia Adler says:

    Congratulations!!! I cannot freaking waaaaait to read your book!!!

  9. kiperoo says:

    Sorry I missed this news earlier, but so happy I saw it now! Your query–WOW! I want to read this book!!! I'm not at all surprised by all the offers and I'm sure you'll be announcing your book deal soon. CONGRATULATIONS!

  10. Question: So you sent out all 76 queries for book 2 between mid-November and when? I've never heard of someone querying so many people so quickly! I've gotten the advice for years to submit 10 or so at a time and wait for responses and then try another 10. Maybe I should stop listening to all of them because obviously the mass send out worked really well for you! Congrats!

  11. Laura Tims says:

    Thank you! I'll do my best šŸ™‚

  12. Laura Tims says:

    ALL BOW BEFORE MEActually AW is the queen of editing my query so it no longer sucks, haha.

  13. Laura Tims says:

    Thank youuu Dahlia!

  14. Laura Tims says:

    Thank you so much! *crosses fingers on the book deal*

  15. Laura Tims says:

    Basically I sent out ten queries to test the water. If I hadn't gotten much of a response, I would have revised my query and tried again, but since it got requests I sent another batch of ten queries the next couple days, ten more a few days later, and since it was getting a lot of interest I send 'em all out. :]My method was based on advice I got from people who knew the querying game pretty well, and it sounds like your method is pretty much the same minus the mass query step, so yay!

  16. sheri levy says:

    Congratulations on your success. And thanks for sharing this information. When I saw your format, I wondered if you started your letter with a introduction, why you choose this agent, etc. and then added your synopsis. Did you send a bio? I loved your synopsis and the brevity of the letter. I have never seen a query with just a synopsis. Will enjoy your advice…Sheri Levy

  17. Angelhepburn says:

    Probably tagging on a little bit late but so glad I've found you!! I love the idea of the synopsis as the inquiry. I love the snappy job done ending! But I have to ask, like the query above, did you also include a more detailed synopsis or was it a one stop shop offering? And thank you for sharing! It's inspirational but also generous! We need more success stories like you to share their secrets!!

  18. Laura Tims says:

    Thanks so much! And that's a great question. The query letter I posted was actually the entire thing I sent – no bio, no personalized message to the agent, nada. I decided to skip the bio since I didn't really have anything previously published to put there, and for most of the agents I queried, I didn't have a particular reason why I queried them, other than that they accepted my genre and they were recommended to me by a query-veteran friend.Since it's the query itself that'll catch an agent's eye, I don't think there's any harm in leaving out the personal stuff if you're (like me) really bad at coming up with snappy bios.Hope that helps!

  19. Laura Tims says:

    Thank you so so much! I included a longer synopsis when the agent's guidelines asked for it in addition to the query – sometimes they wanted it included in the body of the email and sometimes they preferred an attachment, so it's important to check. Thanks again and best of luck!

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