How I Got My Literary Agent

I am absolutely thrilled to announce that I have a literary agent! I am now repped by Esty Loveing-Downes at ArtHouse Literary.

For those who may not know what a literary agent is or why this is important, read on. If you want to skip that and hear how I snagged Esty as my agent, jump to the next section.

What is a literary agent?

A literary agent is a lot like a talent scout and gatekeeper for the large and mid-size publishing houses. They are the connection point between writers and publishers. They listen to story ideas (also called pitches) at writing conferences or receive query letters via email or other electronic means. In either a pitch or a query letter, an author gives a brief overview of what their story is about. If it sounds interesting, the agent will read some sample pages or chapters from the book. If, after reading the whole book, the agent likes the story and thinks it would sell, they will offer to represent the author’s work to publishers. All large and mid-size publishers require a literary agent to present work. They won’t accept submissions directly from authors, so if a writer wants to publish with a bigger publisher, they have to have an agent first.

Many think getting an agent as the biggest hurdle to publishing. No one can pin down exactly what the odds are, but most agents will say they receive anywhere from a couple hundred up to one thousand queries in a month. From those queries, most agents will sign only a handful of new authors per year. However, getting an agent is only half the battle. Now that I have an agent, we also have to find a publishing house who wants to publish my book!

How did I get Esty to represent me?

I met Esty Loveing-Downes at the San Francisco Writing Day Workshop where I pitched her my latest book idea. This was a ten minute Zoom call where I got to tell her about my book and then chat with her for a bit.

Esty was impressive from the get-go. We had an instant connection, which is always a good sign. She asked for my full manuscript, which I submitted to her about ten days later, after I finished my final revision.

About five days after that, I received an offer from a different agent I pitched at the conference. I notified all agents who had my work about the offer. In the end, I had three agents offer to represent me. Of those three, Esty was by far the most impressive and enthusiastic about me and my story. While it was a difficult decision in some ways, Esty was the standout agent, and I feel so lucky to be able to work with her to bring my book into the world. Esty has an incredible work ethic, and she is quickly and fiercely climbing to the top of the literary world. I’m so lucky she wants to take me with her!  

For those writers who are here for the statistics

I know some who are deep in the query trenches are eager to know how many attempts it took for me to finally get an agent. I am happy to share, but I give this info with a warning. My story was not typical. Finding Esty came quickly, and I know that is not usually the case. As they say, timing is everything.

I pitched my book idea to 18 agents at the San Francisco Writing Workshop. This was the first time I pitched or queried this book idea.

  • 16 agents requested to see material from me
  • 6 requested full manuscripts
  • 10 requested partial manuscripts
  • Shortly after, I queried 5 other agents
  • 2 agents I queried requested full manuscripts
  • In total, I queried or pitched 23 agents and got 8 full manuscript requests and 10 partial requests

After the first offer came and I nudged the agents with my work, all agents with partial manuscripts either stepped aside because of time constraints or rejected me.

All agents with my full manuscript (7 other agents) responded to my nudge and said they’d read by the deadline. Two of those agents ended up making me an offer. Three rejected me after reading. Two of them never followed through before the deadline.

All said and done, my first offer came in seventeen days after pitching at the conference and one week after I was able to submit my materials to agents. I officially signed with Esty forty-one days after I began the querying/pitching process.

This is fast by industry standards. Please don’t feel discouraged if it’s been months or even years you’ve been querying. That is much more the normal experience.

I’ll also say that I highly recommend the Writing Day Workshops. It is so refreshing to get instant feedback on your pitch compared to the form responses or ghosting that happens with email or electronic querying. I love the in-person pitch!

I’m incredibly grateful to have reached this milestone in my writing career. I would not have made it without love and help from my family, writing friends, and so many others. I’m grateful to Esty, of course, for the faith she has in me and my book. I can’t wait to see what comes our way in the next months!

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