How I met my agent

Okay. There’s a short story here, and a long one. The short one goes like this. I wrote a novel. I wrote a query letter, which took slightly longer than writing a novel. I sent the letter out. I had some requests. I received an agent offer. I accepted.

For those of you hungry for a bit more blood and gore than that, here’s the long story.

I started sending out query letters to agents for Wren in September. The unfortunate truth is that I would happily, HAPPILY, write an entire epic novel about earthworms, in iambic pentameter, rather than write and send query letters. I’m not supposed to confess such things in public, but everyone gets to air one dirty secret, right?

I started sending out emails in mid-September. Between then and the end of October, I probably could count the total number of letters I sent on my fingers. Yes, I was that productive. In my defense, I did develop an extensive list of agents I could query, which required hours of watching pages load really really slowly on Computersaurus Rex.

One thing I didn’t realize, until much later in the fall, was that most of those few emails never reached anyone. For some magical reason, my first few rounds of queries were gobbled up by the gremlins living in agent inboxes. Had I known, it might have made for a less lonely, non-responsive fall.

So, I procrastinated. I developed new hobbies. I considered becoming the Emily Dickinson of my time and publishing nothing. I thought about what colors I would paint the walls next summer. Then I decided to send out more letters. I’d send out lots and lots of queries! I’d be the very model of a modern query letter sender.

You know what happened? Two words. Hurricane Sandy.

Yes, Nature herself came along and told me not to bother agents. It was something of a relief. I could wait some more.

Here’s what happens when you wait. Before the storm, you have a list of agents, some of them starred. One of those starred agents has a stated preference for “character-driven fantasy”, which seems good, and you like her first name, which maybe isn’t the best reason to query someone, but hey, there it is. Even more important, you get that whole double-yolked egg feel about her, which is something your whimsical brain tells you not to ignore. You figure you’ll send her a letter as soon as things settle down.

Then you discover that agent was nearly washed away by Sandy and appears to be leaving agenting.

Okay, by then it’s Thanksgiving. What better time to get serious about sending letters than deep in the heart of the holiday season and after a devastating storm? I start to send queries. I’m moderately determined at this point.

On one of my trips to Query Tracker, I stumble across a surprising tidbit of information–the displaced agent, Alice Speilburg, has relocated far away from the ocean, and has opened her own agency.

I sent her a query on December 2. She wrote back three days later with a request for the full manuscript. I sent it. Six days after that she told me she loved it. We talked for a while. I liked her a lot. She had smart answers to my questions. In my heart, I was pretty sure she was the one I wanted to work with.

So, even while other agents were reading it and I was waiting until my deadline to respond, I was thinking I knew the answer. A few days before my deadline, I sent her a list of questions. One of her responses, just the way she said something, sealed the deal for me. I said yes.

And that is the entire story of how I met my agent. If you’d like to know more about Alice, please stop by on Monday. I’ll be posting an interview with her, and she’ll be open to questions in the comments during the afternoon.


  1. Thank you for sharing this. I am working on my query right now, and I would gladly tear out my hair one by one instead. Oh, and I also am looking sadly at my manuscript and wishing for Scott A. style editorial comments… It has come to this!

    Best of luck with Wren.

    • I think that, aside from the handful of people destined for instant megasales, querying and the rest is not an enjoyable experience. Perhaps for very perky people as well. 🙂

      Your writing is so strong, Rose. I think staying in that rooted place will help with what is otherwise just not much fun.

      Of course, you caught me on a gray and rainy morning, so perhaps my own perkiness is lacking.

      • Thank you!! FWIW I believed you would find an agent for Wren, and I also believe that it will sell. Your writing is incredible and matters to so many people.

        I am very proud of the book. It does exactly what I hoped it would do. But I am still an ESL writer with some tense hiccups (hence the yearning for SA-style red pen), and also worried about the querying process because it’s querying. I sent four queries last night, all to agents that are not good matches to my project, because I am afraid to query those who are.

        Brains are gray and flabby creatures.

        • It can be a very powerless feeling. I think not wanting to approach those first choices is a pretty normal thing, unless you have intense levels of confidence.

          But I think your verb tenses are generally more correct than a fair number of native speakers, and I think being proud of what you’ve written is a tremendous thing. You have things to say. There are people waiting to hear them.

          I understand the anxiety. You can do it though.

          And thank you. 🙂 I’m not feeling particularly shiny lately, so I appreciate the kind words.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: