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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

How I Got Published – Part 1 (Getting An Agent)

Many of you have asked me how I went about getting my book published.  After all, I’m not a full time author, I’m a lawyer. 

It all started with an idea.   I was sitting in an airport.  I had just left my three children ( then ages 5, 3, and 1) for a 3-day overnight trip and found myself praying that Doug wouldn’t feed them too much junk while I was gone or let them watch too much TV, and that we would all be safely united in several days.  I had thought about it before, but I finally decided, “I really need to write a book about this crazy yet fulfilling life of mine as a working mother.”

Of course, it takes time for an idea to really form.  But once it does, I’m one of those people who just can’t let go.  So I started to write.

But I didn’t know anything about publishing.  So what did I do next?  I went out and bought The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Getting Published. (I highly recommend it, by the way.)

It basically said that if you have the time and resources, you can try to sell your book idea directly to a publisher.  But, if you’re new to the writing business, don’t have connections, and don’t have the extra time to invest (or money to self publish), you probably need an agent.

I figured out I needed an agent.

Now, finding an agent is no easy task.  You have to have thick skin, and you have to be patient.  I went to a site called E-Query, and I also started to Google agents who represent clients in women’s issues, spirituality, and Christian living.  I targeted about 30 agents and started to randomly send my query, via email.  (A query is a short introduction to your book idea, including why you think people will want to buy it.  There is a formula to writing a query – something I learned in the Idiot’s Guide.)

I was thrilled when about 10 potential agents responded promptly and asked for more information.  “I’m in business,”  I thought.   So I sent along sample chapters and a more thorough proposal.

Then, I waited.  And waited.

Some of the rejections came early.  I saved some of those emails because they remind me just how far I’ve come (and also how far I have to go).  I can still remember my favorite rejection email from a male agent in New York who told me I was completed self-absorbed and needed to get over myself.   (At that point, I realized that a female agent would probably be a better fit for a book about a working mother.)

And that’s just what happened.  One of the first agents to respond to my query was Rachelle Gardner, a new agent on the scene who already had an incredible presence in publishing and a blog that drew me in.  From one working mother to another, Rachelle quickly understood my vision for the book and related to my writing style (she didn’t even tell me I was self-absorbed or over-the-top).  So when she offered to represent me, I checked her references, prayed about it, and quickly said yes!  (Besides, if I had waited for some of those other agents to respond, I’d die of impatience.)

For me, getting an agent was the first and probably most important step in getting published (it took me about 4 months to secure an agent, which I understand is fast for most first-time authors).  Now that Rachelle’s been an agent for several years, she’s representing all kinds of famous people, and I consider myself quite blessed to have met her when she was young and hungry.

But getting an agent was just the first step in this journey.  Who said anything about a platform?.

1 comment:

Keli Gwyn said...

I'm sure there's a lot more to this story, but I like what you shared--and how you said it. :)

Rachelle offered me representation for my inspirational historical romance on the eve of Christmas Eve this past December. Talk about an awesome Christmas present. Wow!