After finishing my novel (currently titled Thigh-Flasher), I began making tentative attempts to find an agent.
As an MA student at the University of East Anglia, I had a lot of guidance on how to find and approach agents. Every Tuesday of May 2007, we met with different agents and publishers – along with several dozen bottles of free wine – to learn about the submission process, what agents look for, and what they don’t want you to send (which includes author photographs and free pairs of socks).
But even with all of these opportunities and helpful hints, finding an agent hasn’t been easy.
I started by contacting a former graduate of the UEA who’s now an agent in NYC. He had majored in classical studies, so he was happy to take a look at the first few chapters of my novel, which takes place in ancient Greece. I received a prompt and polite “no.”
I’d met an agent in England that I really liked and had had a chance to speak with one-on-one. She’d made no promises of representation, but she said she’d be happy to read my novel and give some helpful criticism. I sent her half of my manuscript. From her, I learned a lot about the agent’s side of the publishing process, and I am grateful for the times she spent talking with me. But her comments on my story were vague and not really in-line with my own thoughts.
Next, I tried searching for agents in one of those writer’s market books. I circled a few that represent historical fiction, and sent out a few query letters, which were also met with prompt and polite “nos.”
At this point I thought I needed to change my method. I did more research about specific agents – read their profiles online, searched for authors they’ve worked with in the past, discovered what types of stories they were most interested in representing. I found one woman looking to represent “transportive fiction,” particularly historical. This agent also enjoys Margaret Atwood, which was a huge plus. I wrote a personalized query letter and e-mailed it to her.
A few minutes later, I received a response asking for my entire manuscript. I sent it.
About two days after that I received an e-mail outlining the positives in my manuscript along with some very helpful suggestions for changes, and... an offer to represent my novel!
It felt like someone had turned on a light inside me and made my entire body and soul glow with warmth and happiness.
So, alas, I have an agent.