Everywhere I go people always run up to me and ask “Neal, how did you find your agent? Oh, and can I have your autograph?” Okay, that has never happened, but maybe one day it will and just in case it does, I better have a good story. So here it goes, how I found my agent.
I’d love to say that I met my agent while standing on a street corner reciting the best prose ever. Or, he spotted me while I sat in a smoked filled conference room (not sure why it is smoke filled but it sets a better mood) and ran over yelling “I must have you as a client.” Unfortunately, neither of those happened. Not even close.
I’m a slush pile baby. That’s right. My agent found me in a pile of slush and pulled me out by the hairs on the back of my neck. Pretty heroic of him, wasn’t it? I think that’s the reason he wears a cape and has a secret identity. Okay, maybe not.
For those of you who don’t know, writers crave agents. They are the gate keepers to much of the publishing world, namely many traditional publishers. Because of this, almost every writer sometime in their career looks for an agent to represent them.
I started looking for an agent when I finished my first novel. I thought it was awesome and people would be lining up outside my door to represent me. I queried around seventy agents before I realized my book really wasn’t all I thought it was. Luckily, I had already begun work on my second novel (yes it is awesome and when it comes out later this year you should buy it, and yes, that was a shameless plug). After a lot of revisions, I entered into it into two contests (which is a good way to potentially avoid the dreaded slush pile, aka the bottomless quagmire where queries go to die).
I was selected as a finalist in The 2015 Writers’ League of Texas Manuscript Contest, and in the Writers’ Voice, I had two different teams interested in working with me. So yeah, I thought I was pretty awesome, and yes, you may bask in my greatness. Then things didn’t go so great and there was less greatness to bask in. Even though two teams wanted to work with me, I was one of a couple people who didn’t get any requests in the agent round. Unbelievable, I know, but I didn’t let that get me down. I still had the WLT2015 Conference, and gosh darn it, I was a Finalist! Feel free to grovel at my feet if you need to, I’ll understand.
Long story short, I came home from the conference without any real leads. So I did what all writers do and drank (caffeine that is) and got down to querying. I sent out my first batch of queries, including one to my dream agent, and waited. Luckily, I didn’t have long to wait, because in less than three hours, he asked me to send him my full manuscript. I had to read the email like twenty times to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. So I ran to my computer (I was doing my happy dance) and sent my manuscript. Then I waited and waited and waited. Okay, it wasn’t that bad. It was less than a month when I received the email every author wants, the “Call me and let’s talk representation” email.
Needless to say I called, we talked, and after taking a few days to think about it, I accepted the offer. Now I have been working with super agent Mark Gottlieb for over a year. My debut novel is coming out later this year and I still get tingly all over when I think about it. Not the I’ve got to go to the bathroom tingly (what can I say, I’m a middle grade author), but the feed me sugar and tell me I won the lottery kind of tingly.