How I Found My Agent…

How I Found My Agent…

A stellar agent will care enough to read your work, give you critical feedback and kick your butt if that’s what it takes to improve your chances of success.” —Sarah Gerdes, Author Straight Talk

I am beyond thrilled that I found an awesome agent. But, it’s funny, I only told a few family members and friends when I signed my contract. The funny part is that I wanted to shout my good news from every available social media platform. 

My hesitation to share the news puzzled me. I hope writing this blog will help me understand the why, and maybe provide some encouragement to writers seeking agent representation.

The journey…

I love writing stories. I find the whole process exhilarating. From the minute a POV character introduces herself and whispers that first line in my ear, I am hooked. I plow forward—character sketches, plot, location, conflict, outlines, first draft, edits, revisions, second draft, edits, revisions… The road to finishing a manuscript is long. It takes hard work and dedication—and, dare I say, sweat and tears. My tears are for my characters—their stories often make me cry. 

I started submitting picture book manuscripts back when writers were still pouring over Writer’s Markets to find publishers. And many publishers were still taking unsolicited submissions. I received some glowing rejection letters, but no contract offers. 

My published young adult novel was an unagented submission. I had ten pages of the manuscript critiqued at an SCBWI conference. The author who read those ten pages later emailed me to tell me about a new publisher who was open to submissions. I queried the publisher that evening and she asked to see the full manuscript. After not hearing back from the publisher for several months, I emailed her to ask the status of my submission and pitched another manuscript, which she published.

I was fortunate to be part of a critique group by the time I was writing my next manuscript. Getting feedback from other writers is invaluable. I also continued to attend conferences where I submitted pages of my finished manuscript for editors and agents to review. I followed up with queries, which resulted in some positive feedback but no offers. I found querying agents a bit daunting, not because of the agents, but because of the process: 

  • Researching agents and finding a good match for my work,
  • Composing the query letter,
  • Writing a synopsis, and 
  • Finding just the right pitch.

Which takes me back to my love of writing and being willing to do the work to complete a novel manuscript to the point of sweat and tears. I was more than willing to put in the necessary work to find an agent. I did the research, composed a query, wrote a synopsis, and came up with a pitch—but I didn’t feel very comfortable with any of it. And after several rejections, I wasn’t confident about what I was putting out there. It was easier to start the next manuscript. The POV character had given me a great first sentence, after all. I wanted to tell her story. Once again, I was hard at work. Have I mentioned that I love to write? 

 “Don’t be pushed around by the fears in your mind. Be led by the dreams in your heart.” —Roy T. Bennett

As writers, it’s easy to get discouraged—there are so many moving parts to finding success. But, it’s important to remember that there are opportunities out there. We just have to be open to recognizing them, and willing to navigate the bumps along the way.

photo of my door at Highlights retreat

While on a Highlights retreat in October of 2022, I mentioned to a writer I met at dinner that one of the things I wanted to accomplish while there was to research agents. My characters and their stories were just too important to me not to make every effort to get them out into the world. I was ready. She was quick to recommend QueryTracker, so that’s where I started my research. As I studied agents and their agencies, it was so nice to come across a familiar name.

Photo of Carol and other WestSide Book Authors

Previously I had met Shari Maurer at an ALA event shortly after our first novels were published. I found she was now an agent with The Stringer Literary Agency LLC, where she represents both fiction and non-fiction writers. It was fun to catch up on her career, and after reading her Manuscript Wish List and finding out all I could about Shari and the Stringer Agency, I decided to query her. 

It was somehow an easy query letter to write, and the synopsis came together as well. Maybe it was just the right time, or querying someone I’d met felt comfortable. We had shared the same publisher, signed each other’s books. I was thrilled when Shari asked to see the full manuscript of my young adult novel. In September 2023, we met on Zoom. It was fun seeing her again. I signed my contract shortly after our meeting. 

Signing with an agent has motivated me to make changes—not only edits and revisions to my manuscript, but a renewed interest in becoming active on social media platforms and sharing my news.

“Step so far outside your comfort zone that you forget how to get back.”—Anonymous 

There are lots of wonderful articles and blogs out there about how to find an agent. So many writers are willing to share what they’ve learned. I’ve learned that it was important for me to step out of my comfort zone—that place I create with my characters. I’ve also learned that the journey is long, but you never know who you’ll meet along the way—keep going!

2 responses to “How I Found My Agent…”

  1. Edie Hemingway Avatar

    So happy your search for an agent was successful, Carol! And congratulations on this beautiful new website!

    1. Carol Larese Millward Avatar
      Carol Larese Millward

      Thank you, Edie!

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