How I got my literary agent and sold my first book

Let me tell you a little backstory first, of how I came to write books. The prologue if you will…

Like many of you, I was always a big reader, way before I ever thought of myself as a writer. I was the kid reading everything she could get her hands on, the back of the cereal box, the TV Guide (remember those?) and everything on the shelves at my small school library. Back in my day, there was literally ONE shelf for middle grade books and early readers and ONE for young adult/teen books. Now, we could fill entire bookstores with the plethora of fantastic YA literature. What a time to be alive!

So I was, and am, a reader first. I always enjoyed writing, but never entertained the idea of writing as part of my career until I was in college. Even then, I figured I’d do journalism—writing magazine and newsletter articles seemed way more doable to me than novels. (“Who can write 300 pages!?!,” I would think to myself.) For my various jobs, I learned how to write marketing and promotional copy and got really good (if I do say so myself) at writing short little, pithy things.

In college, as a reader, I moved on from YA literature to adult romance and autobiography and fiction, simply because I thought, “I’m now 19, I’ve left that kid stuff behind.”

Then, in my mid-twenties, a good friend said to me, “Hey. You have got to read these books by Stephanie Meyer. They’re teenage vampire books, which I normally wouldn’t be into and you probably wouldn’t either, but the story is SO good and I think you’d like them.”

And that, my friends, is the story of why I began to read Twilight (along with millions of others), and when I came up for air (I’m unashamedly still a Twilight fan!) my main thought was, “IS THIS WHAT YOUNG ADULT FICTION IS LIKE NOW?” And I abandoned searching the adult fiction shelves at my local library for reading everything that had popped up on the YA shelves in the past 10 years while I had been adulting. And oh, the joy I found! So many great new authors, so many great new series. I began to read YA fantasy and contemporary almost exclusively, because it was so good and I had missed it so much. Veronica Roth’s Divergent series and Suzanne Collin’s Hunger Games had me completely spellbound. I couldn’t put their books down.

Then, one rainy day when my kids were little, and the house was quiet and I had nothing to do, I put down a YA novel that just wasn’t striking a chord with me, and thought, “What if I tried this? What if I could do this?” And that afternoon, in my early 30s, I sat down and started writing my first book.

[Side note: I believe Stephanie Meyer’s work is largely responsible for the huge surge in YA adult literature that bloomed in the 2000s-now. I’m so grateful. I know I’m just one of many writers who went on to find a new love for the power of story and YA literature because of her work. Side note within the side note: I’m #teamjacob forever.]

I figured I’d get 20 pages into this idea of a book and would grow bored of it and thus would never tell anyone else about it. After all, it sounded so weird to my ears to say out loud, “I’m writing a novel.” I didn’t tell my husband or my family until I’d written the whole thing, all 70,000 words. It just came out of me. That particular book will probably only ever live on as a Word doc in my computer’s file folder graveyard, but I proved something to myself then, namely that I could do this and that I liked it.

As soon as I finished writing that first book, I knew I wanted to query for it (something I had no experience in) and try to get it published. So in 2012, I wrote that first book and starting querying for it while I worked on writing the second one.

Fast forward to winter of 2017 (five years and several rejected manuscripts later), and I was querying for my fifth book. It was during that time that I queried my agent, Laura of TriadaUS. (Cue song: Matchmaker, matchmaker make me a match! Sorry, the theater nerd in me can’t help it.) I chose to query Laura (and about 25 other agents for that book), based on what they said they were looking for on their manuscript wish lists, #MSWL. Laura’s wish list and my book aligned very well, and according to her bio, it seemed like we had many personal interests in common (Tea! British TV! Gothic lit!).

That book was my debut, The Puppetmaster’s Apprentice (Page Street Publishing Co., 2020). Laura responded to my query and asked to see the full manuscript. When she wrote back later saying she loved it and wanted to represent me, I was over the moon and cried literal tears of joy—getting a great agent like Laura is an important step of the process and I was so excited. After alerting the other agents who had the manuscript, that I had received an offer of rep, I gave them all two weeks to offer on the manuscript if they were interested. In the end, the several that had the book decided to pass for various reasons, so Laura was my clear choice. We had a great phone call during which I peppered her with lots of questions and probably was exceedingly exuberant, but it was a great phone call, after which I felt sure we would click and work well together. She got my vision and my voice and what I was trying to do with this book and believed in it, and in me. I felt confident that she could help me work on it and take it to an even stronger place, so I gladly accepted her offer of representation and we began polishing the book further. It went out on submission in spring of 2018 and was on submission for well over a year when it sold in fall of 2019 to the fabulous Lauren Knowles at Page Street. You can read my agent’s blog post on the book deal process for The Puppetmaster’s Apprentice here.

So the whole process of getting published took me over seven years of writing and querying (I wrote six books during that time) for the book to sell, with my debut coming out in October of 2020, roughly eight years from when I started.

In case you haven’t noticed, the wheels of publishing move slowly, but the key ingredient is to be persistent. Cultivate LOTS of patience. And don’t be afraid to try. For me, it’s been worth the wait and I can’t wait for my book to be out in the world for you to read!


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