Monday, August 29, 2011

How I Got My Agent by Falling Through a Window

So...It's my turn to talk about "How I Got My Agent." I was 30 rejections into my attempt to get my second novel (adult, commercial fiction) published when my mother reminded me, "When God closes a door, He opens a window." I'm not a big fan of this line. I mean, it's pretty awkward climbing through windows, plus there's that big drop on the other side. But, of course, she was right.

In April 2010, I went to my first writers' conference and prepared for the terrifying tradition known as the agent pitch session. I couldn't believe I was going to pitch my novel to honest-to-God literary agents from New York City! New York City, people! AGGGGH!

The 31st Door.

Friday morning, I met with an agent who shall remain nameless. She was everything my Midwestern mind conjured up when I thought of publishing professionals from Manhattan: tall, beautifully dressed, glossy, didn't pronounce the letter R. She proceeded to tell me that my novel was derivative and uninspired.

And Then a Window.

But never fear! I still had another pitch session scheduled! Maybe agent Molly Lyons would like it. Based on the brochure, she looked nicer anyway. Plus she went to Amherst College, my dad's alma mater. I reasoned that she had to be nice to me because I knew all the words to the Amherst fight song.

The 32nd Door.

Thirty minutes before my pitch session with Molly, the conference coordinator announced that Molly was sick and unable to make the trip.

Then a Second Window.

But her colleague, Jacqueline Flynn, had come in her place!

The 33rd Door.

I quickly googled Jacquie on my Blackberry. Her bio said she represented Nonfiction. What?! I almost bailed on the meeting. I'd already been told my novel was a stink bomb. Why bother? Nevertheless, I decided to meet with Jacquie, for no other reason than to practice my pitch. Strange thing though. When I sat down, I forgot to mention the novel I'd come to pitch, and instead told her about a MG novel I wrote for my kids.

Then a Third Window.

"That sounds interesting," Jacquie said. "Send me that." So I sent my MG manuscript to Jacquie, expecting nothing. She was just being nice, right? She represented Nonfiction! Four months go by then I got this call: "Hi, Anne. This is Jacquie Flynn. I was at a hockey tournament this past weekend, and my son forgot his book at home. He pulled your manuscript out of my bag for something to read. He loved it and told me to sign you. I just finished it myself, and I think he's right."

Then the 34th Door.

We submitted that MG project all fall and winter. The resounding response from editors was, "I love this, BUT..." There was always a "but," and there were no takers.

Finally a Big, Open Window.

By January 2011, I'd finished my fourth novel, currently titled LIES BENEATH, a YA novel about a dysfunctional family of murderous mermaids on Lake Superior. Jacquie agreed to send it out, and Random House Children's Books, Delacorte Press bought it within the week in a two-book deal. Several months later, the translation rights are selling, and a film agent is submitting the story to studios.

So, if you’re a Control Freak like me and you think you have a clear idea as to how this whole publishing process is going to go down for you, forget it. You can’t plan for it, but the opportunities are there. The only thing you can do is jump through the windows, no matter how far the drop.


  1. Congratulations, and thanks for sharing your inspiring story!

  2. Oh, yay, Anne! That is a truly inspirational story, and I love how it opens a "window" into how heartbreaking this process can be. But a happy ending awaited!

  3. Thanks, guys. I feel like Dori from Finding Nemo - "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming..."

  4. Now if I can just figure out how to get rid of the teeny tiny font...

  5. That is a *great* story! Hooray for perseverance and windows! ;) Congratulations!