How I got my agent and what it means

Most of you heard the new yesterday that I’m now agented! Yesterday I met Juliet Mushens from Peters Fraser & Dunlop at their offices in London and despite being a nervous wreck was coherent enough to feel her enthusiasm for my manuscript and my writing and to love her ideas for improving them. It still feels a bit surreal after two years of submitting to agents to have one but I’m excited for the journey ahead.

A few non-writers asked me yesterday exactly what having an agent actually means. I totally understand this as before I wrote a book and thought about trying to get it published, I didn’t have a clue either! I assumed I’d send it in to a top publisher and sign a million-pound book deal the next day. Uh… no, basically. Most of the main publishers don’t accept submissions from writers without agents – they look to agents to filter novels for them. So if you want to be traditionally published, you really need a literary agent. In the same way as actors have film agents to get them work.

An agent primarily works to bridge the gap between author and publisher and to get your book published but they really do a whole lot more – most will help you edit and improve your story before submitting it, they will support and champion your career and help you make decisions about what to write next. To get an agent, most writers submit their manuscript to them and end up in what’s called a slush-pile and hope that an agent will pick it out and fall in love with it. Others meet them at conferences and pitch the book to them there, or you might enter a writing competition and get noticed by them that way, or some may know an agent through a friend. I found mine through submitting directly – I emailed Juliet my first three chapters, she asked to read the full manuscript the same day and just under two weeks later said she wanted to represent me. She emailed me last Sunday to tell me after another agent had asked to read the full ms and one had rejected it – it was a crazy night!

I know when I was searching for a agent, I looked online at other writer’s stories to see how they did it, how many rejections they got etc. So, for those interested – I submitted my manuscript to 23 agents, I had 14 rejections, 3 non-responses, 3 asked to read the full manuscript and after I emailed everyone to say an agent had offered to represent me, I got another 3 full ms requests. I found Juliet through Twitter after I had been submitting my ms for nearly three months – I randomly started following Juliet and some of her clients and then looked at her website page. I’d never submitted to her agency before as I thought they didn’t want to see YA books but reading her bio and client list, I thought it was a worth a try. I’m very glad I did 🙂

This manuscript is the third one that I’ve sent to agents and the fourth one that I’ve written since 2010. I’ve had a lot of rejections and moments when I wondered if I was crazy to be trying to do this. I got enough positive feedback on my last one to push me to really go for it. As most of you know, I decided this year to take a bit of a leap of faith and leave my job in HR and take a year out to write. I left my job the last day of March and I was getting nervous that I’d made a mistake in doing that but yesterday, I took a big step in the right direction. Of course there are no guarantees that my novel will sell but having someone believe in me and my writing means I have the best chance possible for it to.

Thank you to everyone who has supported and encouraged me – this blog has often been my lifeline. And to writers reading this who are trying to find their agent – don’t give up! 




80 thoughts on “How I got my agent and what it means”

  1. Congrats, Victoria! “You fail only if you stop writing” said the great Ray Bradbury, and he was damn right! I’m glad you didn’t and I promise you, I won’t quit either! Godspeed! 🙂

  2. Most of the main publishers don’t accept submissions from writers without agents – they look to agents to filter novels for them. So if you want to be traditionally published, you really need a literary agent.

    I hadn’t realised this. I’d always read that writers should ‘send a publisher the first three chapters’ directly, when sending out manuscripts.

    Great post, (I know next to nothing about the traditional publishing world, so I am reading up on whatever inside glimpses I can get about the industry).

  3. Wow, congratulations on getting an agent! 🙂 I missed it yesterday (I’m a bit all over the shop at the moment), but that is awesome news, and you definitely deserve it after working so hard on it and placing so much faith in it yourself! Good luck with it all, and thank you for sharing this – it does pass on a bit of hope to so many other aspiring writers, to hear these kind of stories.

  4. I am absolutely thrilled for you. Make sure you keep us posted with all the tidbits about your journey from agent to publication (I know they’ll sell your story soon!!!)

  5. YEAH! Congratulations! I’m doing a happy dance for you. (I’m keeping it inside my head, though, for the sake of my fellow coffee shop patrons.)

  6. This is amazing news. I actually got a little teary, and my heart leapt for you. I know how hard you’ve been working, hoping, and waiting. You are an inspiration to the rest of us writers who are still waiting for that big break.

    Good luck on this leg of your journey, and I’m so looking forward to reading more about everything that happens for you and your book. 🙂

  7. Thank you so much for posting this very specific information! I’ve started to do a little research on what it takes to get published, and I think if I ever do try, I would rather go the traditional route like you did instead of self-publishing. I think it would be helpful to have an agent’s opinion on making the writing better, and I would have no idea how to “advertise” for my new book if I did self-publish. I hope this isn’t too personal, but can I ask you?…..Now that you have an agent, do you start paying her? Or does she simply get a commission from your book sales once a publisher accepts you?

  8. Just saw the digest come into my inbox. Many congratulations on this. Such great news for a wet Monday morning here 🙂 All the best with this and I look forward to reading when it comes out. Excellent post on summarising the journey to date and the amount of effort it takes. Again great news. I’m so excited for you 🙂

  9. Congratulations! That’s great news, and it must feel brilliant to have your leap of faith vindicated like that. And thanks for sharing how you made it happen as well – it’s helpful (if a little daunting!) to know that it takes perseverance and self-belief, but it’s worth it! Best of luck with the next step 🙂

  10. A MILLION CONGRATS! I am so happy for you! It’s been inspiring to follow along with you on your journey. Next thing you know, we’ll be congratulating you on the publication of your book! 😀

  11. Congratulations to you! That is the holy grail of writers!
    I received my journal in the mail today! I LOVE it! Thank you so much!
    I will use it for poetry. I used to write it and it helped me with description of feelings and thinking outside of the proverbial box!

    Thanks again!

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