How I Got My Agent

I’m so extremely excited to announce that I’m now represented by Marlene Stringer of Stringer Literary Agency, LLC! I can’t put into words what it means to find someone who loves my story as much as me and has the same vision for it that I do.

It’s funny, but I’ve always thought of looking for an agent as trying to sell someone my story. My one story. I realized after talking to Marlene that what I’d actually been doing this entire time was applying for a job. Conveniently, I happen to have been doing this job for a few years already. Now there’s a decent chance I’ll get paid someday! I’m sitting on the edge of my dream, and it’s awesome.

Reading agented writers’ blogs taught me a ton about finding an agent, so in case any researching writers are looking for insight, here’s how I found mine. I have illustrated with gifs because I love them.

First, I wrote a story.

Then I re-wrote the story. Then I realized I wasn’t good enough to tell the story I wanted to tell and I wrote another story. Then I wrote another one.

At the same time, I spent hours online researching craft. I started going to writers’ conferences, toyed around with short stories, and met my first critique partners, who were kind enough to read my first drafts.

They made sure I used my editing eye.

I decided I was as good as I was reasonably going to get, and it was time to go back to my first story. The next few months were all tearing apart and rewriting. In the end, I probably had 85% new material and 15% material from my first and second drafts.

Next, I did a TON of research on how to query. The absolute best resource I found was Query Shark, a blog by agent Janet Reid. I also found this blog on formatting by agent Nathan Bransford very useful. After days of painstaking prep, I sent out my first queries. My first rejection arrived 13 hours later.

Classic form rejection.

About a month after I started to query, Kim, one of my amazing CP’s, told me about Pitch Wars, a contest run by the awesome Brenda Drake. I entered, but didn’t get picked by any of the listed mentors (though apparently I was the original first alternate pick for one) However, even better, I did get chosen by Ninja Mentor/blog assistant Rae Chang.

Surprise attack!

In an amazing stroke of awesome, Rae and I live in the same town, and so got to edit live.  We did a lot of deleting (Rae’s specialty), reworking (finding weak spots is her other specialty), and re-added scenes I’d left out from the first draft. We also did a lot of eating and laughing and Googling pictures of hot guys researching.

Wut? I can’t hear your disapproval over his smolder.

I only ended up with one request in Pitch Wars (it wasn’t from Marlene), but the experience was worth it. Aside from all the magic Rae worked, I made about fifty new writing friends on Twitter, which has been great! Seriously, the writing community on Twitter is amazing, and if you aren’t part of it, you should be.

So, this is where things get crazy. After Pitch Wars, I started querying again. I remembered Rae telling me about Marlene and how incredible she is, so one night I decided to query her. Ten minutes later, she sent me a full request.

I sent her my manuscript. Twenty-four hours later, she sent me an email to schedule “The Call.”

A few days later, I accepted and she emailed me the contract.

Yeah, it went that fast. I’m still trying to internalize it. Honestly, I like my own writing, but I have a long history of being not-quite-good-enough at things I try. I’ve only been writing fiction for five-ish years, and I never thought I’d get this far, and I’m so incredibly grateful to Marlene for believing in my story and in me!

So that’s how I did it! I think it’s pretty standard. I wrote, contested/queried, relied heavily on awesome CP’s, and was fortunate enough to find an agent.

I suppose the lessons here are ‘prepare’ and ‘don’t give up.’ I spent thousands of hours writing and probably almost a hundred researching/writing my query. I also carefully read the submission guidelines for every single agent I queried. If you’re serious about getting published, you have to put in the time. Do your research, learn the craft, go to conferences, get CP’s. Above all, of course, write. There may be exceptions to those other rules, but there is one absolute: writers write.

Feel free to ask questions in the comments or email me. If you’re looking for an agent or planning on it sometime in the future, good luck!

About Caitlyn McFarland

Mom of three girls, writer of fantasy novels.
This entry was posted in Path to Publication and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to How I Got My Agent

  1. Alli says:

    I can’t contain my excitement!! I feel like Buddy in that gif! You have worked so hard. Holy crap! You’re so amazing!

  2. Caroline says:

    Hooray! I’m so proud of you for getting this far. Keep being awesome, Caitlyn.

  3. Eva Diane Hair says:

    Well C.H. McFarland you did it!!!!! I knew you would-what an exciting time!!!!! Remember I want a signed book–I can say this is my daughter-in-laws book WOW!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Pingback: New Year’s Post 2015 | Caitlyn H. McFarland

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