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How I Got My Agent

I’ve been wanting to write my “How I Got My Agent” post for a while but I’m superstitious. Call it Chinese superstition or just plain old superstition but I thought if I wrote this post, I wouldn’t ever get a publishing deal. But now that my deal is official, I can finally talk about it! Warning, this is a longish post. If you’re not interested in the process of getting an agent, feel free to stop reading now. You won’t offend me. Really.

Before you go though, I’d like to share this story my son wrote and drew about me getting an agent.

agent

Okay, you can go now if you want.

For those who stuck around (thank you!) I’ve always been an avid reader but never thought to write a book. I preferred reading. But when I moved out of Manhattan in 2013, I started a blog to keep my friends informed of what I was doing “up in the country.” In January 2015, those little stories morphed into my first completed book titled FIT GIRLS DON’T CRY.

I thought querying would be easy. After all, I’d written a great book (I thought) so the offers would start rolling in, right? Not. First, its SO hard to get an agent. Agents receive hundreds of queries a week and unless you can hook them right away, you’ve lost them. I did manage to get 5 agent requests on that first MS but I’m not sure how. It makes me cringe now thinking of them reading that first book. It was NOT ready to be published, much less queried.

So in Fall of 2016, I wrote another book titled, HER LITTLE SECRET. I had joined two critique groups and thought my writing had improved. And I got 15 agent requests this time. I thought, this is it, this is the book that will get me an agent!

But then the rejections rolled in with conflicting feedback. They didn’t connect with the main character. One thought the pacing was too slow, another the pacing was too fast. It was a fascinating concept but didn’t hook them in the end. One loved the voice and wanted more, another thought the voice was too distant and couldn’t connect with it. And one agent even said it was too fast as a thriller (huh? I thought I was writing multi-cultural fiction, or women’s fiction, not thrillers?).

By the end of 2017, I’d heard back from all but a handful of agents who still had the full manuscript. Needless to say, I was dejected and frustrated. I decided to pull the remaining fulls since it was clear something wasn’t working. And I stopped writing. It was obvious writing wasn’t the right career for me. I don’t have an MFA, much less taken a writing class (except what was required for school). I didn’t learn English until I was seven and missed out on all the grammar lessons. Who did I think I was, writing a book when others with more experience couldn’t break into traditional publishing either?

I gave up writing for an entire month. But then one day, I thought about my first book and realized what I could do to change the concept. I sat down and before I knew it, I’d outlined a whole new book. It had the same characters but a completely different plot, renamed THE TIGER MOM’S LIES. And just like that, I was writing again.

I dove back in and decided to give it everything I had. If I was going to quit writing, I would go down knowing I’d done everything I could to reach my dream. I didn’t have the knowledge or backbone to try self-publishing. So my dream was to be  traditionally published with one of the Big 5 (Penguin Random House, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, MacMillan Publishers and Simon and Schuster).

I finally gave in and got on twitter. I’d resisted for years, not understanding the point of twits. Yes, I thought they were called twits. After all, it’s twitter, right? Not tweeter. Did you know there’s a whole writing community there? I found a critique partner, joined groups and commiserated with others in the query trenches. There were many writing related contests and I won a few query and first chapter critiques. I entered Pitch Wars, which is a mentoring program for unpublished authors from a published or agented author with an agent round at the end. And while I didn’t get into Pitch Wars, all 4 of the mentors I submitted to requested the full and gave great feedback and encouragement.

And unlike the first 2 rounds when I submitted to any and all agents in my genre, I did my research carefully this time. I only submitted to agents who I could see myself working with. Agents who have sold in my genre, were quick to reply and worked for a mid-sized agency. I knew I didn’t want a big giant agency or an agency with only 1 agent (because what happens to my books if something happens to the agent?).

Rachel Brooks from BookEnds was in my top 3 of agents that I wanted to represent me. She had requested my full on my second MS and got back to me with feedback in ten days. Even though she didn’t pick up that MS, she stayed on my radar. So did BookEnds. They rep some of my favorite authors and have sold many books to my dream imprint, Berkley. So when Rachel requested the full in this third round, I was so happy. And then she gave me an R & R (revise and resubmit) which meant while she wasn’t offering at the time, she’d be happy to take a look if I revised based on her feedback.

Of course I revised it because I agreed with her feedback. It only took me about 2 weeks to finish the revisions. But since it was the week of Christmas, I decided to wait until after the New Year to send it back to her. And then less than 2 weeks later, in January of 2019, I got THE EMAIL. The one asking to chat on the phone – known as THE CALL in the publishing world. I was at the vet holding my dachshund when I read her email and almost dropped my dog (don’t worry, Pinot is okay). Two days later we spoke, and I immediately knew I wanted her to be my agent. People talk about clicking with someone, or that they just knew and that’s exactly what happened. I didn’t care if anyone else offered because I had an offer from my dream agent!

I finally got to write that OFFER OF REPRESENTATION letter to any agent who still had the full or who I had not heard back from. And just like people have said, I immediately got a flurry of responses, even from agents who hadn’t responded to my query from three months ago. I got a few more requests for the full and the ones who had the full said they would get back to me by my deadline 10 days later (it’s courtesy to give other agents a week to 10 days to response).

Long story short, I was finally able to formally accept Rachel’s offer on that deadline day. And surprisingly, I didn’t hear back from a few agents. But it was okay because Rachel was who I wanted. She is professional, on top of things, great with communication (always responds to my emails that day, sometimes within the hour) and so smart in her strategies. She gives amazing editorial feedback and did revisions with me before submitting to publishers. And most importantly, she believes in my books. The cherry on top? She sold my debut to my dream imprint Berkley/Penguin Random House in a two book deal. So that means the second book that I thought was dead in the water will be published too!

But that’s a whole other post. For anyone interested in the writing/querying/submission process of getting published by a Big 5 company, I hope you will stay in touch either by subscribing to my blog or newsletter as I move forward with the publications of my books. Feel free to ask me questions if you are in the querying process. Or just want to commiserate on this SLOW business that is publishing. And of course, there will always be dachshund photos and stories. Can’t wait to share more with you!

Thanks for reading,

Lyn

 

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12 Comments

  1. Sheri Taylor-Emery on September 23, 2019 at 10:39 am

    Read to the end, Lyn, because it was so fascinating. YES, we can never give up. Such a story of affirmation. Can’t wait to read your book(s). I feel the same way about my agent. Just haven’t been lucky enough to sell yet. Still out there trying. Thanks for sharing!

    • Lyn Liao Butler on September 23, 2019 at 1:54 pm

      All we can do it to keep going and keep trying because you never know when something will happen in this business. Thanks for your support and sending good vibes your way!

  2. Em on September 23, 2019 at 10:45 am

    Lyn!!!
    Such an inspiring post! ❤️❤️❤️ You are going to kick some writing booty. I can’t wait to buy your book. ☺️

    • Lyn Liao Butler on September 23, 2019 at 1:55 pm

      Oh, I like that – kick some writing booty! Thanks so much for inspiring me!

  3. Christine Adler on September 23, 2019 at 11:20 am

    Love this story so much! Perseverance, tenacity and the willingness to keep improving your craft and your story really make all the difference. So happy for you and thank you for sharing!

  4. Megan Climo on September 24, 2019 at 7:36 am

    This post was so encouraging. Thank you for sharing your story.

    One question regarding finding critique partners on Twitter. How did you find the right partner and know that person was providing excellent feedback? I have heard horror stories of poor critiques leading aspiring authors down the wrong path with their manuscripts. I’m paralyzed with anxiety at the idea of finding a critique partner (introvert problems), but I fear not recognizing the difference between productive and unproductive feedback.

    Thank you for any insight you can provide! Congratulations on your upcoming novel!

    • Lyn Liao Butler on September 24, 2019 at 7:53 am

      It took a while to find the perfect critique partner for me. I started by engaging with other writers on twitter and then did a contest that was leading up to RevPit, a mentoring program. I commiserated with the other writers who had entered the contest and a few people started saying, let’s swap chapters and queries. I did with a few people and 2 of them I didn’t feel I connected with. Trust your gut – if you’re not finding the critique helpful, or you don’t understand where they are coming from, or you’re like, What? What are they talking about? then it might not be a good fit. But at the same time, you have to be open to seeing things from a different perspective, which is what having a critique partner is for. In the end, I went with my gut feeling. The one person who seemed to get what I was writing and also gave some really insightful and eye-opening critique. And we’ve now been critique partners through 2 manuscripts each 🙂 Good luck!

  5. Abby L. Vandiver on September 24, 2019 at 9:28 am

    Love this post. Love your agent! Hehehe. This was great to share, Lyn. It’s the question so many people are asking. A side note, Bookend Literary agency has Ask an Agent feeds on Twitter and Instagram and videos on YouTube. If you have questions about agents and querying check them out. Congrats on your accomplishments and getting your dream agent and dream publishers! How good for you!

  6. Jill Hannah Anderson on November 8, 2019 at 2:35 pm

    I read to the end and this post is fantastic! What a wonderful, honest, roller-coaster-to-author ride, but so well worth it, right? Congratulations to you!

    • Lyn Liao Butler on November 14, 2019 at 7:33 am

      Thank you! Yes so worth it in the end! Glad I stuck with it.

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