As promised, here is the next installment of How I Got My Agent featuring my West Houston chapter buddy, Lark Howard.
Welcome, Lark. Thanks for agreeing to guest blog. Please tell us a bit about yourself, what you write, and about your agent.
I've written a contemporary paranormal romance set in Paris entitled DEYROLLE. The title is the name of a real place--an elegant townhouse full of taxidermied animals. The hero, Adrien Deyrolle, is a French aristocrat with vast psychic powers including the ability to bring the animals to life. Needless to say, the frequent trips to France for research were a blast. I recently signed with Becca Stumpf, of the Prospect Agency.
Have you been previously published?
I’ve published a lot of magazine articles over the years, mostly ghost writing for architects or engineers. No novels so far……
How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing fiction since junior high when I made myself the heroine of a West Side Story inspired saga. The hero was a boy I worshipped from afar because he was actually taller than me. Most of my colorful jobs involved lots of marketing and PR writing. Then about five years ago I wrote a woman’s fiction tome to entertain myself and found my way to RWA. Writing seriously for publication? About 4 years.
Along the way to representation, did you change subgenres?
Are we counting the sci-fi fantasy I wrote right out of college? Let’s not. Since getting serious I’ve written in two genres, suspense and paranormal romance. I love suspense and have not given up on that manuscript. Frankly I'd probably be on my 3rd suspense if my critique partners, Sarah Andre and Fleury Sommers, hadn't bullied me into writing Deyrolle after the first 25 pages--the only pages I had--won a contest. I loved my premise but thought the story would be a marketing challenge because it involves psychic powers rather than the vampire/werewolf/witch/demon characters paranormal readers love. My CPs insisted the story was fresh and original and I should finish. I think it was a good change and now I have a spin-off WIP and three more stories in the series I’m dying to write.
How many books did you write before signing with your agent?
Three including the 200,000+ word woman’s fiction tucked under the bed where it will forever remain.
What steps did you take to find your agent?
I soaked up every piece of knowledge and advice I got from the wonderful authors at West Houston RWA--especially Sharie Kohler, Tera Lynn Childs and Colleen Thompson. I entered contests hoping to be discovered, attended conferences where agents talked about what they were looking for and how to submit. I pitched whenever I could—local conferences, out of town conferences, RWA National—and cold queried via email. As it turned out, the face-to-face seemed to work best for me. Several agents I met informally requested fulls and followed-up with interest in possible representation. I met Becca at a conference in Houston last fall, chatted with her at the Friday evening reception, sat at the agents' table at lunch (hey, they asked for volunteers!) then pitched in the afternoon. All three agents at the conference requested Deyrolle and I ended up sending fulls to two of the three. All that and a great program for $100!!!
What were some of the most important characteristics you were seeking in an agent?
I wanted an agent with a good agency who loved my writing and wanted to be part of my career. The business is too tough to risk your career on an agent who's less than totally gung-ho about your work. Contacts, industry savvy, understanding the business were basic requirements, of course. As was professionalism. It was also important to me that she/he represented authors outside the romance genre as well as within. My work tends to break a lot of the romance genre conventions which was an issue for some of the very romance oriented agents.
Did you have more than one offer of representation?
I had serious interest from other agents but no offers on the table…the dating with no ring sitch. Some of those I'd eliminated from consideration before I made my decision.
Now tell us about the day you got the call saying I'd love to represent you!
We'd been in contact and an email proceeded the call—an are-you-available-to-talk email—so I suspected the offer might be coming. I had my questions ready for her and we talked about the story—what she loved about it and what I was in the midst of revising. Her excitement and enthusiasm was exactly what I'd been hoping for. My decision to say yes came about halfway through the call although I had many more questions. After accepting, it struck me that I’d made a commitment to my writing in committing to my agent. From then on, writing was my career, not a hobby I hoped to turn into a career.
Who was the first person you called/emailed after getting the agent call? How did you celebrate?
I was in Pennsylvania visiting my sister/beta-reader, Cheryl, so she heard my half of the conversation. I called my husband then Sarah Andre and Fleury Sommers, my CPs who midwifed the book. I’m not sure when the Grey Goose made its appearance.
Finally, do you have any words of wisdom for writers seeking representation?
I can only repeat advice I got from some fabulous and generous authors. Write the very best book you can. While you’re agent hunting, write the next one, and the next. You never know which will catch someone’s attention. Try everything. What works for one person might not work for someone else. A lot of people get their agent through queries, some through contests, some through pitching. Unless you get your work out there, you won’t get an agent, so just do it. Submit to a lot of agents. Some will be very slow in responding, some won’t respond at all and other will send rejections. And a few agents will show interest. It’s business for them, not a personal thing, so toughen up and keep submitting.
Thanks so much for sharing your story, Lark!