today, i give my blog over to my crit partner and friend, Gemma Cooper, for two huge announcements that will knock your socks off! take it away, Gem!
I've announced two big/massive/gigantic bits of news this month.
Gigantic news 1:
I am now a literary agent at The Bright Literary Agency, representing children’s books - picture books, chapter books, MG and YA. Further info here and here.
Gigantic news 2:
I have accepted an offer of representation from the amazing Joanna Volpe of Nancy Coffey Literary for my scary MG book, 'The Sinister Mr. Smythe.'
I did consider making these announcements a few weeks apart or not making one at all about my wonderful agent. I thought it might be better to keep my writing life separate from my work life....but then I realised the two have never been separate.
These strands of my publishing career are intertwined. As I’ve learnt and developed skills in one, I’ve polished and honed skills in the other. So this isn't a typical 'how I got my agent story'. It's a ‘how I got into publishing story’ or more correctly, ‘how I achieved my dreams.’ (Warning, as Erin will tell you, I don’t do short stories, so settle down with a cuppa for this one!)
The story begins in a rather lovely drinking establishment in a magical land far far away (read this as an Irish pub in New York City, my home at the time). I was drinking with my bestest friend and we were having one of those conversations you only have after the second bottle of wine. Those conversations where you share your secret hopes and dreams.
“I've always wanted to write a book,” I said.
“Why don't you?” awesome BFF said.
And in the harsh light of day, after a coffee and my hangover cure of chips and ice cream, I thought, “Why don’t I?”
So I did.
Time passed, as it does. I wrote, researched, critiqued and booked a place at a writer’s conference. The name of one particular agent at the conference stood out, that of Joanna Volpe. This was because I’d followed the exciting, ‘how I got my agent and book deal story’ from her client, the talented Kody Keplinger.
“Brilliant,” I thought. “Kody is the perfect conversation starter.” Talking to Joanna became my main goal of the conference.
So I did.
I told her how excited I was to read THE DUFF (by the aforementioned amazing Kody) and then pitched my first novel - a YA UF. Joanna said, “Sure, send me a query,” and then we said goodbye, and walked away probably both thinking we’d never meet again.
(and this would be a rubbish story if that'd happened!)
I sent Joanna my first ever query letter. She did request a partial, but ultimately passed. But it was okay as that same week, I got a revise and resubmit from a renowned UK agent.
The conference was amazing as I met my first critique partner and now friend for life. And l learnt more about publishing, including more about the role of a literary agent. I'd worked in sales for eight years by this point, and I loved books. So how did I not know that there were people who got to sell books? And why was I not doing this job?!
I had to become an agent! So I researched how I could make that happen. I stalked writers online and offered to beta books to hone my editorial skills - which lead to me finding the incredibly talented Erin (and we would need a blog post double this size for all the gushing I could do about her editing skills and amazing friendship over the years).
My research showed I could get into publishing by doing an internship.
Cue heaps of coincidence with a dash of fate.
The first and only internship I found and applied to was a joint one with FinePrint Literary and Nancy Coffey Literary. The application said to write a cover letter to Joanna Volpe.
So I did.
And after talking Suzie and Joanna's ears off about books during my interview, I got the internship. My first day, I heard back from the UK agent who was considering my R+R.
It was a no.
I threw myself into my work, reading sometimes until the sun came up. If I couldn't be a writer, then damn it, I'd learn to be the best agent there ever was!
The internship was awesome, but eventually I had to move back to the UK. Fortunately, fate played its hand again. I'd happened to mention to the wonderful UK agent who'd rejected my R+R that I was interning, and she suggested I contact her when I moved back.
So I did.
And two weeks later I was back in publishing again, learning from some of the best agents in the country. The long commute to work also gave me time to start writing a new book based on an idea I’d had after finding a black and white photo my dad. The book was very different from anything I'd written before. And it felt like THE book.
Time passed, as it does. I moved again and started doing some freelance editorial work. I finally finished THE book and mentioned it to Joanna. She read it and liked it, and along with Sara (assistant extraordinaire), gave me some amazing editorial notes.
Cue light bulb moment.
It took a while, but I finished the revision and sent it back to Joanna. That week I attended a SCBWI event and ended up catching the train home with the lovely Assistant Regional Co-ordinator. I talked his ear off about books the whole journey and he recommended me for a job at The Bright Literary Agency.
I interviewed at Bright. They offered me the job. My first week, Joanna offered me representation.
So this is me. Literary Agent. Writer. Lover of wine and chocolate.
I’ve lucked out joining the experienced team at Bright and will be working closely with Vicki the MD and the other agents in the office. Our key focus is to develop new talent and as a new agent, I have more time to spend with my clients and can offer my editorial experience to make your manuscript polished and ready for submission.
We are currently renovating the literary website, but please check out the link to Bright Group International. I only accept email submissions, so please send the first 3 chapters plus a synopsis or the full text if your submission is a picture book to firstname.lastname@example.org
To pre-empt one question, ‘why does an agent need an agent’?
An agent is your advocate. They fight for you. They stay rational when helping you make the tough choices. They give you honest feedback. They empathise, sympathise and encourage. I know I can do this for my authors, but it would be impossible to do for myself. Luckily I've signed with a person who I've seen do all these things.
Yes I did!
I'll answer any and all questions in the comments.