How I Found the Right Agent for Me

sean mccarthy (240x240)You may have heard the news…I recently signed with an agent! I am beyond pleased to have partnered with agent Sean McCarthy. There couldn’t have been a better way for me to wrap up the first year of Sub It Club! (We have a celebration coming up on the 22nd!)

Dana Carey encouraged me to share here on the Club blog about how I got my agent. But when I think about it, it really seems quite simple although as with most things that have to do with writing, the process was a long one.

You see, I decided I wanted an agent a long time ago.  One that would represent my career as a whole.  A person that had the knowledge and connections that I don’t. So I paid attention. I followed agents on twitter. I read their interviews and blogs. I’d hear about their clients and books. I didn’t do all of this at once. It’s something that I fit into my writing day. I’d catch a tweet here, read a snippet on a blog there. Over time my idea of what agents I might click with grew.

Now, as a picture book writer I have a lot of manuscripts. I didn’t send out every one of them. I got them critiqued (over and over!), revised them, and saved them like a story hoarder. I did write pitches and query letters for each one. It really helps me make my hook clear in my mind and sometimes leads to more revision! When I finally did write a story I was certain had a great hook, I knew it was time to query agents. Being an agent is a tough job and I wanted to be sure I had my strongest manuscript possible when asking for representation.

I had a list of possible agents in my mind and my notebook. I chose what I thought were my possible top matches (possible, because how can you really know until you get to talk to someone whether or not they may be someone you can work with?), personalized my query letter for each (which wasn’t so bad since I’d been paying attention), followed submission guidelines, and sent them off in as much as a batch as I could but still sending one by one as I had the time.

I think it’s nice to note that I didn’t pay for anything. No special memberships, no seminar that got me a submission because I attended, no conference. Sure, those things can be fun and helpful but you can certainly find an agent without those things. So, if you can’t find the time or money don’t despair! Commitment to your craft and persistence can get you far.

Okay, I’m sure you want the details. When Sean told me he liked my title, I was happy. When he requested more work I was excited. When he told me he’d like to be my agent I was thrilled! This didn’t happen in an hour or a day, or even a week, but slowly over time. We emailed. We talked on the phone. And no, even though I wanted to and was certain that Sean was the right agent for me, I didn’t say yes right away. I had other submissions out and knew I had to do the right thing, which was notify the other agents I had asked to consider my work. Of course Sean understood because he knows the business.

I sent out emails to the agents who had my submissions giving the date I was going to make my decision. I gave about a week and a half and offered more time if necessary because it was right in the middle of the holiday season. But it didn’t take long for the other agents to get back to me, all of them very kind. I will definitely admit, I was relieved when I was able to finally email Sean with my decision, but if felt good to know that I didn’t do things hastily. I think we can easily get caught up in the excitement of someone liking our work. That is certainly what we hope for and it feels great! But I tried to keep a cool head and remember that this was a business decision. And since I took my time and did things right I know for sure I’ve made a great decision that will benefit me and my work for years to come. I have the sincerest of hopes that it will benefit Sean as well.

About Heather Ayris Burnell

Full time mom. Part time librarian. Author of BEDTIME MONSTER. Creator of Sub It Club. Curator of the Monster Lists of Picture Book Agents & Publishers. Always fooling around on Twitter @heatherayris. KICK! JUMP! CHOP! coming fall 2017 from Sterling Publishing.
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31 Responses to How I Found the Right Agent for Me

  1. Congratulations, Heather! Sean McCarthy is a great agent! I’ve added your link (with full credit to you) in my KIDLIT411.com website. Great job! 🙂

  2. Kaye Baillie says:

    This is a great post, Heather. Thank you so much for sharing. I absolutely love it when authors share these real life experiences as too often, we hear of someone finding and agent/publisher but are left wondering about the journey to get there. Congratulations on your success.

  3. Great story, Heather! I’m so excited for you!

  4. Tina Cho says:

    I love that you said you got your agent without paying for extra things–conferences, etc. Being overseas, I can’t attend them either. Hope to hear of a contract soon. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Joe Owens says:

    Good for you Heather. It is the progress we a;; crave. To be represented means the promise of publication and how could any of us not want that?

    • Hi Joe. Thank you! You know, I think we can all make progress in our own ways: finishing that manuscript, writing that query letter, sending out a manuscript on submission to either agents or publishers. Of course, it is wonderful to find that right agent! And it can help a great deal on the way to publication but there is never a promise. There are many great books that never sell, even with agent support. I sold my first picture book on my own. Sending your work out whether on your own or with the help of an agent is giving yourself that chance, that hope of being published. Don’t give up hope!

  6. *sniff* Am I the absolute last to know? CONGRADS, pal. Yeehaw, yippeee, gadzooks, you’re agented. 🙂 I’m next. *wink*

  7. P.S. Thanks for telling us you didn’t pay for all that extra stuff. I’m not paying for stuff either. I gotta make this work without spending a ton of money! Yanno? I’m next. 🙂

    • I think a lot of people need to do it without spending a lot of money. Add that to not being paid for our time and eek–I don’t even want to think about it! And you never know, you may very well be next!

  8. Congratulations again, Heather! I enjoyed reading your journey on how you landed an agent. I especially appreciated that you did it without any “contacts” or special submissions through conferences. You did your homework and persevered. You got discovered amongst a thick pile of other applicants. Well done!

  9. I love your post, Heather. It’s refreshing to see that doing things in an “old-fashioned” careful way can bring success, too. Congratulations, and all the best in the future!

  10. Congratulations, Heather! It’s been a long road and I am so pleased for you. I hope everything pans out for you with Sean. I so look forward to seeing more of your picture books in print. 🙂

  11. Fabulous, Heather! I’m so happy for you! It sounds like you did everything exactly right and it paid off. Your advice is invaluable for others still searching. Congratulations!!! 🙂

  12. Congratulations Heather. I love the books he represents, so I’m looking forward to yours.

  13. Dana Carey says:

    I already said CONGRATULATIONS but I’ll say it again. Congratulations, Heather!!! I’m glad you shared this story. It’s a good one and I know there will be many more to follow (of the 32-page variety with beautiful pictures!).

  14. Ping Wan says:

    Hi Heather, congratulations for your new milestone and thank you so much for sharing your experience. As a full time mom with two little ones, I do find attending conferences or online events are challenging. I’m glad you mentioned that you didn’t have to pay anything when finding an agent. Yes, I do believe that the quality of our works speaks for us. Best wishes for you!

  15. This is wonderful news, Heather! I’m so happy for you…and truly appreciate your sharing how you went about it…HARD WORK DOES PAY OFF! Inspiring for us all.:)

  16. Kelly Clem Ruiz says:

    Yes. I agree with those above. Thank you for sharing this story that inspires us all when we all crave inspiration. Congratulations!

  17. Mary Uhles says:

    just found this story through doing my own agent research;) Congratulations! I agree with other commentators that its great to hear about the journey, especially when we are down in the trenches of write,submit,repeat;)

  18. Pingback: A Year Of Successes! | Sub It Club

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