News, entertainment, opinion, and whatever sparks interest in Burbank the Media City

How I captured the elusive agent

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

A guest blogger today – author Lynne Marshall. Lynne, a Registered Nurse, is building a second career as a writer. It hasn’t been easy. Like many writers, finding an agent has been a struggle. Recently, Lynne got an agent and she shares that experience along with tips for other writers in this post. 


This picture pretty well sums up the way I felt the day I got the call from an agent saying she wanted to represent my book.

First off, let me tell you a bit about myself.  My name is Lynne Marshall, , and I am a published author.  I have sold seven books.  I have never had an agent.  Let me explain a bit further.  I write category romance and have managed to sell my books without the aide of an agent.  But I also write single title books.  And that is where the quest for an agent comes in.

These days it is necessary to have an agent to even query many of the big publishing houses.  The market is getting tougher and tougher to break into, the advances are shrinking, and us little ol’ writers need someone in our corner to get us the best deal possible.

After years of searching for an agent, I had gotten to the point where I thought I needed an agent to GET an agent.  The task of finding the perfect representative for my writing seemed to be slipping farther and farther from my grasp.   I couldn’t tell you how many times I’d been rejected by agents.  I’m trying my darnedest to forget!  But it wasn’t all bad.  A few times I’d made it to the full request stage, and once I received an “exclusive” request – which means I had to promise for two months that no one else would be reading my book while this agent read and decided whether or not to represent me – because she was serious about evaluating the book.  My reward?  I wasted two months of valuable time to hear I’d been rejected … again.  Writer, editor and publisher Deb Dixon once said that agents are looking for money in the street.  What does that mean?  They need to see a book that will sell, and they need to have a solid idea where they can sell your book before they’ll take you on.  The era of growing an author with talent appears to be gone.

Let’s start from the beginning.  Where did I look for an agent?  Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents is a good start.  He offers extensive information about many agents including their areas of interest, their idea of a dream client (one who makes them money!!!!) what not to do, and how to contact them with either a partial or full manuscript, a query letter via snail mail or whether an e-mail query is acceptable.  Predators and Editors (as well as agents) is a good website to peruse before sending out your precious baby manuscript to a stranger.  Also, it is reassuring to know that any agent you are contacting is a member of AAR – Association of Author’s Representatives, which holds the members accountable to a set of standards.

I also read up on other agents at AgentQuery – a website that promised to “help me find the agent who would find me a publisher,”  This website breaks down the areas that each agent is interested in representing, and that is how I found an agency interested in representing unusual women’s lit, or boomer lit as I call it.  BINGO!

I sent out ten queries and received many boomerang rejections right off.  I was also asked to send a partial to a couple of other agents, and from one of those partials I was asked to send off a full manuscript.  Things were looking up.

One of the responses I’d received from my query came on what I thought was a photocopied rejection letter … until I read it.  Surprise, surprise – this agency had requested a full manuscript from my pithy and entertaining query letter. (My words, not theirs.)

Over the next few weeks I found out that there is a new SOP – standard of practice -among many agencies.  If they are not interested in your work, they do not respond, even if you have sent an SASE – self-addressed, stamped envelope!  This makes the author with a lagging ego feel even less important.  But it is reality folks, and as savvy professionals, we have to suck it up and move on.

As always is the case, when we least suspect something, it happens.  I had had a lousy night’s sleep and decided to take a nap one Friday morning.  Within ten minutes the phone rang.  My first thought was – “It never fails!”  I answered the phone to hear a pleasant voice ask for me.  Trying my best to sound coherent I admitted who I was.  Before I realized what was happening, this wonderful young woman was telling me that she’d read my book and wanted to represent me!  Every question I had always promised myself I’d ask an agent when given the chance flew from my head.  I apologized for sounding like a blithering idiot, and she was kind enough to offer to answer any and all questions I had, once I recovered.  By the way, an excellent book to refer to for questions to ask an agent before signing with their agency is, The Author’s Toolkit – A step-by-step guide to Writing and Publishing Your Book, by Mary Embree.

The agent said she’d hoped she’d made my day, and boy had she ever!  And now I can happily say I have a literary agent!

Here’s wishing you much success with your agent hunt!

Lynne Marshall’s current release for Harlequin is titled – Pregnant Nurse, New-Found Family and is available at under Medical Romance.

Tags: , , ,

11 Responses to How I captured the elusive agent

  1. Leigh Court Friday, November 14, 2008 at 6:50 pm #

    Woo Hoo! Congratulations on finding an agent! You did everything by the book (no pun intended) and your persistence paid off.

    I hope you have many happy single-title sales 🙂


  2. Robena Schaerf Friday, November 14, 2008 at 7:04 pm #

    Hi Lynne:
    I’ve always admired your tenaciousness. I seldom send my manuscripts out to agents and when I do it’s one or two at a time then I sit and wait forever. Usually I get asked for a partial, and often times a full, then it is rejected.
    For some odd reason (I don’t know what it is) I feel like I’m cheating to send to more than one agent at a time especially after I research them and feel they are a good fit for my work. Yet, I visit several agent sites ( and where the agents blog and they insist that everyone expects that we are querying across the board.
    How many queries did you send out at the same time?

  3. Lynne Marshall Friday, November 14, 2008 at 7:30 pm #

    Hi Leigh and Roben,

    Persistence and tenacity are a must in this business. I remember attending a writer’s workshop given by an author who started out in real estate. She said it took twenty-five cold calls to get one yes. I have taken that to heart with the writing business, and though I didn’t send out 25 queries, I think it was 10 or 12. I’ve heard of authors who keep 25 queries circulating at all times. When one rejections comes back, they’d send out another query to maintain their magical number of 25. In this particular author’s case, it paid off.
    Thanks for stopping by. Doesn’t Fronnie have a great blog?

  4. Molly Evans Saturday, November 15, 2008 at 1:56 am #

    congratulations on getting that agent. I’ve tried on and off over the years without success. You are indeed right-you need an agent to get an agent! Seems like they want absolute perfection to pass on to the editors and maybe that’s the way the industry is going.
    and I do NOT like that new non-response if an agent doesn’t want to see more. I do think it’s unprofessional and takes a few seconds to send an email. Oh, well. Glad you’re forging ahead and have an agent behind you.

  5. Lynne Marshall Saturday, November 15, 2008 at 2:41 am #

    Hi Molly,

    Keep forging ahead. And I agree about not liking the new SOP of not responding if the agent isn’t interested, especially if they’ve requested a SASE (self-addressed, stamped envelope) with your submission. I imagine many agents get inundated with queries and don’t want to hire an extra person to handle all of the rejections?

    Times are changing. I guess we have to adjust!

    Don’t give up on finding an agent.

  6. Laura Essendine Saturday, November 15, 2008 at 7:27 am #

    What a brilliant blog. I’m on the verge of sending round my first “boomer lit” option and your post has potentially taken the leg work out for me.

    Thanks for bringing this up.

    Laura Essendine
    Author – The Accidental Guru
    The Books Limited Blog

  7. Jackie Saturday, November 15, 2008 at 12:02 pm #

    Great story, Lynne! It was encouraging, honest, and informative. That one statement about agents looking for “money in the street” said it all about today’s publishing world. I’m glad you and your manuscript looked like a “Ben Franklin” and got snatched up. Best of luck… and yes, Fronnie does a wonderful job on her site, writing for herself, and getting such interesting guests.

  8. Lynne Marshall Saturday, November 15, 2008 at 1:07 pm #

    Hi Laura and Jackie,
    I’m really glad you enjoyed the blog, and I’m particularly happy that I could be of help!

    Laura – best of luck with your “boomer lit” queries. In my query letter I referred to a great article on boomer lit in Reader’s Digest (I believe it was the June issue – check it out if you can) There is a market out there for older heroines. I feel it in my boomer bones! We are a generation of readers, and I don’t know about you, but I get tired of reading books about twenty-somethings ALL the time. Not that I don’t enjoy them – that’s what I write in my category books – I’d just like a little more variety.

    Jackie – I hope I didn’t sound cynical, but I agree with Deb and believe the first thing agents think is – who can I pitch this story to? Or – I know the perfect publisher for this book. Deb Dixon is a smart lady, and I’ll never forget that throw away phrase. It was one of those light bulb moments for me.

    The writer must know their genre and their potential market.

    Hats off to Fronnie for having this great blog site!

  9. Lynne Marshall Saturday, November 15, 2008 at 2:00 pm #

    Correction – Laura – I meant to say Writer’s Digest June issue. The Morning coffee hadn’t kicked in yet, I guess! 🙁

  10. Linda McLaughlin Saturday, November 15, 2008 at 5:16 pm #

    Congratulations on finding an agent, Lynn. That’s much easier said than done these days. And FWIW, I think it’s VERY unprofessional of them to not even return SASE with “no thanks” scribbled on it. How long does that take, three seconds?

    Linda, jaded author

  11. Lynne Marshall Saturday, November 15, 2008 at 6:03 pm #

    I hear you, and feel your pain, Linda.

    Keep writing, no matter what. I agree, how long does it take to write “Not for me” on a query letter and stick it in a pre addressed and stamped envelope?

    Go figure.

Comments are closed.