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How I Got My Literary Agent

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How I got my literary agent success stories from authors of all genres: fiction, nonfiction, narrative nonfiction, memoir, children’s books, and Christian books. Use the advice of these successful authors, get inspired, and get a literary agent.

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Fiction Authors – How i got a book agent

These fiction writers share how they got literary agents and became successful authors. These novelists write all types of fiction: debut, general, commercial, mainstream, upmarket, literary, historical, contemporary, etc. These are just some of the novelists who’ve used this literary agent blog and gotten literary agent advice about how to get a literary agent for fiction.

How I Got My Book Agent Fiction Authors Logo

B R A D . H A R P E R - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for Fiction, Photo of BHMark, the day you said would happen, has happened. My agent, Jill Marr with Sandra Dijkstra & Associates Literary Agency, got multiple publishers interested in my novel, A Knife in the Fog, and I just signed a two-book deal with Seventh Street Books, an imprint of Prometheus Books.

When it was confirmed I had an agent, I opened a bottle of wine, got some nice Irish cheddar cheese, and my wife and I celebrated. I had three bottles of wine set aside: one bottle for when I got the agent, one for when the book sells, and the third one for when the book is published. Each bottle, of course, is a better quality of wine. Life could not be better.

My agent is very easy to work with, quick to respond, and very enthusiastic about my work. We talk a little bit about personal things as well. I don’t feel like I’m having a conversation with my dentist. She did give me some feedback on things that she wanted me to change in my manuscript, before offering me a contract. I think, among other things, she wanted to see how easy I would be to work with.

Mark, before I found your website, I got no response at all from my query letters. No interest. Nothing. Well, I take that back. One agent was interested in my concept, but then she said my story wasn’t exciting enough. She wanted me to mimic the voice of another author. That’s when I decided to get help and stumbled upon your website. As a retired physician, I know there are things you should use consultants for.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

How I Got My Literary Agent for Fiction, Book Cover for BH Book OneI didn’t know how to shape my query and you gave me perspective. Let me use an analogy. When I was in medicine, I would sometimes send a patient to another physician, and there was a standard format to use. I’d make the information concise, relevant, and useful. I only gave the other person what they needed. And I wouldn’t give the same presentation to an otologist that I’d give to, say, an oncologist.

I didn’t know how to do that when writing a query letter. A friend of mine had lent me one of her books about query letters, but I needed help to learn how to be concise and provide agents with information relevant to them. Information that would help them decide, quickly, if my novel was something they’d like to consider further. That’s the help that you provided. You taught me how to think like an agent.

Writing and telling a story is art but, once that story has been told, it’s a product. There’s nothing wrong with that. I mean, Leonardo da Vinci lived off the proceeds of his work. You can be an artist, but, artists also have to live. So, I had no issues whatsoever in shaping my idea, my concept, into something that would make other people want to read it. They can’t do that unless you get it in their hands though, you know?

I thought about self-publishing my book, but I knew I’d probably just get a couple thousand people at best to read that way. And, most self-published authors spend most of their time marketing, marketing, marketing. That doesn’t get my juices flowing. My dream is to get on an airplane, see somebody reading my book, and hear them tell me how good it is before I tell them I’m the author. It would be one of those fantastic moments that you put a gold frame and then put it into your treasure chest of favorite memories.

One of the most important things you gave me, Mark, was validation. That I wasn’t being totally unrealistic. You showed me the best way to pitch my product, but you also reassured me that I wasn’t wasting my time. You helped me hone my skills, and you were an excellent sounding board – you still are. It’s nice to have somebody to talk to about my writing in ways that I can’t talk to my wife. You’re a professional who knows the business and always gives me reality-based feedback. That’s extremely useful.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 3

How I Got My Literary Agent for Fiction, Book Cover for BH Book TwoI know that I was one of your greener clients, and you were always very accessible. I would send you a little something about what was happening, and you’d always get back within a day or so. And you were always encouraging. I never felt like I was getting an automated or template response. It was always personal, from Mark to Brad, and I always felt like you were in my corner.

I was also impressed that you helped me secure so many testimonials. Eight well-known and bestselling authors agreed to blurb my book. My agent told me right up front, ‘You’ve done your homework; this list of people willing to give you blurbs will get editors’ attention.’ If I was William Faulkner or Stephen King, I wouldn’t need anyone like that, but I’m not William Faulkner or Stephen King!

I’m just a 65-year-old, unpublished author. My agent is taking a risk with me. Agents and publishers can’t afford to lose too many times. You know what you call an agent or publisher who takes on too many unsold or underperforming books? You call them unemployed. Having well-known authors and experts willing to review your work gives you credibility, and it shows agents and publishers that you can help sell books.

The list of agents you compiled for me was also huge. It saved me months of time and made it so that, when I got a rejection, I’d simply say, ‘Okay, batter up, who’s next?’ I didn’t have to go back and start rummaging through those hard-to-navigate-and-often-outdated-and-incomplete directories to try to find more people. That made getting rejections, and getting more submissions out, a lot easier.

Signing up to work with you wasn’t a financial burden for me. I mean, it was a significant investment, but, my wife and I talked it over. I wouldn’t have done it without her support. She saw how important it was to me to try to make it as a writer and said, ‘Well, you know, let’s go for it.’ It was a joint decision, and we decided it was an investment in this new career of mine. So, we did it.

I knew, Mark, after my first coaching call with you, that you could help me, and that I could trust you. You didn’t just give me a sales pitch. You listened. You were thoughtful. And your advice was appropriate. As an author, you can only get things to a certain point on your own, using advice from books and websites. Even great ones like yours. Thank you for everything. We have come a long way, my friend.

B R A D . H A R P E R – HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT
Author of A Knife in the Fog and Queen’s Gambit, published by Prometheus Books/Seventh Street Books, an imprint of Globe Pequot, the trade division of Rowman & Littlefield

S A N D Y . G I N G R A S - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Literary Agent for Fiction, Photo of SGI really like my agent, and she loves my book! How that long winding road and nightmare of getting an agent landed me with her, I’ll never quite understand, but I’m thankful for it. I’m always up for a celebration, and I’ve been having a continual celebration ever since. So many people have gone through this process with me, and they’re all like, “Thank God!!” 🙂

I’m more grateful than you could ever know.

When I started sending out the query you wrote for me, I had several agents interested all at once. That made me very, very, very nervous. I felt like you wanted me to create a situation with many agents vying for me, and I’m bad at things like that. It was terrifying. I just wanted one agent interested. It was horrible talking to the agent who really, really wanted me. I loved her, but, at the end of our long conversation, I said, “I can’t commit yet.” I thought she was going to cry, and I thought I was going to cry.

How I Got My Literary Agent for Fiction, Book Cover for SG Book OneI felt nauseous because I thought I was going to lose her. She didn’t seem that upset, but I thought she might throw herself off a cliff or something. Or, I thought I might throw MYSELF off a cliff or something. I felt manipulative. I just wanted to have the whole thing done already. I own my own business, but I’m not a wheeler dealer. They don’t let me behind the counter in my store, because I give things away. I’m not the negotiator, at all. I don’t have the courage for that. I cave instantly.

One agent responded and asked to read the manuscript within three minutes of me starting to send out my query letter. A few minutes later, another agent called me on the phone to express interest and ask for the manuscript. I thought, “This is going to be a piece of cake. I’ve got this nailed. Thank you, God. I won’t need to use that agent spreadsheet anymore.” But then came the next day, and the next day, and the next day, and months and months, and more queries than I want to remember or talk about.

It’s a process.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

I talked about how many queries I’d sent out at a writing workshop with people I’ve been writing with for years. They were like, “What?!!!!” Like, “What’s wrong with you?” I thought, “I don’t know, but I refuse to give up.” I was relentless. You gave me the courage to keep going, because I was committed to your process. When you commit a big chunk of time and money to something, there’s too much weight of forward motion to quit. I also felt like, “I’m not going to let Mark down. I want to be one of his success stories!”

How I Got My Literary Agent for Fiction, Book Cover for SG Book Two

I used to work as a counselor, and we had a sliding scale. You could pay $100 or you could pay $2 if you couldn’t afford that. Well, the people who paid $2 gave about $2 worth of energy to the process. And the people that paid $100 were like, “I better vest myself in this process because I spent a lot of money.” After my first conversation with you, I decided I should invest in my writing. You seemed smart, like you knew what you were doing. You also seemed like you trusted yourself, and you seemed like you trusted ME. I felt like, “All I need is Mark to help me through this process.”

I don’t know how people do it by themselves.

I really don’t.

What helped me through talking with so many different agents, and choosing the right one, was that you kept saying, “It’s not just about who wants you, it’s about who YOU want.” That was good because I didn’t really like some of the agents I talked to. It’s not that I didn’t personally like them. I just didn’t feel a strong connection, and I wanted somebody who really believed in me. Some of the agents were also very rigid and narrow in their thinking. I didn’t feel comfortable with them, something was a little bit off.

I kept thinking, “I’ll just go back to the agent spreadsheet, go back to the spreadsheet and see if there’s somebody out there I really want, not someone who just wants me. Someone I want to work with, that I really like.” So, I kept looking at it as, “Okay. This is the choice I’m making. Not just the choice they’re making about me. It’s going to have to be both ways, or I’m not doing it.” I think that’s even more important when you’ve written a memoir.

How I Got My Literary Agent for Fiction, Book Cover for SG Book Three

It’s an awkward feeling writing a memoir because the people who read it suddenly know you intimately. Agents, total strangers, would call me up and already know everything about my life. Some of the really hard, bad parts. But I didn’t know anything about them. My agent made me feel at ease and we had instant rapport. It seemed like we understood each other, and my agent understood my book. Some agents wanted to change it in ways I didn’t agree with. And, some of them, since my book is about dealing with depression, seemed more interested in me counseling them about their issues than selling my book.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 3

Before I met you, Mark, I didn’t have a book proposal, and, more than that, I didn’t want to write a book proposal. I also didn’t have a synopsis. I had a query letter, but it was more apologetic than sales-oriented. Kind of like, “I’m so sorry to bother you with my pathetic document…” And I had a manuscript, but it was nothing anyone wanted. It had potential, but you were the only one willing to WORK with me to uncover it.

Hiring you made me see that I had to change everything, that I had to make my book more accessible and marketable. You did it gently and incrementally, and it eventually sunk in and took hold. With you, I didn’t feel railroaded into doing things. Instead, I felt like I was choosing to do things. I also didn’t feel alone anymore, like I was floundering, not knowing what to do next. You guided and encouraged me. And, in the end, I had the courage and will to change everything that needed changing.

How I Got My Literary Agent for Fiction, Book Cover for SG Book Four

It was hundreds of pages of work, but you made it easy. Or, at least, doable. In the end, it was like, “Wow, why wouldn’t I want change this to turn it into a document that agents would WANT to read! Why wouldn’t I want my work to be better?”

I hired other people before I hired you, and that was a good start, but they didn’t get me to the finish. My book and pitch materials weren’t ready, and I wasn’t ready. You made the value of my work obvious, and, as my manuscript and supporting materials started to shine, so did I. While working with you over the months, I grew stronger and surer. I changed as my manuscript changed. When I finally got an agent, she told me, “You’re a dream author. Your manuscript and your proposal are a slam dunk!”

You made that happen.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 4

I’m sure your price deters some people from hiring you, but it shouldn’t. For what you did for me, you were more than worth it. I considered that payment an investment in myself and my writing career. For the price, I got a year’s worth of coaching (which makes you cheap—in the nicest connotation of that word). The agent spreadsheet alone was priceless. Without it, I think I would have given up the agent search.

How I Got My Literary Agent for Fiction, Book Cover for SG Book Five

The process of finding an agent is a process of endurance, but it also demands a lot in terms of emotional strength and willingness to grow and change. It’s a long journey over treacherous terrain and it’s not just good to have a guide, it’s vital.

As you know, Mark, my book is about how a life can take off, how a person can learn to fly. It’s about how to grow stronger, how to believe in yourself. It’s about how to flap around and not be deterred by falling. It’s about hoping and dreaming. But it’s also about how you need other people to teach you how to fly, and how you need other people to believe in you, to be on your side, to say, “You can do it. Try again.”

You’re one of those people.

When I first started my business, somebody told me, “You can base your business decisions on money or relationships. Always go with relationships.” Because of that advice, I’ve never taken a wrong step. And that’s why the greatest gift of our work together, to me, has been our relationship. You’re a good teacher who’s smart and experienced, but you’re also generous and your heart is big. You launch people and their dreams, and you teach them how to fly.

I’m happy to be one of your winged clients…

❤️❤️

S A N D Y . G I N G R A S – HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

Author of the novel Paradise Girls (St. Martin’s Press) and many gift books (more than 1,000,000 books sold) by publishers such as Andrews McMeel

D Y L A N . J O N E S - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Literary Agent for Fiction, Photo of DJI had a great conversation with my new agent at Trident media last night. I’m thrilled, as Trident was one of my top picks, my agent has standout credentials, and, like you, he’s a gentleman and likes to move fast. I found his demeanor friendly and collaborative, and I love that Trident is savvy on the marketing side of things. They have an author marketing division and their own TV and film unit, and they go to LA twice a year to meet with Netflix, Amazon, etc.

You prepared me for the worst, because, as you said, it can take more than a year of querying and many hundreds of queries to get an offer, but my agent asked to read my manuscript 40 minutes after I queried him, in my first round of queries. I sent it to him within two minutes and he offered representation a week later.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

How I Got My Literary Agent for Fiction, Book Cover for DJ Book OneIncredible.

I’d queried agents before, but it didn’t turn out great. I was naïve and it was a slog, trying to figure out which agents to query and which parts of their submission guidelines were important. This time, I felt that if I really wanted to have a career in writing, I needed help. After a quick Google search, your name turned up.

My first query wasn’t structured, and it was undisciplined with way too much information. The way you structured the query was more strategic, with clear points right at the top, which helped get the attention of agents. You also made the query more personal in the sense of why I’d written the book.

How I Got My Literary Agent for Fiction, Book Cover for DJ Book TwoHow you presented the information about all the agents I could query, in a way that was easy to navigate, also made life easier. Your instructions were incredibly useful and clear. For me, that was a huge timesaver, and that I didn’t have to go on every single agent website to check them out. All that vetting had been done first for me. You also made it easy to track my progress with submissions.

You’re very disciplined and that’s great, but the fact that you’re also a gentleman is also important. A lot of people may think that doesn’t matter, but, for me, it means you care about your clients. A great deal. The fact that you stick to a strict process may set some people off, but, for me, if I’m paying for services, I roll with the person’s process.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 3

I’m not going to question that lawyer if he tells me, “We need to do this.” I was the same with you. I love that you always knew exactly what needed to be done, and that I could trust that. Since I’d failed in the past doing it myself, I was going to follow your advice. And, beyond giving good advice, you’re incredibly patient and generous with your time.

How I Got My Literary Agent for Fiction, Book Cover for DJ Book ThreeAfter our first call, the introductory coaching call, I was impressed, with your credentials and how clearly you spoke about what you do. Coming out of that call, I had confidence we’d work well together. You were very complimentary about my manuscript and my first impression was, “Oh, he says this to everyone.” But I got over that because I know how successful your business is. You don’t need to “say anything” to get clients, and you don’t.

You’re genuine.

You also cover every topic so well that there aren’t surprises along the way. I never thought, “He didn’t cover this,” or, “I forgot to ask that.” You laid everything out nicely, so I didn’t feel confused or like anything was lacking. I’m really excited to be at this stage, the beginning of absolute Nirvana.

Cheers.

D Y L A N . J O N E S – HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

#1 Amazon bestselling author of multiple books in the category of Welsh Crime with approximately 75K copies each sold of his first two books, one of them nominated for the Not the Booker prize by The Guardian newspaper—titles in the DI Tudor Manx series include Anglesey Blue, Doll Face, and Shadow Soul

J A N E . J A G O - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Literary Agent for Fiction, Photo of JJMark helped me to get a top literary agent a while back, and now my novel, ‘The Wrong Hand’ (a psychological thriller) is published with an imprint/division of Penguin Books called Michael Joseph that is ‘principally interested in publishing Top Ten Bestsellers’. It’s hard not to be excited.

It has been an awfully long bloody road towards publication but we are finally on our way. I have learned that hard work, struggle, disappointments and perseverance are all important, as is following the advice of industry experts like Mark.

My agent is fantastic, well respected in the industry and has proved to be very hands on with every stage of the project. From the moment I listened to the long exuberant message he left on my phone, expressing his excitement about the book, I knew that he was a perfect fit; that he understood the novel, believed in it and would be a champion for it. He also worked with me to improve the MS for submission to publishers.

I was then assigned a wonderful editor at Penguin who raised the bar even higher and helped me to dig deeper and deliver an even a better book. Through the process I have come to like the quote “Writing is easy, all you have to do is look at a blank page until your forehead bleeds.”

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

How I Got My Literary Agent for Fiction, Book Cover for JJ Book OneAfter Mark helped me revise my query letter I got five requests to read my full manuscript. Several agents asked for it within the hour.

When I received my first offer for representation, Mark encouraged me to go slow and make sure I considered all my options. He told me exactly which questions to ask the agent. Then he advised me what to say to the other agents who were still considering my work, as leverage, so they would read my book over the weekend. That way I was able to get more than one offer and choose the right agent for me.

I originally stumbled on Mark’s website whilst compiling a list of agents to target with my book submission. The site itself is full of REAL information and resources – not the usual hollow bait for an underlying sales pitch. With the Internet inundated with spruikers touting for business and offering all manner of promises – his authentic content immediately stands out.

It was clear to me, when I heard Mark talking on his free mp3 that he was someone I could work with. His honesty, integrity and intelligence came through loud and clear. I have to admit though, when I got to the visualization on the mp3 about sitting down with my dream agent to celebrate a lucrative publishing deal, I thought – here we go, he’s building this picture and then he’s going to burst the bubble and say “wake up and smell the roses.”

I was waiting for the punch line. Instead, Mark affirmed that what I am driven to do is possible. He made me more determined not to give up. I then shared some of Mark’s tips with my son (also a writer) and he booked an introductory coaching call with Mark for me as a gift.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 3

Filling out the questionnaire that Mark provides before the consult, in order to fully understand your writing project and your goals, is an invaluable process in itself. It allows Mark to know a great deal about you and your work before you speak with him. It also pulls out lots of things you’ll be able to use in your query letter. That’s a huge thing since, let’s face it, most people are writing under a rock. Obviously if you’ve already written a query letter, you’ve thought long and hard about it, but Mark’s questionnaire helps you realize things you left out.

After the cramped discipline of the minimal word count required for submission materials to literary agents –how wonderful it is to expand upon and fully express that which propels and excites you as a writer and what drives your book. Just considering each question on the form is an exercise in clarity.

When I spoke with Mark, he had digested all the information I provided about my books and had read my submission materials. He was not only extremely positive about the work but immediately gave me suggestions for a couple of simple changes that I instantly recognized as being spot on, and in tune with the tone of the work. There was so much concrete stuff during that initial 1-hour consult it was fantastic.

Mark was easy to talk to, totally on point and – this is rare – completely psychologically present throughout the call. He actually listens. That’s a very rare quality, especially when there’s marketing involved. And he’s an expert in his field. Mark clearly understood exactly where I was coming from. He identified descriptors and information I had provided in the questionnaire that best represented the real power of the book so that I could use them in my query. He suggested things that needed omitting from my current query letter. And he advised me on how to restructure it. We discussed genre as well, and criteria for targeting the right agents who would resonate with my work and therefore be fired up with excitement to sell it to publishers.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 4

Before my first phone call with Mark I didn’t know if there would be anything there… or if it would just be a sales pitch. There’s a lot of that out there. ‘Listen to my two hour talk about buying my 4-hour program.’ I didn’t approach it that cynically, but I’m not naïve either. Unfortunately there are a lot of people out there who have trashed the territory and left people skeptical and wary.

After my call with Mark, I signed off energized and ready to embark on the next steps toward getting the best agent I could. The discussion left me vindicated in my belief in myself as a writer and also encouraged me that I was well on the way to obtaining the representation I deserve. A little while later I decided to work more closely with Mark in one of his longer-term coaching programs where he leads you, hands-on, through the steps to securing an agent.

During our time together Mark helped me figure out the best way to position my book. At first I didn’t know how to position it, but Mark helped me figure out the most important parts to emphasize. My book is highly commercial but it’s also meaningful with powerful themes and that wasn’t being communicated before.

Mark gave me feedback on my first 50 pages as well, and actually made some editorial suggestions on the first pages.Those comments were critical because I had something in the first few pages that described a delicate subject. It would have been confronting to many readers…and given them the wrong first impression about the book. The changes Mark recommended also added more mystery and suspense. When he did that, it created immediate trust for me. People can give you advice and that can be quite intrusive if it’s not right, but Mark’s suggestions made it clear that he’d read my material and understood it.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 5

I found coaching with Mark very validating. The whole process was based on the fact that my book really was a credible piece of work with the merit to get a literary agent. Mark doesn’t take people on that he doesn’t believe in, or blow smoke… Perhaps I already knew that my work was worthy of publication, but it’s normal as a writer to always have some nagging doubts and insecurities – so much of the process is about rejection no matter who you are or what you have written.

If I hadn’t found Mark, I don’t think I would have given up…ever… but I was wondering what to do next to get the work “out there;” so I might have dropped the ball for a long while. When you’re alone as a writer it’s easy to lapse into a bit of disbelief about your ability and lose momentum. I’ve shouted Mark’s praises to people and continue to recommend him.

In short, if you want a book deal with the top five in traditional publishing – and why wouldn’t you – you need a top agent and Mark is all about equipping you to get one. If your writing is important to you, consider working with him to help you market yourself to the people at the top who can best represent you.

J A N E . J A G O – HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

Author of the novel The Wrong Hand
Penguin Books/Michael Joseph

N A T H A N I E L . L A N D E - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Book Agent for Fiction, Photo of NLMark, finding you has been both a treat and a treasure! I now have two different agents for my work, and book deals with both Skyhorse Publishing [named the ‘fastest growing small publisher in America’ by Publishers Weekly] and Blackstone Publishing.

As you know, my career has spanned publishing, TV, and feature film. I’ve served as Creative Director for the Magazine Group, TIME Incorporated; Director of Time World News Service, a Founding Director of TIME-Life Films; Executive Producer for both the CBS and NBC Television Networks; Producer/ Director: Movies of the Week: CBS Cinema Center Films and Universal MCA. You just can’t do it alone today as an author.

How I Got My Literary Agent for Fiction, Book Cover for NL Book OneHaving many years experience in publishing, and having published many books myself, I’ve found that the industry has become extremely problematic. 70% of the publishing houses, as I knew them 20 years ago, have now consolidated. As a result, cost-cutting measures have been put into place, editors are overworked and underpaid, and, regrettably, there’s a new crop of editors coming in that aren’t developmental editors, they’re just acquisition editors. They don’t have the literary stature of some of the legendary editors.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

We’ll never see another Max Perkins, the editor for Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Thomas Wolfe. Few editors these days are dedicated to their craft. There are pretenders and sometimes imposters and no single editor today can make a decision. They must have another editor within the same house, a marketing director, a PR director, and the publisher on board to get permission to publish a book. wAs a result, every author needs to have a well-edited book and position it well. My latest book wasn’t getting picked up because editors couldn’t agree whether it was a young adult novel or an adult novel.

How I Got My Literary Agent for Fiction, Book Cover for NL Book TwoFaced with problems like this, it becomes dangerous territory. If you start listening to the wrong people, or too many people, you’re at a disadvantage. Many of the agents and editors who gave me feedback had just read a few pages. It can be very unsettling and worrisome. But you need an agent and this is why I feel that you offer such a valuable service, Mark. You’re an intelligent man and you’re a literary man. You’ve been an agent and you know the game. You help authors choose the best agents who might be receptive. You personally rewrite an author’s pitch materials. And you make sure his or her work is well written and ready to go.

In today’s publishing marketplace, agents come and go. They also very often seem to just want an easy pathway to make a buck. Many authors are let go by their agents because their last book didn’t do well enough and the agent doesn’t want to devote the time to help the author. That’s not what you’re about Mark. You structure a blueprint in which an author has every chance of having the representation that his or her book deserves. You help your clients give agents everything they need to place their book with the proper publisher. Even established authors need this type of support in today’s marketplace.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 3

How I Got My Literary Agent for Fiction, Book Cover for NL Book ThreeI’ve had agents in the past for my work, including an agent who helped me with a very successful book that I published with National Geographic. But things went badly with that agent so I had to look for another one. It was extremely difficult. Even though I already had a bestselling book, I was writing in a new genre so there was a new learning curve. Every day was becoming increasingly difficult and I knew I needed help. I needed a mentor, a supporter, someone in the industry who could help me see things more clearly, write an appealing query letter that would garner attention, and get my manuscript read.

It’s very difficult today for authors. Anyone who tries to get a literary agent blind, without the best blueprint, is diminishing his or her chances. You only have one chance at an agent for a book, so you’ve got to do everything you can. That means finding a trusted advisor and supporter who knows how to play the game. Instead of agents just reading the first page of your book and tossing it, you want them to think it’s well thought out and well presented. Then you might have found your champion, one who believes in your work and has the ability to place it.

How I Got My Literary Agent for Fiction, Book Cover for NL Book FourThis may sound indulgent Mark, but my favorite part of your coaching program has simply been working with you—someone experienced, fair minded, and professional. You tell it like it is and you’re very straightforward and above board. Instead of making guarantees, you tell authors that the publishing process is about calculated risk and playing the odds. The only thing you can promise authors is that you can help them avoid making mistakes. And you can help them increase the odds of getting their work read in the best possible light.

To those authors who don’t want to pay for your time and experience, it’s a lot like deciding to pay for a good doctor or get free services at a clinic. If you have a serious condition, the choice is clear. You want to go to a specialist and get the best treatment or prescription. That’s what you are, Mark. A specialist. Because of the way you present yourself, I never had any skepticism about working with you. You’re forthright, you say what you’re going to do, and you construct a unique plan for each individual author and project.

Writing is a very lonely profession. You know how to gain access to the publishing world so authors can be respectfully represented. Investing in your program helped me find two literary agent who are enthusiastic about my work and treat me with respect.

N A T H A N I E L . L A N D E

Author of a dozen fiction and nonfiction books including Dispatches from the Front (Henry Holt and Oxford University Press), The 10 Best of Everything (National Geographic), Cricket (New American Library), The Life and Times of Homer Sincere (Peter Mayer/Overlook Press), Mindstyles–Lifestyles (Price Stern Sloan), Blueprinting (Harper Collins), Self Health, The Life Long Fitness Book (Holt, Rinehardt, Winston), The Cigar Connoisseur (Clarkson Potter), While the Music Played (Blackstone Publishing), and Spinning History (Skyhorse Publishing)

D A Y N A . D U N B A R - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Literary Agent for Fiction, Photo of DDMark, I got a top agent!

Before revising my query letter with you, I got no responses. After sending out my new query, the one you helped me write, I got four requests for partials and the complete manuscript within 24 hours.

Very cool…

How I Got My Literary Agent for Fiction, Book Cover for DD Book OneYour suggestions changed my original query significantly, but they also helped me see that I had something to offer. At first I was in the mode of feeling like agents would be doing me a favor to read my manuscript or represent me, but it really goes both ways. Seeing that was very helpful.

I also appreciate the extra time you took to help me sort and prioritize the long list of prospective agents that you sent me. That made things go much faster and more gracefully.

My favorite part of working with you has been knowing that I’m not alone in this challenging process, feeling like I have an advocate… someone who knows what they’re doing, much more than I do.

How I Got My Literary Agent for Fiction, Book Cover for DD Book OneWorking with you is like working with a publicist or somebody in marketing, to sell whatever you’re selling… whether it’s a book, a product, or yourself. That’s not my specialty. I write. And, generally, writers and artists aren’t the best at marketing themselves. So having you help me with that is making all the difference.

The support that you provide is fantastic, you’re smart and reliable, and I’m always grateful for your words of encouragement. They are needed and appreciated.

D A Y N A . D U N B A R – HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT
Author of The Saints and Sinners of Okay County
The Wings That Fly Us Home (Ballantine)

A L E X . L A S K E R - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Literary Agent for Fiction, Photo of ALBefore we worked together, I sent out a query I wrote to a literary agent who passed, but suggested I send my manuscript to another agent who he thought would like it. That was through a film connection I had, a producer friend. The second guy, a major agent at a top New York agency, immediately responded and said, “Loved the material, at least the first 50 pages.” I was over the moon, we started a relationship over email, and I eventually spent an hour or two with him on the phone, talking about what he wanted and how much he loved the book, etc.

How I Got My Literary Agent for Fiction, Book Cover for AL Book OneI thought, “Oh, wow! This is no problem at all. This is easy.” But then he wouldn’t get back to me. Weeks went by and I probably made a mistake by finally asking, “It’s been seven weeks since you told me you’d get back to me, I’m just wondering what’s going on. Are you that busy?” He answered, “You know, I think I might be too busy for what you need right now, so you should find another agent.” I was stunned. Really disappointed. I wrote him back to try and salvage it. He didn’t respond. Heart of stone. He had sounded like a really nice and open man but turned out to be completely different.

Then I sent queries to a few other agents and kept getting passes. That’s when I saw your advertisement, offering an introductory coaching call on your website. I read it and thought, “This can’t be true. This guy’s making it up.” But you said something in one of your audio presentations that struck me, “If you don’t grab them in the first three sentences of your query letter, you’re dead—it’s over.” Having come from the film business, I knew you were right. They have so many hundreds of submissions each month, if they can’t see you’re a gem right away, they toss you back in the river.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

How I Got My Literary Agent for Fiction, Book Cover for AL Book TwoThat’s when I signed with you, and though it was expensive, it was money well spent. You crafted a really powerful query letter that was about 50% mine and 50% yours. You rephrased stuff well, took all my material and expanded on it, and enriched it. You even went back to that long author questionnaire I filled out before my introductory coaching call with you and took a lot of nuggets from there. Better than I could have ever done. The query got everything across very succinctly.

Before I found you online, I used the Writer’s Market to research agents and submitted to one of the publishers listed there. They said, “We love your book.” Then they told me how much it would cost. I thought I was submitting to a legit publisher. I was so naïve. I didn’t realize writing is the easy part!
I’ve always believed in my book, but I was now getting really stressed looking for an agent. The list of agents you sent me was really helpful. At first I looked at that list of more than 1,000 agents and thought, ” Oh, man! What the ****?” But, once you explained it to me and I got the hang of it, it took way less time than I thought to send out my first round of submissions.

How I Got My Literary Agent for Fiction, Book Cover for AL Book ThreeMy favorite part of working with you—the only part I enjoyed, to be honest—other than getting a top agent, was our communication: our emails and phone calls, and the dinner we had together to celebrate signing with Susan Schulman. You’re really knowledgeable but you’re also really positive and, at the same time, very realistic, disciplined, and strict, in a good way. You have a nice sense of humor, but, at the same time, you lay down the law. Your clients have to listen and do what you say to give themselves the best chance of being successful. In that way, you’re controlling, but it’s good controlling.

Without your help, guidance, and expertise there’s no way I would have been able to land an agent. Even having worked in the film business for thirty years, I was out of my realm and overwhelmed. Like I said earlier, working with you was expensive but worth it. In fact, it was so expensive, I didn’t tell my wife how much it cost. But now I can, and she would understand the value. I was helpless and needed a Sherpa. To other authors reading this, if you try and climb the mountain by yourself, you’re more than likely going to get stuck or fall. Get the help you need to make it and make the journey more enjoyable.

A L E X . L A S K E R

Author of the not yet published novel The Memory of an Elephant, and screenwriter who wrote Beyond Rangoon starring Patricia Arquette (Castle Rock Entertainment), Tears of the Sun starring Bruce Willis (Columbia Pictures), and Firefox starring Clint Eastwood (Warner Brothers)

N O R M A . J E N N I N G S - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Literary Agent for Fiction, Photo of NJIt was surreal the day I signed a contract…

Jennifer Lyons represents the Martin Luther King estate, as well as authors who’ve won the: Nobel Prize, Pulitzer, National Book Award, PEN Literary Award, Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, Coretta Scott King Book Award, National Jewish Book Award, Koret Award, Lambda award, and more. I couldn’t believe it when she called me because I’d already received many rejections. After I got the news, I had a glass of wine with my husband and we went out for dinner to cheer and celebrate. It was wonderful.

My husband is elated I got an agent. I didn’t share all the details of my journey with him. I’m the type who just buries herself in the work. I don’t complain – I just keep working. So, my husband didn’t know half of what I was going through. But, at night when he’d come home from work and see me working away, he’d make us each a cup of tea and say, “I see you’re working really hard.” My husband is an Englishman of Jamaican bearing. He’s wonderful – my best support next to you.

My entire family is very proud of me. I’ve been writing since 2004 and I tried sending queries to agents before, but, when I started getting rejections I didn’t persist. Many years later, I believe I’d been getting emails from you for a while and I finally decided to contact you and work with you. It was tough, but I don’t think I could have done it without you, at all. Late last year, I was ready to give up on querying agents, when you said, “Just try one last round.” So, when January came, I hunkered down and found my agent after the fourth query.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

One of the most important things about the route you had me take was the list of agents you provided. That was invaluable. When I tried earlier on to get an agent, I just looked for agents online. It took a while for me to find them that way, and I found a few, but having a customized list from you was of great value. I could easily go through the list and choose the agents who I thought might be interested.

Another thing that was invaluable was your guidance about the best way to contact other successful authors for blurbs. I was surprised so many of them responded positively. That was very encouraging. Your help with the best way to communicate with agents when they expressed interest and started asking questions was also important. And your assistance with the query letter and synopsis was invaluable.

The query and synopsis really got the attention of agents. A lot of agents turned me down, but some of them rejected me with really good advice. I could see they respected the query, and my writing. They said everything was terrific, but that the book wasn’t there yet, and they gave me suggestions to improve the book. That helped tremendously.

Your query letter captured everyone’s attention much better than mine did. You used some of the language I used when we first communicated. But the way you put it together, and the fact that you included important biographical information about me and so forth in the query, was very helpful. Your other suggestions and guidelines about how to make everything go smoothly and quickly were also fantastic.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 3

Another thing I appreciated was your constant encouragement and positive attitude when I was feeling down. I never stay down for long, but I must tell you, querying agents tested me big time. There were times I’d go out to the beach to walk when I’d say, “Okay, Norma pull it together.” I wanted to punch someone! You kept saying, “Don’t stop.” Your encouragement kept me going and, quite honestly, I would have stopped sending out queries if it wasn’t for you.

I was going to give up, but you convinced me to muscle up. It wasn’t long after that, I looked on my phone and there was a call from Jennifer. I thought, “No. I’m dreaming.” I was like, “This isn’t happening.” I was disoriented.  I had to slap myself on the cheek a few times, because I’d started getting used to rejections and so forth. So, it was a wonderful feeling. I really like my agent, she’s fantastic.

When I first got on the phone with Jennifer, I remembered what you said, “Remain cautiously optimistic.” That really got me balanced. But, when Jennifer asked how I learned to be such a great writer, I started feeling more optimistic. And then, when she offered to represent me, that was wonderful.

I was very impressed during my first phone call with you. That call made me realize I gave up way too early before trying to get an agent. You also outlined for me what I should expect and do, and what I could expect from agents. I felt strongly that you would guide me along the process and that you would make sure I pursued everything harder. And then, when I started working with you, I knew right away that I had made the right decision. I just didn’t know it would be as tough as it ended up being!

I’ve been a corporate executive most of my work life, and that was stressful. I always faced many obstacles and challenges, but never gave up. I’ll admit, though, that seeking an agent was a different ball game. Finally signing the contract was a wonderful experience. I’m feeling really good and I couldn’t have done this without you, Mark. Thank you so much for everything.

N O R M A . J E N N I N G S

Author of the novel Marooned
(not yet published)

R O N . C U T L E R - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Literary Agent for Fiction, Photo of RCHaving lost my long-term agent to retirement, I was frustrated. I hired Mark and sent out a query he wrote for me, and I got wonderful replies. Some agents felt my book wasn’t a good fit, and some, who gave very encouraging responses, decided at the last minute that they didn’t want to back the book. But I kept going and eventually hit pay dirt.

I got an offer from Susan Schulman, a NY agent who’s very well-known. It made me feel fantastic, not only getting the agent, but knowing everything I did with Mark was actually successful. He provided me with the tools to do this, and, without it, I wouldn’t have even attempted it, because it was just too difficult.

How I Got My Literary Agent for Fiction, Book Cover for RC Book OneI had looked in Writer’s Digest and seen agent lists, but it was too intimidating. The way Mark worked with me gave me tremendous confidence. So, I went down the path he outlined, and bingo, it happened. I felt terrific, and my wife and I split a nice bottle of wine. She has been incredibly encouraging and felt extremely good about what Mark and I had been doing.

My first conversation with Susan was very good, and her criticisms were very good, mostly tightening up here and there. She also seemed persistent. I felt very comfortable talking with her. I was able to speak with a second agent as well, who seemed willing to take me on, but I wasn’t feeling the same vibe I did with Susan.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

I was surprised it wasn’t easier to get an agent, but I understand times have changed. More people are out there now, trying to sell books because of computers. I started writing books before everybody had a computer. It was harder to write books then, very difficult. So, there’s now an enormous amount of competition that wasn’t there before.

How I Got My Literary Agent for Fiction, Book Cover for RC Book TwoThat’s why you need somebody like Mark to guide you. The publishing industry is constantly changing as well. I don’t think most aspiring authors are aware of it. In the “old days,” publishers were much more loyal to their writers, and they had “midlists” with books written by authors who did well but weren’t best-sellers. Promising authors.

Over the years, they would publish three or four of your books until you wrote what they would call your “breakthrough” or “breakout” book, which would then get a large audience. Or, they would publish your books until they felt it was futile. Editors also stayed with their companies for a longer time, and they cultivated authors.

Editors did more editing then, too, and they were more encouraging. That’s changed completely. Most publishing companies now belong to conglomerates that are mainly interested in one thing: the bottom line. They look for celebrity books and books with big name authors, that’s where they really want to sell most of their stuff, and everyone else is left out.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 3

How I Got My Literary Agent for Fiction, Book Cover for RC Book ThreeWithout help these days, you’re really lost. It’s a mess. Agents get an enormous amount of material thrown at them that they can’t possibly read or afford to pay someone to read. They don’t have enough time and they don’t have enough personnel. I mean one, two, three, they read the first two or three pages, and then boom, it’s out of there.

Most times, they don’t even get to the manuscript. They just read the cover letter, or the opening of your query. If that isn’t socko and doesn’t grab them immediately, it’s goodbye. If you’re lucky, you get a form letter rejection. Most agents don’t even send those out anymore, including some agents who ask to read your entire manuscript!

I’m not like most of the authors Mark’s worked with, who sent out queries before they hired him. I tried to come up with a query, but then I said, “I don’t know, this is not—I don’t know if I’m just doing it wrong.” At that point, I decided to join forces with Mark. Getting my first agent, many year ago, was easy. I knew someone who knew someone.

How I Got My Literary Agent for Fiction, Book Cover for RC Book FourI had never been in the position most authors find themselves in, having to create and send out a query. My old agent was just getting started. She didn’t even have an office when we met the first time. She was in her apartment in Greenwich Village. Later, of course, she got her own offices and so on, and became quite successful.

My new agent is a lot like my old agent, willing and able to provide feedback. That’s the greatest thing in the world. Too many executives in the book business today have become like executives in the film business. They’re only able to identify things that will sell. They don’t have the experience, ability, or willingness to help improve your work.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 4

Film executives sometimes have ideas they throw at you, but, the next time they talk to you, they often can’t remember what they said. It can make you crazy. They tell you to go in one direction, then they say, “No, I don’t like that. I think we should go in a different direction,” forgetting they told you go that way in the first place.

How I Got My Literary Agent for Fiction, Book Cover for RC Book FiveOf course, the temptation is to do whatever they say because you want a commercial success, you feel like you’re in their hands, and if you say no, you may not get their attention again. They may drop you. So, it’s very, very dangerous. That’s why the service Mark is providing and performing for authors is so terrific.

I got one request for my manuscript within hours. I was astounded, but I shouldn’t have been so surprised. The query was incredible, really dynamic. Quite a number of agents bit on it. Some responded just to say how impressive it was, that they were very taken by it, but that my book wasn’t a perfect fit for their list. But they read that letter!

The free advice Mark offers authors, including his agent directory, are amazing. It’s unbelievably generous, to be honest. I mean, I could have just said, “Ok, I’m going to just go through the free material and that’s it.” I’m sure that there are a lot of authors who do that. But coaching saves time and takes everything to another level.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 5

Mark has razor-sharp insight into the problems authors face: perspicacity. Anyone can express continued interest in an author’s success and provide services for them, but they don’t have Mark’s insight and experience, which allow him to cut to the chase and use the strongest elements available for each author, and put it together so it’s effective.

Mark also has an openness in his personality that makes people who initially encounter him have confidence that he can really benefit them. His websites feel that way as well. They’re welcoming, and they have a tremendous amount of advice about the publishing trade. If that doesn’t grab people, I don’t know what the hell would. I’ve never seen anything like it.

I’m a working writer who just did a Hallmark movie, so I’m involved in a whole bunch of other projects in the industry. Mark’s information and services are above everything else. I’ve talked to other people and listened to their promises, then told them not to call me again. I wouldn’t call them scams, but I wouldn’t spend money on them either.

Like I said earlier, Mark’s service is terrific. He gives authors who have talent but need coaching an opportunity to be major league hitters. Authors who don’t get coaching can probably forget about it. It’s just that kind of thing. You can’t go into a new field with nobody to guide you, and expect to make it.

Mark tells his clients where to go and how to get there, and he sets them up with a list of agents tailor-made for their book, so they don’t have to spend days or weeks poring over a Writer’s Digest book. That’s huge. I’m not trying to flatter him. This is just the truth. None of this would have happened without Mark. I sure as hell wasn’t going to get there myself.

There are a lot of writers in the position I was in, wanting to get an agent. Writers don’t want to stop writing if they like to write. Some writers don’t like to write, but those who do like to write are usually going to need help at some point. There’s no doubt about it. If you’re an author who wants to get an agent, Mark can help you find your way.

R O N . C U T L E R

Porgie award winner, Edgar Award nominee, screenwriter, TV writer, and critically acclaimed author who’s published ten novels (some using a pseudonym) with Doubleday, Dell, Berkley, Dial, Avon, Fawcett, Jove, Signet/NAL, and Pinnacle/Kensington

L . R A J . S H A R M A - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Literary Agent for Fiction, Photo of LRSDear Mark, I am happy to tell you that I now have an agent. I shall always remain grateful for all the help you gave me.

How I Got My Literary Agent for Fiction, Book Cover for LRS Book OneYou are always so very helpful to authors who are struggling to get representation. You taught me how to write the best query and you helped me to see light on the other side of the tunnel when I was not in an enviable situation.

Your greatest help was that you put in perspective my course of action towards getting an agent. You also told me which were the best and most reliable guides to agents. And I must not forget that you have continued to help me develop confidence in myself. All best.

L A K S H M I . R A J . S H A R M A – HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

The Tailor’s Needle (Penguin)

How I Got My Book Agent

Fiction Authors

Jill Marr with Sandra Dijkstra & Associates Literary Agency, got multiple publishers interested in my novel, A Knife in the Fog, and I just signed a two-book deal with Seventh Street Books, an imprint of Prometheus Books. When it was confirmed I had an agent, I opened a bottle of wine, got some nice Irish cheddar cheese, and my wife and I celebrated. I had three bottles of wine set aside: one bottle for when I got the agent, one for when the book sells, and the third one for when the book is published. Life could not be better. Thank you for everything. We have come a long way, my friend.

B R A D . H A R P E R

A Knife in the Fog and Queen's Gambit, published by Prometheus Books/Seventh Street Books, an imprint of Globe Pequot, the trade division of Rowman & Littlefield

BH book cover for AKITF with dark London street and fog with suspicious character, posted by Get a Literary Agent

BH book cover for QG with beautiful sunset backlighting building, posted by Get a Literary Agent Guide

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Nonfiction Authors – How I Got MY LITERARY Agent

These nonfiction writers share how they became successful authors and got literary agents. These authors write a wide range of  nonfiction books: general, business, memoir, narrative nonfiction, self-help, spirituality, etc. These are just some of the nonfiction authors who’ve used this publishing agent blog and gotten literary agent advice about how to get a literary agent for nonfiction.

Nonfiction authors explaining how they got a literary agent, with photo of book agent in suit, posted by Get a Literary Agent

A M Y . J O . G O D D A R D - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for Nonfiction, Photo of AJGI’m psyched to have this be official. After getting five different offers for representation from top literary agents, I signed with Stephanie Tade who got me a 6-figure book deal with Penguin Books!

Tonight I should sleep well!

Getting multiple agents interested in my work was really important to me. I’ve dealt with agents before and gotten screwed on things contractually so I wanted to do it differently this time. I wanted choices. Having you help me create that, and navigate my options, was really helpful.

I heard other authors talk about their great relationships with their agents and it made me want the same thing. I felt like, ‘Really? You can have that? I want an agent who gets what I’m doing and is really in my corner.’ Now I have that.

How I Got My Literary Agent for Nonfiction, Book Cover for AJG Book OneWhen Stephanie first contacted me, she was very excited. She said, ‘I can’t get your book proposal out of my head. It’s brilliant – I mean, really, it’s fantastic. Editors should be salivating by the time they get to the chapter outline.’

My work with you, Mark, was super helpful. You got into the nitty-gritty of positioning me in the right way and making my presentation saleable. We added the right details, punched up my promotional platform, and made everything better organized.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

As far as the query letter itself, it’s hard for an author to know what to include and what to leave out – what’s most important. You added and cut things so it was tighter and flowed better. You know what queries are supposed to look like, so I trusted your point of view.

Our calls were really helpful, too. Having someone in my corner that got what I was doing and answered my questions was important to me. The whole process of getting an agent is overwhelming but you gave me systematic steps to follow, and you sent me support materials for each phase we were in – everything was useful. That alone was probably worth the investment to work with you.

How I Got My Literary Agent for Nonfiction, Book Cover for AJG Book TwoIf I had researched agents on my own, it would have taken me five times as long, at least. Weeks. But I was able to go through the personalized agent list you sent me during a 5-hour plane ride. There were more than 700 agents on the list you sent me that you said might be interested in my book. I was like, ‘Holy $%*&#@!’ But you made it easy for me to find what I needed.

Investing in myself to get your support was completely worth it. I’m a coach so I totally understand the value. It wasn’t just about my book. It was about the bigger picture of the work I’m here to do. It was about me getting on the right path with the right person to develop my entire career and create the right platform.

If I had come across your website on my own I would have been like, ‘Who is this guy?’ Your old website felt ‘in your face’ and uber masculine, but you’re not like that. You’re laid back and even-keeled, smart and easy going, and you don’t take things too seriously. I also trusted you because you were referred to me by Robin Collucci, and I respect her opinion.

If I hadn’t worked with you, I might have gotten an agent anyway, but it wouldn’t have been my dream agent. To me, it was completely worth it to have someone like you share all your insider knowledge and experience. Thank you.

A M Y . J O . G O D D A R D – HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

Author of Woman on Fire (Penguin Books) and Lesbian Sex Secrets for Men (Penguin Books)

M A R T I N . C O H E N - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for Nonfiction, Photo of MCThings have been moving fast here and I finally made it. I got a top agent with Trident Media Group, and it took less than six weeks after that to get a book deal.

Before I contacted you, I’d done various versions of my book, and one version had been shown to UK publishers by a UK agent. It was met with a dusty response. I had worked carefully on the book for a year, maybe two years. It was annoying and I felt quite let down. But, on the other hand, I felt the book’s potential hadn’t been exhausted.

So, when I contacted you, I had a project which I’d put a lot of work into, but I knew more could be done to improve it. Part of what was very helpful to me during our time together were your comments about the actual manuscript, which I substantially changed after we talked. The book has a completely different feel to it now.

How I Got My Literary Agent for Nonfiction, Book Cover for MC Book OneThe manuscript changed from being very episodic to more of a connected whole. That was crucial. We also shifted the book to have more of an emphasis on my expertise as a philosopher and social scientist, instead of a nutritionist. We used that as a frame, instead, and put everything in that voice, since I’m a PhD, not an MD.

That was a misstep that caused me to stumble. I ended up writing a book that wasn’t the best fit for me, and I wasn’t the right person to promote that book. That shift in perspective caused me to do a line by line edit of the manuscript. Not a total rewrite, but I changed about twenty percent. I went through the manuscript carefully, several times.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

I’ve published books previously and I’ve worked directly with agents and publishers. I now realize, that, before I worked with you, I was creating outlines, book proposals, and marketing analyses in a superficial way. I didn’t know better. You steered me in a better direction. With the wrong influence, authors can make their books worse.

How I Got My Literary Agent for Nonfiction, Book Cover for MC Book TwoYou helped me realize the point of an outline and proposal is to introduce and “sell” a project from the point of view of an agent and publisher. That’s what’s needed. It’s a completely different perspective, and although in a sense it should have been obvious, at the time it was an eye-opener for me. It took me fifteen years working in the business to finally see, “Oh, that’s how I should be doing it.”

For example, I had scarcely thought about author platform. My most successful book, the first book to treat philosophy as a fun set of riddles, was really successful somewhat by accident. I didn’t realize the book required me to be a philosopher. I was oblivious to that, because I was just thinking about writing a fun book. That’s all that mattered to me.

What you most successfully managed to do was to alert me to the PUBLISHER’S perspective, which has very little to do with the content of books that are so dear to us authors, and much to do with locating them in the market. It’s really a kind of Copernican Shift, as philosophers might say: the book revolves around the market, not around the author’s research or interests.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 3

How I Got My Literary Agent for Nonfiction, Book Cover for MC Book ThreeWhen I moved on to other books about other subjects, I dimly realized you have to persuade people that you’re knowledgeable about those areas. You can write about topics in articles—in a journalistic or experiential way. People will accept that, but they don’t want to buy and read a book where the person doesn’t have deep knowledge about the topic.

Having those epiphanies during our process together caused the various parts of my book proposal to improve and fall into place—despite having done so many proposals in the past. That training, to me, even if I hadn’t gotten an agent for the book I worked on with you, would have been worth more than the fee I paid, which was very substantial.

When I started writing books, many years ago, it seemed much easier to persuade publishers. In a way, I’m a bit surprised. But now I’ve learned to psych myself up to do a proposal and get into it, so it becomes interesting. Not just for agents and publishers, but for me. It’s quite hard because that doesn’t come naturally. I’ve never been good at selling myself.

How I Got My Literary Agent for Nonfiction, Book Cover for MC Book FourI liked my phone calls with you, too. They were very motivating. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but being an author is quite lonely. Authors are typically quite reclusive, but talking to someone who’s interested in your project is helpful. So, the personal contact we’ve had has been a very important part of our work together.

Sending out the query letters, as I expect other people have said, is quite a grind. But, on the other hand, having done things on my own, I appreciated the power of having a proven system to follow for that. So, though I didn’t like doing it, in a way, I was still positive about it, because your system takes an impossible task and breaks it down.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 4

You’re a very structured person and the way you’ve modularized everything—made the complicated process of developing book projects, researching agents, and pitching them—is incredibly powerful. My partner is an artist, and she was terribly enthusiastic about me working with you as well. She latched on immediately to what our work together might lead to.

She intuitively saw that if you want to be an artist or anything else, you have to train yourself a little bit. You might have to put some money into that process, too, and do some things that will get you further. Authors, perhaps, are a little bit reluctant to do that. We often think all you need is some paper or something to type with.

There’s a bit of a myth that you shouldn’t need any training. You should just be able to write and sell well, off the top of your head. There’s this lingering belief amongst writers that they don’t really need anyone else. It’s convenient and simpler to think that way, but it’s also shortsighted and inaccurate.

Your writing, your pitch materials, and your platform can all get better if you let other people contribute. Most authors, like me, don’t have a big income. But, nonetheless, they should see the value of the training you provide, whether they get a deal or not. I am quite happy, and it’s been really nice working with you.

Cheers…

M A R T I N . C O H E N . P H D

Author of many nonfiction books including Philosophy for Dummies, The Doomsday MachineI Think Therefore I Eat, 101 Philosophy Problems, and 101 Ethical Dilemmas, which despite being originally aimed at the academic market, has sold over 250,000 copies and been translated into 20 different languages

D U A N E . P E T E R S E N - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for Nonfiction, Photo of DPAfter you helped me get a top agent for my first book, I received three offers from publishers: Harper Collins, McGraw Hill, and BenBella Books. You’ve been included in my “Acknowledgements” as I couldn’t have gotten the ball rolling without you. My agent is excited about my next book as well. She said she’ll start pitching it as soon as it’s ready. Now that I’m started, I’m going full blast!

It all began with following your advice for the query letter, book proposal, promotional platform, and prioritizing agents—along with getting more rejections than I want to remember. I kept thinking, “Oh, my gosh. Here comes another one. I don’t want to look at it. I know it’s a no.” But then I found one that was a maybe, which eventually turned into a yes.

I should probably describe the maybe. My agent was in my very first batch of mailings. I’d never heard from her at all. It seems she was working of a few other projects and decided to put this one on the shelf until she had time to investigate fully. Her first conversation with me began, “I need to see an edited version of this. Are you willing to pay for an editor?” I found one and she did a fine job. If anyone needs an affordable one with a proven track record, I can put you in touch.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

How I Got My Literary Agent for Nonfiction, Book Cover for DP Book OneShe then asked, “Do you have a problem with me taking this book to publishers and seeing what we can accomplish?” I tried to be professional and control my jubilation, and, one week later, we got the first offer. Three days later, we got the second offer, and, about a week after that, we got the third offer. I chose McGraw Hill, and the experience has been amazing.

You have to go through so much rejection, and I had to keep everything in perspective, which I’ll do from now on. My agent only takes a couple of books per year because she gets involved from day one and sees everything through to publication and beyond, continuing her efforts to market each book and develop her authors’ careers.

What’s really fascinating is I signed the contract two months ago and I’m still getting rejections from old submissions. When that happens, I reply, “Thank you but I’ve already received three offers from publishers. When you see my book on a bestseller list, you can say, “Oh, I screwed up!” Okay, I haven’t done that, but I’ve sure as hell thought about it!

When I was querying, some agents asked, “Have you written anything before and what was your selling record?” I said, “No,” and they weren’t interested. I thought, “You lazy people.” They just want to find someone who’s already published, pick them off from the agent they have now. I mean, do your own damn work [insert laughter]. My agent was willing to do the work, and my experience has been remarkable.

My wife and I haven’t celebrated yet, but we will when the first check arrives. My advance ended up being three times larger than when we started, because my agent got three publishers bidding. She also negotiated a better royalty percentage for subsidiary rights such as audio and foreign sales, and she pushed for the book to be published earlier than the publisher had planned.

None of it came easily.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 3

I started by following your advice about reaching out to influencers, and I got nothing from people but rejection and more rejection. I felt like Snoopy on top of his doghouse, opening more and more mail that said no. I started second-guessing everything and figuring I’d made the biggest mistake. I began thinking about how I could have gotten a job and earned money, instead of wasting money…and my time and effort.

I was also afraid the #1 organization in my industry would destroy me because my book talks about how they don’t go far enough to accomplish anything. But I sent pre-publication copy of my book to the most influential person in that organization. I didn’t know how bad it was going to get, but I prepared for a crucifixion.

Instead, the man I critiqued turned out to be an amazing human being. He read my book, which trashes a lot of what he’s promoted, but he said, “Oh, my God. This is exactly what everybody needs.” He then volunteered to write the foreword and said, “This should be the Bible for project management,” which was previously the “PMBOK” or Project Management Body of Knowledge, that he’s now completely changed.

The man is closing in on retirement and actually said my book should replace the PMBOK, and that, if that happens, “It will fulfill his legacy.” So, this is my way of saying that an author might start out with huge negativity, but, if you keep going, your book might get published. Fears, feedback, and rejection are things we all have to learn to put up with. I had to learn that lesson again when I started querying agents.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 4

Like before, while building my platform, I got a lot of rejection. But then I reached out to an agent—it only takes one—who was the person because she’s marvelous. She’s easy to work with and serious about making my book successful. In the end, everything turned out the way it was supposed to. I’ve gone from being swallowed up by negativity to swimming in opportunity.

During my coaching with you, I actually got to the point where I’d decided it was no longer worth it. I didn’t want to hear anymore. I backed off, but you initiated contact with me again, after a while, and said, “Why aren’t you pushing this?” That’s when I decided to get back on the masochism wagon, as I’d already paid for the experience. Soon after that, I got my agent.

Opportunity grows by itself. I don’t understand fully, but will accept this axiom. As I was pushing the book to university professors, overnight I had seventeen universities wanting to use it as a textbook. Since McGraw Hill has an education department, they got on top of this one immediately. However, my book has no chapter questions and huge examples of work for students to learn and practice from. My contract with McGraw Hill was signed in August and the book will be available in February which is like lightning fast. I’m also just finishing a workbook to be sold on Amazon through my business, which I will send a copy of to every university so they can choose to use the book as textbooks. This way, I will perhaps double my income.

I’m in process of building up my consulting business so we’re capable of performing training and professional services like no other company can. Every day I wake up more excited than I was the last. When I mentioned my second book to my agent, her response was, “Don’t do anything with it now! The first book will be so successful it’s hard to imagine the deal I’ll be able to negotiate for that one!” So, I’m concentrating on the workbook for the first book. Life is good!

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 5

I like having more time to write, now that I have an agent. I’ve also enjoyed that my agent and publisher have essentially become a team with me. We’re working together, looking at how to turn nebulous ideas and dreams into concrete action. It’s a joy. I’m also building my own team to market the book, and I’m building my business around what’s in my book. I’d been sitting on some ideas for about five years, thinking, “Eh, nobody will listen.”

Now they are…

Having a well-known publisher with the endorsement of a well-recognized figure in my industry is opening all types of doors. And, as an expert on project management, I can tell other authors that following a proven process to get an agent, like I did, is smart. I spent time Googling how to get published but couldn’t find anything as thoughtful and thorough as what Mark provides. He will help get your book in the hands of agents, instead of it falling through the hole under their inbox…into the trash barrel or shredder directly underneath.

Agents are inundated with thousands of submissions, so many that some agents will say they might not get back to you for six months, if at all. Mark won’t promise you a top literary agent or offer from a good publisher—or three offers from publishers—but working with him will give you a great advantage.

It’s like when I wake up each morning and look out at the world, then put my glasses on so I can suddenly see more. Things start to come into focus. Working with Mark is like putting on your glasses.

D U A N E . P E T E R S E N

Author of Transforming Project Management: An Essential Paradigm for Turning Your Strategic Planning into Action (McGraw-Hill)

S O O . P E E R - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for Nonfiction, Photo of SPJeff Herman offered me representation, and I signed a contract with Red Wheel/Weiser this afternoon! My husband and I just got back from celebrating in Mexico. The timing of the offer was perfect, the weirdest thing. We were leaving for Mexico one day after I got the agent contract. Before we left, I spoke with my agent and signed the papers.

I was on my way to Pilates when I parked my car and saw the email on my phone, saying he wanted to set up a call. It was an out of body experience. I was like, “This can’t be happening.” It was exciting but hard to believe. When I got home, I looked at the email again and asked my husband, “Does this mean he wants to represent me? I have no clue.” I was cautious and felt like the agent must have made a mistake since I’d gotten a lot of rejections. I tried to contain my excitement because I didn’t want to be disappointed.

Other agents had asked to read my proposal, but they kept saying I didn’t have a big enough platform or that my book didn’t fit what they were looking for. Some agents wanted me to make the book more of a business book, while others wanted me to make it more of a memoir. One of my friends wanted me to change the book as well. But, you said, “Just keep going. We’ll probably find someone who will like it just the way it is.” I was ready to rewrite the book or quit, but you kept me going.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

How I Got My Literary Agent for Nonfiction, Book Cover for SP Book OneJeff saw the value of my book the way it was meant to be. I really appreciated that. He also said the proposal was well done, very professional. He really liked it. He realized how much hard work went into it and didn’t see much that needed to change. Another thing he loved was the way the manuscript was presented, the introduction you helped me revise. You switched the sequence of things around and you took a line from the middle of the content and made it the new opening line.

I had a query letter before I met you, but it was nothing like yours. The old query wasn’t as captivating or attention-grabbing. Yours really told agents what they needed to hear, which I would not have known how to do. You said everything about me and my book in a much more powerful way. I also didn’t have a platform when we met, but you helped me with that, too. At first, I thought, “That’s impossible,” but it was fascinating seeing it come together.

I’ve been really impressed by your strategic process, your ability to see the big picture, and the way you execute everything. You also have a human side, you really care. You go out of your way, far beyond what you need to do for your clients, and you’re prompt. I know how busy you are, but you’re always there. We only had a one-year contract, but you didn’t care about that. Your commitment, professionalism, and responsiveness are things I’ve rarely experienced in my thirty years in the corporate world.

I don’t remember how I found you. I think it was LinkedIn. The testimonials on your website sounded too good to be true, but something pulled me toward you. I thought, “You know what? One coaching session isn’t going to break my bank.” It wasn’t a lot of money considering how much material you reviewed. I remember saying to my husband, “He’s asking for all this information for only a one-hour session, and it’s [not that much]. That’s amazing.” It made me feel like you were really devoted.

After our first coaching call, I was sold on you, but I was also concerned because signing up for your bigger coaching program wasn’t cheap. It was a significant investment, and, even though I had a great call with you, I didn’t know if I could trust you. You just never know. So, there was a lot of worry. I thought, “Oh, my goodness. I don’t know this person. I could lose all that money and make nothing.”

But then I reached out to one of the authors who gave you a testimonial – I forget her name now – and she said, “You need to invest in yourself. He’s the best.” That really helped, but I was still afraid to mention it to my husband. So, I talked to our son instead. I said, “Do you think this is going to be worthwhile?” He said, “Yes, you deserve it.” I was turning 65, so I then told my husband YOU were going to be my birthday gift!

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 3

I had wanted to share my message with the world for a long time, but I don’t know how I would have done it without your help or the list of agents you gave me. You made it easy to see their interests and all the information about them I needed. That list is fabulous. I used to do searches on the Internet, and I used to visit sites like Publishers Marketplace and QueryTracker, but they didn’t make it easy for me to see everything I needed.

Another good thing is you give your clients realistic expectations. You don’t just say, “Oh, you’re going to make it, no problem.” You really prepare people for it to be tough. You make sure authors know getting an agent is hard work, it might take a long time, and, that a lot of times, authors won’t get agents. By doing that, you increase the probability of your clients getting agents by pushing harder than planned.

Without you, there’s no way I would have gotten representation. Not even close. When I started, I was wondering if I was just an amateur who needed to forget my belief that my story might be shared in our divisive world. I’m so grateful you held my hand. It’s been an amazing process, and it’s been an honor getting to know you. I’m looking forward to staying in touch as we go forward.

Thank you and thank you!!

S O O . P E E R

Author of The Essential Diversity Mindset: How to Cultivate a More Inclusive Culture and Environment (Red Wheel/Weiser), foreword by Clarence Page, Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist and senior member of the Chicago Tribune editorial board

S O M R A J . & . J E F F R E - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for Nonfiction, Photo of S and JMark, when we found out Jeff Herman was going to be our agent, it was exhilarating. He offered to represent us the day after we sent him our ‘enchanting’ proposal. His word, by the way, which he said he rarely uses. It’s been a whirlwind and Jeff is exactly what we were hoping for: an enthusiastic, experienced, committed agent. After we got the news, since our book is about how couples can have better sex, we celebrated by practicing what we preach. We spent hours in the crucible of love and passion!

Before we found you, Mark, we sent out query letters but only got rejections. Other agents, we didn’t hear from at all. That’s when we realized how daunting the process was. As good as we are at learning new things and researching, we knew finding an agent was going to be a big job with a huge learning curve. You have such a small window of opportunity to get the attention of agents. We also realized that we might burn a lot of bridges along the way if we approached the process from a weak position.

Our old query was like an Oreo. We like Oreos, but that type of query isn’t going to attract and seduce a top literary agent. You helped us write a query that was more like a fine pastry from a top chef in Vienna. That query instantly appealed to the refined palates of agents and made them salivate. Your understanding as a former agent, one who’s been barraged with queries and proposals, means you know the criteria: how to craft a query and proposal of the highest quality, in the top 1-2 percentile of what will appeal to the current publishing marketplace.

How I Got My Literary Agent for Nonfiction, Book Cover for S and J Book OneWe have decades of experience and expertise in our field, but we were also myopic, in our own self-created tunnel. It was a successful, creative, and productive tunnel, but it wasn’t one that would allow us to see the larger scope of our work… how it fit into the marketplace, and the best way to position it. You made suggestions that didn’t dramatically change the content of our book, our teachings, or our writing style. But they did dramatically improve the positioning and commercial appeal of our work.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

Initially, we described our book as ‘a guide to guide to lovemaking and sexual intercourse’. You said that words and phrases like “lovemaking” and “sexual intercourse” wouldn’t go over well, that, ‘They sound old and antiquated, and they’d make readers think about their grandparents and the sex education classes they took as teenagers.’ You suggested that, instead, we put more focus on a chapter that used to appear near the end of our book, about the many different types of orgasm that men and women can have.

You said that material was the most unique/important part of our book. We followed your advice to move that chapter to the beginning of the book and make it the focal point. By pressing the ‘button’ of orgasm and shifting our focus to the twelve types of orgasm, our book became more interesting and marketable. It also reinforced our position as cutting-edge experts and trendsetters, because no one else has done anything like that. Other books about orgasm simply help women have more/better orgasms, and they only talk about the couple/few types of orgasm that are most commonly recognized.

You also encouraged us to tone down some of the sensational language and innuendo in the book, to give it broader appeal. And, you helped us see that we could broaden the book’s appeal even more by speaking to every type of lover. The original book was geared toward experienced/advanced lovers in committed relationships. Now the book speaks to lovers of all types including: advanced and inexperienced, committed and uncommitted, young and old, spiritual and unspiritual, straight and gay, etc.

What you did reminds us of what the big advertising agencies do when they look at the best way to position a product in the marketplace: the best name, tag line, target audience, etc. Everything is clearer and more exciting now, with broader appeal, but it’s still true to who we are, what we teach, and what’s important to us. We did feel a loss at first, talking less about the mechanics and energetics of sexual intercourse, as there’s a big gap in that literature, but that type of language isn’t very sexy or palatable for the average person.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 3

How I Got My Literary Agent for Nonfiction, Book Cover for S and J Book TwoWe didn’t fight you on your suggestions. It was just an emotional reaction, we trusted you, and now we’re glad we did. You were very sensitive and cautious about hurting our feelings, which we appreciated, but we hired you to tell us those things. It was a judgement call, but it made sense for us to base our decision, in large part, on your experience, knowledge, and understanding of the publishing world – not just our experience, or feelings.

You also taught us the importance of having an author platform, and showed us how to improve our platform. We already had a good platform, but you helped us figure out the best ways to improve it, in the least amount of time. The advice you gave us about social media and getting famous people to accept review copies of our book were particularly helpful. And the agent spreadsheet you put together blew us away. There was so much information in there. Everything we wanted/needed to know about the agents we were pitching. That allowed us to easily dig in and get a feel for who would be the best fit.

The world of literary agents was pretty foreign to us before we started working with you. There’s a culture, a unique way of doing business. We didn’t grasp the mentality of that whole world, and we still don’t. But you do, and we’re thankful that we had your guidance, particularly when we needed help responding to the agents who were interested before we went with Jeff. We were anxious about the process though, at times, even though we believed you were going to get us there.

When it comes to the different psychologies of buyers, we’re shoppers and do a lot of research. So, we checked out your background. We usually look at three to six competitors whenever we’re making a big decision. You have a lot of material on your website that helps authors be more self-sufficient, so they can operate with their own knowledge and intelligence. That’s a competitive advantage you have, because you’re so on top of the industry. And, after the Introductory Coaching Call with you, we really knew you were an insider. We thought, ‘This guy knows the business.’

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 4

Obviously, there’s no guarantee about what’s going to happen when you work with a coach, but we got the feeling that working with you would be a good investment. We knew that we would get a better outcome, everything would go faster and be easier, we would avoid embarrassment and burned bridges, and we’d have the best potential to go big. You were the perfect stepping stone. So, we took the money out of pension plan, our IRA account, and we never do that. We’re very strict about that, unless it’s a business investment.

We also liked working with you. You’re knowledgeable, organized, and disciplined, but you’re also warm and fuzzy at times, diplomatic, and have a quality that is rare in the world –one that I was taught and used to teach others – an awareness of other people’s point of view. Many people in business, life, and relationships only talk from their perspective, with blinders on. They don’t have the ability to see things from the other people’s perspective. Or they don’t bother. You do.

Our work together was hard but always hopeful. When we were doing things on our own, before we found you, we were just blowing smoke, starting and stopping, not knowing if what we were doing was right. You got us on track and kept us on track so we stayed productive and constructive, and we had the greatest chance of success. Like so many others, we have to say, we really couldn’t have done this without you!

Thank you!!!

S O M R A J . & . J E F F R E

Authors of Female Ejaculation and Tantric Pathways to Supernatural Sex
(published by Llewellyn, the world’s oldest and largest independent
publisher of books for body, mind, and spirit)

D A V I D . H A M M E - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for Nonfiction, Photo of DHMark, after you helped me land a top literary agent, I got publishing offers from THREE well-known publishers: Amacom, Palgrave Macmillan, and McGraw-Hill (they’re publishing my book in hardcover)!

I was at Disneyworld with my family, in the Haunted Mansion, when I got the call. I went outside and listened to the voicemail message from my agent. A huge smile came over my face. It was a fantastic feeling. For a moment I felt like life was perfect and the angels were singing.

You helped me understand the market for agents and showed me how to present myself in a more straightforward fashion. Before I worked with you I sent out 30 queries, but they were kind of blind up to that point… and I wasn’t feeling very good about the responses I was getting. I had a generic query letter, something I got from a book that didn’t really resonate. It didn’t have that pop of a great hook up front. It felt like a form letter.

The most important thing I got from working with you, by far, was refining my query letter (making it crystal clear) because agents don’t read past the first 2 sentences unless you’ve done that. You have to communicate what you’re about and how your book is different. You also showed me how to talk about my unique experience and process, increase my credibility, and take advantage of my credentials. I think you said, ‘Approach it like you’re selling it to a business investor and give them something they’ll believe is worth investing in.’

That’s important.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

I first found you when I was researching agents online. Your website was one of the first ones that came up. I said, ‘Holy cow!’ I poked around your website and saw a lot of information that seemed very informative. Then I saw you had a promotion for an introductory call and said, ‘This guy seems like he has a grasp of the market.’ That’s why I reached out to you.

How I Got My Literary Agent for Nonfiction, Book Cover for DH Book OneAt that point I just wanted to speak to someone who had been in the industry and had some knowledge of how agents think, because you can’t get that from a book. You can only get it from someone who’s been an agent. I don’t know how to say it, but it was one of those moments where my thinking changed. I said, ‘You know what? I’m not just sending out a bunch of proposals. I’m sending them out to people. I have to quit thinking of agents as gatekeepers and start thinking of them as human beings with motivations and desires just like everybody else.’ I didn’t have that prior to us talking. You showed me how agents think.

Before I signed up to work with you I have to admit that I did have thoughts like, ‘Am I being taken here?’ I think that’s just natural. Any time there is money involved, whether or not it’s a nominal amount, you still have skepticism. What helped me get over the hump was the ton of information on your website. That helped me overcome my reservations. The other thing you did that helped was your well-constructed emails that you send out. You talk a lot about branding, and you seem branded well. That, to me, denotes a level of competence as well as dedication. That comes through on your website as well, and all the testimonials you have make everything feel successful.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 3

When we talked, you had a voice that felt informed but friendly and approachable. You gave me insight and perspective about the publishing industry, but also the confidence to keep pushing. I learned that even if you’ve already sent out lots of queries, you can rewrite your query and agents won’t even recognize the book the next time it comes to them. The opportunity isn’t dead. You showed me that at a good time because I was wondering: ‘Is this ever going to happen?’ And in talking to you, I said, ‘This isn’t the end. There’s a lot of potential here. I believe in it, and I just need to rework it.’

Authors are driven people and, at the end of the day, if you can give them information in the right form and in the right place, they can run with it. That’s what you’re seeing with me. I’m probably no different than anyone else and my book is probably as good or bad as anyone else’s, but you gave me what I needed and boom… it hit.

If we hadn’t worked together I might have said, ‘Let me shelve this for a couple of years and work on something else.’ To every other author out there thinking about contacting you, Mark, I want to say, ‘Weigh it all out. Don’t go in with any reservations. And make sure you share everything with Mark. You know: those fears you have about the publishing industry, your concerns, maybe a lack of confidence, or a lack of understanding about your author platform. Whatever it is, lay it all out there. Mark will help you understand everything, and make it better.

Thank you Mark, for helping me make it all happen.

D A V I D . H A M M E

Author of Customer Focused Process Innovation (McGraw Hill)
Business Consultant, North Carolina

J O N . B I E M E R - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for Nonfiction, Photo of JBI now have an agent!

When Lisa Hagan offered to represent me, I had three other agents interested. You suggested I follow up with them because I might have liked one of them more, and I agreed to that. It gave me more time to study Lisa’s portfolio as well, but it was also a bit of a conundrum since I was already excited about Lisa.

She had sold books to major publishers, she was really enthusiastic about my book, and I had a sense we’d have a good, long-term relationship, one I would enjoy. In her emails to me Lisa showed the capacity to embrace more dimensions of myself than I thought possible in an agent: the engineer, the activist, the spiritual person, and the person who tries to walk my environmental talk (with my wife). I thought “There’s nothing else I am looking for in an agent.” So, I wrote an email to her, expressing the reasons why I really wanted her as my agent. A final “YES!!!” message.

It was hard letting those other agents go, but I wrote the difficult emails to them saying I’d made my decision. They responded with gracious, well-wishes. THEN, I was able to feel that joy that comes when you’ve made a HUGE step on a journey to your dreams! Upon reflection, I felt like I chose the agent rather than the agent choosing me.

How I Got My Literary Agent for Nonfiction, Book Cover for JB Book OneAs you know, it took a lot, including a lot of queries, to get to this point. Sending out submissions is not a job for the faint of heart. When you sent me that Excel spreadsheet with all the agents who might be interested in my book, it was a learning process. There was a lot of information and I was clunky about using it at first. That was challenging given my limited experience with spreadsheets, figuring out the system and how to send out a lot of queries.

You didn’t suggest I send out a few email queries here and there, but in big batches. I wouldn’t and couldn’t have done it that way without you. I didn’t get much response for quite a while, but the sheer numbers of queries you had me send out were good for my psychology. It shifted me from being the victim of a highly competitive industry to being in control of my circumstances. That was significant.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

I probably wouldn’t have gotten to that “popcorn popping” of requests from agents if I hadn’t worked with you. There’s a phrase I read in a business article that basically says, “Hire people that can ship.” It speaks to the idea that you just need to send things out at a certain point. It isn’t going to be perfect, but you’ve got to send it anyway and get on to the next one and the next one and the next one. I didn’t start out with that kind of discipline, but I started doing things faster when I realized how long I was taking.

You helped me stay focused on a proven strategy. Rejections just became noise, something happening along the way to “Yes.” Stepping stones. A “No” answer was better than a non-answer because I knew the agent had read my query. It was a definitive step closer to the next agent that might want my book.

One agent asked for my book proposal the morning after I queried her. She was encouraging but felt I was trying to do too much. Another worried about the market. Another just failed to fall in love. However, I was surprised that not a single agent complained about my platform. Considering I’m not well-known, that is extraordinary.

The things you did with me to build my platform were a major part of our work together. I recognized my platform deficiency early on, and you were very diplomatic about saying, “You need to work on that.” I was surprised you didn’t ask me to do things outside my skill set. You didn’t ask me to become a social media butterfly or do a whole lot of public speaking engagements. Those things would have been really hard for me. Instead, you played to my strengths.

I didn’t see the path to building a platform until you showed it to me. It was more like, “Yeah, I’ve done a lot of stuff but it’s not going to bring me up to the point where my message could get out to lots of people.” Even at the end of our process, right before I started querying agents, I wasn’t convinced my platform was good enough. It was just a compilation of things I’d done and things I planned to do in the future. But it communicated my capacity and ability to promote a book.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 3

As you’ll recall, it was hard getting to “yes” related to your fee. My wife and I had to cash in savings bonds to do it. As an author, you think, “If I knew I was going to make a million dollars, of course I’d invest in the coaching.” But the odds of making a million dollars on a book are low, at least at the outset.

I’m not much of a gambler, so I worked with you to increase my probability of success. Writing has been a passion of mine for a long time, but if I’m serious about making a difference in the world, I need to learn what it really takes to publish with a mainstream publisher. I’ve passed up opportunities to get a second master’s degree and a PhD, not because those things wouldn’t be nice, but because the payoff for didn’t make sense at this point in my career. I thought, “How am I going to get $60,000 back from a PhD?” I couldn’t see it.

When my wife and I looked at the investment to work with you, we said, “Okay. It costs less than a PhD, and it’s a teaching tailored to what I wanted to do. My intention was to learn a very specific set of skills that I would need to share my book with a large audience. You offered a customized curriculum for imparting those skills, and you only accept authors for coaching if you see they have real potential for success.

Your coaching program is essentially a tough “school” that prepares writers for a tough business. The reason I say that is to put your fee in context. People pay fees of the same order – and more – to learn robotics, writing, designing games, and political science. I can say it more brazenly than you to other authors: “Do you want to publish a mainstream book, or just say you tried?” Having ongoing interaction with you in coaching is a lot different than just getting advice from a book or conference or hiring an editor.

You have an excellent process, you’re patient, and you pace things according to what your clients need and are capable of. I’m slow, with a lot of other things going on in my life, but that didn’t stop us because your process didn’t depend on me coming back at a specific moment in time. That’s really a plus. I also appreciate that you worked with me for 18 months, even though our agreement was for just a year. You read your clients pretty well. The experience has been transformative.

Finally, I want to thank you for your valuable guidance regarding the manuscript itself. You suggested I improve the beginning of my book and add an important chapter. You also showed me how to present the spiritual part of my message in a way that felt good to me and wouldn’t be off-putting to readers. With your experience and perspective, those types of things are normal for you, but, for someone like me, they’re gold.

Thank you, from my heart.

J O N . B I E M E R

Author of Our Environmental Handprints: Recover the Land, Reverse Global Warming, Reclaim the Future, published in hardcover by Rowman and Littlefield, a leading traditional publisher of many bestsellers that produces both trade and academic books, and one of America’s largest book distributors: National Book Network (NBN)

N A T A L I E . N E E L A N - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for Nonfiction, Photo of NNWhen a top agent called to say that he wanted to represent me, shortly after I sent out my first round of queries, I stood up and did the Toyota cheer where you’re jumping up and down! Do you remember that commercial? I’m probably dating myself saying that, but it was a proud moment because I had put so much work into my book and getting it done. I chose my agent because I wanted someone who was hip and hard working, and the agent information you sent me helped me figure that out. Now I know that what you say on your website about it being a decision to get published, not luck, is spot on. It’s one of those things where you have to roll up your sleeves and get it done. I made that decision when I found you, that my book was going to be published, come hell or high water.

How I Got My Literary Agent for Nonfiction, Book Cover for NN Book OneBefore working with you, I sent out my old query and proposal to test the waters. I followed someone else’s template for a book proposal, but didn’t get anywhere. I had no idea what I was doing, no clue. After I went to your website and realized how little I understood about the industry, I started to get educated and then signed up to work with you. I soon found out that my original query letter stunk because it was all about me and I wasn’t writing from the perspective of agents. The success ratio of the new query was fantastic, and my updated proposal one had twice as much detail as the old one. I didn’t even consider putting half that stuff in, and I’m pretty good at selling things! But you’re a former agent so you know what’s important. Even though I had a hint of what was mattered when trying to find an agent, I didn’t really know. You do. The proof is in the fact that I now have an agent!

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

When you sent me the revised query I was like oh my gosh is this it!? It was so casual and simple I was like I don’t know if this is going to work or not. But I trusted you and sure enough I was blown away at how easy it was. I don’t want to say easy, but you made it as easy as possible for me. I really appreciate that. I can’t remember how many agents requested my book proposal but it was really impressive. What was even more impressive was the response I got back from the famous authors and experts you told me to contact for possible testimonials and other promotional opportunities. That was ridiculous! I got a total of 14 heavy hitters, including bestselling authors in my genre such as Dr. Marshall Goldsmith, Daniel Pink, Jon Gordon, and Astral Teller who just did a TED talk. He’s the head of Google Moon Shots. That was huge! And I was impressed with how gracious the authors were. It was fantastic.

Before I began working with you, I thought an author just kicked a finished book over to a publisher and it magically all got done. You know, all of the promotion. I didn’t realize how important your platform is, especially if you’re a nonfiction author. Now I know that publishers want you to be able to help get exposure and sell books. But getting good promotional partners is something easy that any author can do, if they know how to do it. You also helped me to get on Forbes.com and start lining up speaking engagements, which also helped my platform, and you told me what I needed to do to get a website online. I’m still figuring it all out but, again, it’s about rolling up your sleeves and simply deciding to make it happen.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 3

You also helped me so much with revising my manuscript. When I started writing I threw everything up on paper, which was actually useful to me because sometimes you have to get the ideas out of your head. When you started giving me guidance on the corrections, I was really upset because it had already taken so much work to get to that point. But everything you gave me in terms of constructive criticism was spot on and made me better. It also made me narrow my focus, which is exactly what I needed. Your coaching program was a lot of money for someone like me to invest in. I had to move money around to save up enough. It was like, where am I going to get this money? But I wanted your expertise and so I found the money. There are a lot of people who promise literary success on the Internet, but you gave away so much knowledge for free on your website that I thought, if you already gave away all of this for free, you must have stuff you’re holding back.

Working with you was a big investment, but I was committed to bringing my book to life so it was well worth it. I had so much self-doubt that, even to this day, I can’t completely believe what I’ve accomplished. But it’s because you were my support system. I had a man who is a billionaire tell me to flush my book down the toilet. I actually had a number of people tell me that I would never be successful, but you always believed that I would get it done and I appreciate that. Given the nature of publishing these days, you need all the help you can get. It’s hard finding an agent and getting published! It’s also a commitment, but if you follow Mark’s process and believe in the work, it can be amazing. I’m very pleased.

N A T A L I E . N E E L A N

Author of Rebel At Work: How to Innovate and Drive Results When You Aren’t the Boss, published by Diversion Books, a leading independent publisher in NYC, committed to the discovery of new voices and the rejuvenation of yesterday’s bestsellers

R O G E R . W A L S H - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for Nonfiction, Photo of RWMy agent said, “Bravo for putting such a thorough proposal together. It may be the most carefully crafted one I’ve ever received!”

I was fortunate to get four offers from top literary agents, including one at the last moment. You encouraged me to try and get her reading ASAP, since other agents were interested, and she did. I appreciated having multiple offers, and time to ask them professional and interpersonal questions. It’s important that I work with people I like, trust, and feel I can have a great interaction and relationship with. It was actually that fourth and final agent who checked all my boxes regarding likability, competence, and resources.

How I Got My Literary Agent for Nonfiction, Book Cover for RW Book OneI’ve had two previous agents, but my most recent one retired. Since that time, I’d written a number of books. The one you and I worked on together is exceptionally important to me. I wanted to do everything I could to get a top publisher, which meant I needed a top agent. I knew that would be a challenge, so, when I came across your website, it seemed logical to hire you if I was really going to go for it.

My time with you was an education about what’s involved with getting an agent, the odds of getting a top person, and the necessary pieces to put in place to do so. For example, essential elements such as filling out your platform and other areas that might be weaknesses. I didn’t know enough to know what I didn’t know, and I didn’t know enough to ask. You moved me through everything in a step-by-step process of putting all the individual building blocks in place to construct a compelling proposal.

How I Got My Literary Agent for Nonfiction, Book Cover for RW Book TwoIt was a hell of a lot of work, but, when we were done, I had everything a top agent would want and need to provide to publishers. I was also surprised and pleased at how many well-known people such as bestselling authors, media people, etc. made promises to review and promote my book once it’s published. In the past, I’ve only done something like that when the book is about to be published, or after it’s been published. Now I understand the value of having those things in advance to show agents, and I know how to get them.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

You’re very savvy, competent, and knowledgeable about the publishing industry. What first made me want to work with you was the sheer amount of valuable information on your website. That made it clear you knew what you were talking about. And, when we first spoke, I liked you and enjoyed our interactions. The money for your program was a lot, but I thought, “Okay, if I’m really going for a top agent, I need to do what’s required to make that possible.” I have most everything in life, except time.

How I Got My Literary Agent for Nonfiction, Book Cover for RW Book ThreeFor people thinking of working with you, the main point I would suggest they consider is that there are nuances and specificities that come out in working with someone 1-on-1. So, even though you have an enormous amount of information on your website, working with a coach is absolutely key. The personalized database of agents you make available to your clients, in which various categories and criteria are organized and clear, is also helpful. Without that, who knows how many years it would have taken me.

The reality check you give throughout the process, and your feedback about agent responses, is also useful. And you give the sense—which I’m sure is true—that you don’t give up on people. Once you take someone on, you’re there for them, willing to do what it takes to help the author be successful. It’s not, “Great, I got the money. I put in as much work as I said I would. Good luck.” It’s clearly, “Okay, you’ve made this commitment. Let’s do everything we possibly can to get you published.”

I wouldn’t call you extremely flexible because you have a proven way of doing things, but that approach has its strengths—and you’re willing to work around different types of issues or resistance your clients have. It was a pleasure working with you.

R O G E R . W A L S H

Author of Essential Spirituality: The 7 Central Practices to Awaken Heart and Mind (Wiley), The World of Shamanism: New Views of an Ancient Tradition (Llewellyn), The World’s Great Wisdom: Timeless Teachings from Religions and Philosophies (State University of New York Press), and Wisdom: What Sages and Scientists Say about Life and Living Well (not yet published)

R O B E R T . S M I T H - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for Nonfiction, Photo of RSI received three offers from top literary agents. The agent I signed with said my book proposal was the best she’s ever seen. Initially, I’d started feeling down after receiving requests for more material following by silence. Then I started getting serious interest and experiencing the anxiety that comes with talking to multiple agents.

It’s exciting but difficult having those conversations. The initial anxiety is A, you won’t get anybody, and B, if you do, you’re not worth it. Imposter syndrome. I had to do personal processing along the way. As you told me, Mark, agents have different expectations and requirements. One agent wanted me to write an article in The Atlantic and have 50,000 people on Twitter. That was a downer. Another agent said, “You’re not good enough.”

But other agents made offers.

My book was originally a critique of our nation’s mental health problem and failure, with an explanation regarding how we got here. You told me, politely, that was depressing and would only appeal to a small audience, and you encouraged me to add things that individuals, organizations, companies, and legislators could do to fix the problem. That made the book more actionable and uplifting.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

How I Got My Literary Agent for Nonfiction, Book Cover for RS Book OneI’d toyed with that idea before, but never been able to figure out how to make it work. Now I have an entire section in the book about that, and I’m glad, since some of the agents wanted reassurance that the book had hope and practical ways readers might help themselves and others they care about. It’s a nice approach that alleviates and balances the science part of the book that can be heavy for readers.

You also showed me how to improve my platform.

Dozens of well-known people including leading scientists and bestselling authors replied when I wrote to them. I thought nobody would respond. One of the big names I contacted set up a Zoom call with me to follow up and he hooked me up with more important people. The work I did is now building on itself. I laugh about it now, as I can remember sending things out things thinking, “God, this is going to be a dead end.”

But I decided if I was going to pay the kind of money you charge, I was damn well going to follow your recommendations. I mean, there’s no sense sitting there dinking around for three months doing nothing. The reason I got to you in the first place was that, after I’d gotten the first draft of my book proposal and gotten my website online, I needed to find an agent. I was on my own and didn’t have a clue.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 3

How I Got My Literary Agent for Nonfiction, Book Cover for RS Book TwoSo, I started looking through the thousand-page agent books and making lists of potential agents interested in science and so on. It was overwhelming. That’s when I remembered having seen your material and I decided, “There’s no way on God’s green earth I’m going to keep wading through this morass alone.” Working with you was expensive but worth the money, no question.

During our first call together, you sounded like a solid and successful citizen who knew what he was doing. You were also honest and didn’t overpromise. In other words, you didn’t sound like a con man, I trusted you, and I took the leap.

It worked out nicely.

The work was hard but the suggestions and tools you share with your clients—like the agent spreadsheet you prepared for me—are gangbusters. Your master agent directory must have taken you an eternity to put together. The way you rank the agents based on their success for your clients saves a lot of time and makes everything systematic. I like that. If I had done this on my own, I don’t think I’d have even sent 20 queries out by now. The difference in the two approaches is night and day.

If anybody ever asks me, “What’s the best way to get an agent and get published?” and so on, I’m going to tell them to get ahold of you. It’s the best money I’ve spent. Even if I hadn’t gotten an agent, I would recommend you. The process of trying to get an agent is so formidable, authors need help, and I’ve enjoyed working with you.

Thanks again, very much.

R O B E R T . S M I T H

Author of Essentials of Psychiatry in Primary Care and Patient-Centered Interviewing (McGraw-Hill) as well as Has Medicine Lost Its Mind? (not yet published)

V I C K I E . F A L C O N E - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for Nonfiction, Photo of VFAn agent just offered to represent me—she called my proposal “beautifully done.” Her literary agency, Waterside Productions, has sold more than 10,000 titles and their authors have made more than $500 million dollars in royalties.

She replied to my query immediately, which was very exciting, and asked, “Can we talk?” I had a lot of high hopes and the anticipation built until I was able to talk with her. Two days later, on a Sunday morning, we had a beautiful connection. It felt amazing to have someone that excited about, and aligned with, my work. At the end of the call, she said, “Okay, I’m going to email you a contract.”

I hung up the phone and said, “Wait, did that just happen? I think so. Yes, it happened. I have an agent!” It took a while to sink in. Actually, you had to tell me it was real because I thought that maybe it wasn’t done until the contract was signed. I come from real estate where there’s no deal until there’s a signature on the line.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

My husband was still asleep, so I just walked around the house saying, “Oh, my gosh.” I thought I’d be more excited, but it took a while to land. It was a strong yes though. It reminded me of the first date I went on with my husband. It’s one thing to get an agent, but it’s something else entirely to get one you feel strongly aligned with.

How I Got My Literary Agent for Nonfiction, Book Cover for VF Book OneThe timing was also interesting because my family had a trip to Europe planned. So, that trip turned into something of a celebration. My husband is my editor and he’s believed in me and the book all along. When he finally came out of the bedroom that morning, kind of groggy, and I told him, he started crying.

We both did.

Before I started querying agents, you gave me a lot of suggestions to make my book better: how to open and close the chapters, organize it using a seven-step structure that readers could implement over seven weeks, consistently include stories and anecdotes to make the book more engaging and effective, and include more of my own story as an additional teaching tool and to help readers relate.

My query and proposal were up-leveled significantly as well. So was my author platform, though I didn’t like doing that part. I won’t say I “hated” it, but it made me feel very vulnerable, reaching out to people, especially those I didn’t know, to ask for promotional support. The way you explained it made it easier, but it was still challenging. However, my response rate was very good. I don’t know if it was your tactics or divine intervention.

Maybe a bit of both.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 3

Three New York Times bestselling authors said they’d review my book, and many others were excited and positive about it. I can’t tell you how many times people said, “This is so needed.” Those responses made it easier to keep going. I was surprised how gracious people were. I expected way more rejections or ghosting—not replying at all.

The whole process of working with you was interesting because I really just hired you to help get me an agent. I didn’t realize you were going to help me make my book better. You’re extremely knowledgeable and intelligent but also caring, excellent at communicating, and extremely clear about expectations.

I came to you with high expectations and little hesitation—mostly just excitement—because you were referred by two successful people I know in the publishing industry who’ve done coaching with you. My husband and I had some fear we might pay and you might not deliver, but we’re spiritual. We turned it over to God and slept on it, and it was a yes.

I’m so very grateful for your integrity and belief in me.

V I C K I E . F A L C O N E

Author of Buddha Never Raised Kids and Jesus Didn’t Drive Carpool: Seven Principles for Parenting with Soul, published by Jodere in hardcover with a 19-city speaking tour (20K copies sold), and Heal from the Affair (not yet published)

C A R O L Y N . M I L L E R - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for Nonfiction, Photo of CMI now have an agent… the president of a New York boutique agency with many bestsellers and award-winning titles!

I’d published books with a traditional publisher before, but my old publisher didn’t want my new book. They passed on it. I didn’t know what to do at that point since I’d lucked into my previous book deals—the publisher had approached me. So, when my new book got rejected, it was clear that a book deal wasn’t going to just fall into my lap again.

How I Got My Literary Agent for Nonfiction, Book Cover for CM Book OneI was out of ideas and frankly bewildered about selecting agents, at a very low point when I went on to the Internet to see what I could find. Mark’s websites came up everywhere so I decided to give him a chance, and I’m very glad I did. Mark was supportive and encouraging at a time when I was questioning my writing ability, and my sanity. That meant a great deal to me.

In terms of practical help, Mark helped me with valuable revisions to the manuscript that made it more accessible to a bigger audience (including agents). I had no clue about how to write a query letter or book proposal, either. Mark helped me get a clearer picture of what I was doing so I could communicate everything better.

Mark also helped me choose the best agents for my work. I had no idea and it would have been impossible to approach that part of the process, on that scale, on my own. If you’re sending your work to the wrong people and you don’t get the right responses it can get really depressing. When I started sending out the query letter Mark revised for me, I got a couple of requests the first week. Then I got more requests and signed with Helen a short time later.

How I Got My Literary Agent for Nonfiction, Book Cover for CM Book TwoSince I’ve always done things myself, it didn’t occur to me to hire a coach or consultant. When I saw what Mark was offering I was torn. I knew it might be a wonderful opportunity, but I also knew it might be a scam. There’s a lot of stuff on the Internet that would be a real mistake to get involved with. There’s the fear you’re going to be taken advantage of. This guy looks good on paper, but who is he really?

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

I didn’t read Mark’s website very carefully before I signed up for my first call with him. I wanted to go by my own inner guidance, and it just felt right. After I committed to the first call, however, I looked more carefully at Mark’s websites. Everything they said was so valuable and sensible. They were also very sensitive to the issues that were concerning me. At that point I knew there was a good chance Mark was who he said he was.

During my introductory coaching call with Mark, I got a sense of him as an honest person who was going to do what he said. I could also see a path with him going in the direction of publication. I couldn’t see the point of just sitting at the edge of that path, not walking down it, so I was relieved to have Mark to rely upon, to know what to do in an area where I frankly didn’t.

How I Got My Literary Agent for Nonfiction, Book Cover for CM Book ThreeNew authors have a fairly naïve idea of what it takes to get published, and it’s easy to become discouraged when it doesn’t work out. Years ago I saw statistics showing that most people who start writing a book never complete it. And most people who finish writing a book never get an agent. That’s partly because authors who don’t have contact with an expert in the publishing industry are inclined to think a little magically about it.

As my stepdaughter (also a consultant) pointed out, in business and any other enterprise, people understand they don’t know everything about some aspect of the business they’re operating in. They need to call in someone who has the expertise they lack. I think it’s realistic. If you can’t afford to pay Mark, you’ll have to try and do it on your own. But if you can afford it and hold back, it implies a lack of seriousness getting to your happy ending.

I was glad to put myself in the hands of someone who knew what to do. Mark is smart and honest and knows what he’s talking about.

C A R O L Y N . M I L L E R

Author of Creating Miracles: A Practical Guide to Divine Intervention (H J Kramer Inc/New World Library), Soulmates: Following Inner Guidance to the Relationship of Your Dreams (H J Kramer Inc/New World Library, Novato), Creating Miracles: Understanding the Experience of Divine Intervention (C.G. Miller, H J Kramer Inc, Tiburon)

R . S T E R N B E R G - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for Nonfiction, Photo of RSMark, it felt very good to know that a respected and successful agent, Kathryn Green, took my work seriously and was moved enough to take me on. The entire process of trying to get an agent was energy-draining and the rejections made me feel demeaned and cheapened. It seemed like, in many cases, agents cared more about my platform than about my content or about my past professional credentials. I have credentials and write quality material for a niche market, but I was completely inexperienced about how to market myself.

The rejections I received made me feel like I wasn’t good enough, but many agents asked to look at my material. Kathryn really liked the idea of a cookbook combined with stories. She said it was an interesting concept, a unique concept, and you’re the one who suggested it. I remember it vividly. I had wanted to get my book about Jewish cuisine published, but I had also written some children’s stories. You gave me the idea of combining the cookbook concept with the children’s stories.

How I Got My Literary Agent for Nonfiction, Book Cover for RS Book OneThe list of agents you gave me was also incredibly helpful. Without it, I would have fumbled around, gone online and looked up names, but I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere by myself. Your list was a Godsend because it had the best agents interested in my type of work. Cold calling is not easy. But, if you have the right base of people to contact, well, then you know who to approach. You helped me rewrite my query letter and my proposal so they became more impactful in a way that would give me an edge over other queries and proposals.

My favorite part of this process, Mark, was not being alone in figuring out what to do next or how to do it. Nothing is more alienating than having to do everything yourself and not knowing if what you’re doing is going to have an effect. So, the fact that you were there, looking at what I was doing, advising and critiquing, was really valuable. You were open and friendly, engaging and engaged, and I always felt that you were interested in and concerned about my success.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

How I Got My Literary Agent for Nonfiction, Book Cover for RS Book TwoUnlike some authors, I like to have critiques. I might not always sound like it, but, that isn’t true. I like to hear somebody else tell me what I don’t see myself, especially if it’s somebody who has a professional approach and professional experience. My personality is such that I don’t give up. I don’t quit. But, without the tools that you gave me, I would have been dead in the water without a paddle. Instead, every time I had a doubt or question, I was able to run things by you, and that happened about four or five times.

I was nervous about signing up with you because I don’t have a lot of money. Every dollar in my retirement fund was paid for in blood. I haven’t had an easy life. For me, the biggest worry was parting with money that I don’t have a lot of. But, I knew that if I didn’t make a financial investment, I would get nowhere. So, the question became, ‘Where can I get help that isn’t going to hurt me?’ That’s when I found you and made the investment, hoping it would bring me a return.

I would never ever self-publish anything. I’m not going to shell out every dime to be published, and then do all the work myself to promote it. Plus, I’m egocentric enough to feel that my work is of enough quality and caliber to not have to do that, never mind the fact that so many good people are stuck in such a position. But, invest money for help to try to get an agent who can get me a book deal with a traditional publisher? I ended up saying, ‘Yeah, I’m going to give that a try. I’m gambling. I’m nervous. Will it work out? I don’t know.’

But, thank God, it did!

R O B E R T . S T E R N B E R G

Author of Yiddish Cuisine (Jason Aronson, Inc.), The Sephardic Kitchen (Harper Collins), and an upcoming Jewish family cookbook and storybook

M A R D E L L . H I L L - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for Nonfiction, Photo of MHMARK, MARK, MARK!!!!!!!

Holy smokes…I just signed my book deal.

First, two well-known literary agents asked to represent me. One of them responded to my query letter in less than 4 minutes!!

Then THREE different publishers wanted my book and started talking about making offers. The publisher I chose is perfect for me because they produce titles for the trade, educational, and scientific markets. And they agreed to publish my book as a hardcover!!!

When I met you, Mark, it was a pivotal time. I was under the belief that I could self-publish my book with a vanity press and then seek a publisher. I didn’t know what a literary agent was, why I needed one, or how to get one. I was wandering in the dark. You guided me in the right direction and gave me a solid plan.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

How I Got My Literary Agent for Nonfiction, Book Cover for MH Book OneI needed to get my book published by a legitimate publisher to help grow my business. You took a personal interest by taking extra time to get to know my book and I. That way you could discover exactly what I was trying to say, and do it the best way.

The query letter you helped me write captured the essence of my voice in a tight, professional format that allowed agents to get everything they needed in four short paragraphs. It wasn’t blather, or omissive in any way; it was complete and concise. You also brought in more of my personal experience and credibility to make my promotional platform stronger.

You’re personable and friendly and I like the way that you bounce ideas back and forth. You collaborate with your clients. For me that was the most important part. You’re interactive and communicative, and you listen. You’re also very professional.

Before I started working with you, I was wondering: ‘How am I going to afford this?’ That was my main concern, and that has always been the concern for me. It was a big investment. I didn’t know how I was going to do it given my life circumstances, and I didn’t know if it was going to be worth it.

Was it comfortable? No. But the query letter and book proposal did what they were supposed to do, so now I can say that it was absolutely worth it. If someone wants to get to the highest level, working with you is worthwhile. If someone is serious about getting out there, in the right way, this is the way to do it. Your support and guidance have been invaluable.

Thank you.

M A R D E L L . H I L L

Founder of Clear Health Boulder Colonic Center and author of Intestinal Health, published in hardcover by Rowman and Littlefield, a leading traditional publisher of many bestsellers that produces both trade and academic books, and one of America’s largest book distributors: National Book Network (NBN)

D E E P A . K A N N A N - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for Nonfiction, Photo of DKThanks to you and your valuable information, I got a very reputable agent and my book was acquired by Harper Collins. You shared excellent advice regarding how to make my title and subtitle more alluring, and you explained how I should reduce the word count and rewrite the first part of the book. It came out beautifully.

You also asked me to wait a year before querying agents and build my platform, so I started a podcast and it did very well. I then posted a story I wrote on social media and, the very day I put it up, an agent I’d queried previously saw it and said, “Shall we have a call?” When we talked, she said she was fascinated by what I was doing.

Once I knew we would be working together, I screamed and ran around the house. I was so excited. Months later when my agent asked, “Can I set up a call with HarperCollins?” I couldn’t believe it. They loved my book.

It took a while for the deal to become final, so I was drained by the end of it. I wouldn’t wish that process on anyone. There are many challenging emotions, but the joy you feel when you finally get that confirmation is indescribable.

Before my first call with you, you had me answer a lot of questions in your author questionnaire. It took a lot of effort, but it developed more clarity in my mind about how my book is unique. That is still helping me today, and it will help me promote my book.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

You also gave me confidence because you said the writing was good. I saw so many articles on the Internet and other places about how most manuscripts are rejected, and that if you’re a first-time author you can forget getting published.

If I hadn’t worked with you, I think I would have given up before I even started. It’s too easy to assume you’re never going to be successful. So, it was very helpful to have your hope, reassurance, and motivation.

You were honest and told me bluntly what I should change. It wasn’t like you were just being polite. You have that beautiful balance between sharing honest critique and not destroying an author’s belief that they can get published.

There was an element of destiny in me finding you. I was planning to self-publish and told my husband one morning, “My vision tells me that this is not the path to take.” Half an hour later, he texted me a link to your podcast.

I listened and told him, “How did you know this was exactly what was on my mind?” At that time, I was in so much debt that I couldn’t work with you. I had to wait, but it was worth it because you provided answers to all the confusion in my mind.

My time with you transformed everything. Thank you for your belief and kindness and all the excellent advice. I would not be here today if not for you.

D E E P A . K A N N A N

Author of Sleep Whisperer: Understand the Hidden Power of Your Ten Senses and Unlock the Secret of Sleep (Harper Collins)

How I Got My Book Agent

Nonfiction Authors

Mark helped me get five different offers for representation from top literary agents. I signed with Stephanie Tade who got me a 6-figure book deal with Penguin Books, which published my book in hardcover! When Stephanie first contacted me, she was very excited and said, "I can’t get your book proposal out of my head. It’s brilliant - I mean, really, it's fantastic. Editors should be salivating by the time they get to the chapter outline." Working with Mark was completely worth it.

A M Y . J O . G O D D A R D

Woman on Fire (Penguin Books)

AJG book cover for WOF with black background and red silk, posted by Get a Literary Agent Guide

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Memoir/Narrative Nonfiction – How i got a book agent

These memoir and narrative nonfiction authors share how they got publishing agents and become successful authors. These are just some of the writers who’ve used this book agent blog and gotten literary agent advice about how to get a literary agent for memoir and narrative nonfiction.

Memoir and narrative nonfiction authors saying how they got a literary agent, with photo of book agent in suit, by Get a Literary Agent

N E L S O N . J O H N S O N - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for Narrative Nonfiction, Photo of NJMark, you’re a thoughtful gentleman and a constructive critic.

Thanks in part to your query letter, manuscript suggestions, and support prioritizing agents, I received multiple offers from agents. Within two weeks of sending out the first query, I knew who I was going to sign with.

NJ Book Cover for BE on boardwalk with cast from the HBO TV series, posted by Get a Literary AgentI was able to embrace almost all your story recommendations—they were informative, made me a better writer, and loosened me up for more changes from my agent and publisher. Some of the suggestions you made, my agent also made, such as giving the protagonist’s wife more room, introducing her sooner, and getting the story off to a faster start.

Agents were also happy that I spent so much time brainstorming and researching promotional angles and outlets. I’m glad you encouraged me to do that. Now I have a really good marketing plan that will be helpful selling the book. The amount of detail you required for the marketing plan was the most challenging part of the process.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

Now, I completely embrace it.

How I Got My Literary Agent for Narrative Nonfiction, Book Cover for NJ Book TwoBefore we met, I wanted to find a certain type of agent—one who’d understand the value of my work, bring it to life in the mind of readers, and bring it to life on the screen. When I looked online for a coach, your name rose to the top. After we spoke, I knew we’d work well together. I could tell by the questions you asked and your ability to listen. You understood where I was coming from, and you were extremely helpful.

I trust people and respect them, until they give me a reason not to. During our first conversation, I came away with trust and respect, but I also found myself thinking, “This guy’s a pro. I think he knows what he’s doing.”

I was correct…

And I value our friendship.

N E L S O N . J O H N S O N – HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

Author of the NY Times bestselling book Boardwalk Empire, which led to the critically acclaimed HBO series (produced by Martin Scorsese), and Darrow’s Nightmare: The Forgotten Story of America’s Most Famous Trial Lawyer

N H I . A R O N H E I M - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for Memoir, Photo of NAThank you for your support during the nail-biting experience of getting an agent. My book is now being published by Skyhorse Publishing, distributed by Simon & Schuster. They’ve published 52 New York Times bestsellers, and they were named by Publishers Weekly as the fastest-growing small publisher in America.

After you and I worked on my manuscript, book proposal, platform, and query letter, I prepared to send out my first large round of submissions to agents. But, within 24 hours, eight agents asked for more information and I got an offer.

I was thrilled. 

I then took your advice and used the script you sent me to start contacting all the interested agents to let them know I had an offer. I said I couldn’t wait three or four months for them to read the manuscript and decide if they wanted to represent it. So, they pushed everything aside to read my proposal in a hurry.

It was exciting but extremely stressful, trying to figure out how long to wait, which offer was best, and how to do it without pissing anyone off. I was freaked out talking to different agents on the phone. Thank goodness I had you. Once I knew who I was going to work with, I went out with my husband and two author friends to celebrate.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

Before I worked with you, I sent out many queries for my book but didn’t get offers, just standard rejections. After getting requests for more material and having every agent pass, I knew something wasn’t right. That’s when I started doing research and reached out to you.

One of the reasons it worked the second time is that you helped me emphasize different themes. The message of the book remained the same, but you helped me phrase the query letter and description in a way that made the book more relatable. Before, it was just a survivor story about a kid in Vietnam. Now it appeals to a broader audience—it’s an inspirational memoir about diversity, survival, and unconditional love.

How I Got My Literary Agent for Memoir, Book Cover for NA Book OneMy agent said the query letter was exceptional, and every other agent who contacted me for more material said the same thing. The agents also said my author platform was impressive. In fact, my agent said, “It’s so impressive that it might just be too much.” She said she was going to pull out some of the things we included in the marketing plan and tell publishers there’s more promotional material if they want it.

While writing my book, my friends asked about you, I would say, “This man, I have a love-hate relationship with him. What I love about my coach is that he’s an expert and very caring. He’s like the parent who knows what’s best and tells the kids what to do, but the kids don’t like it because it is hard work.” Working with you felt like I was getting my master’s degree in English literature 🙂

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 3

Actually, I felt like I was being trained by Mr. Miyagi in the movie The Karate Kid. It was a lot of, “Change this. Do it again. Wax on. Wax off.” One day, you’ll remember this, I was lazy and didn’t put enough effort into my chapter summaries. You made me redo them four times. Each time, I told my husband, “Damn it, he keeps bossing me around!” I love that you told me what I needed to hear, to put myself in a better position, and my husband had a good laugh at the torture you put me through.

Developing my author platform was also painful. I remember thinking how hard it was but then I got 14 well-known people saying they would review my book for promotional purposes. I was so excited. When I told you, you said it was a good start. Then, when I told you I had 28 people, you said that was better but you asked me if I wanted to be mediocre or excellent.

I told my husband, “He’s killing me, he’s killing me!” I didn’t like hearing the word mediocre. My husband said, “This man knows how to push your buttons. He knows how to get you to do more.” My husband was quite entertained by the whole process. You were part of my family dinner conversation and the kids loved learning about you and your “agonizing” process. 🙂 And, needless to say, that’s how you continued getting me to raise the bar and took me from zero promotional partners to 59.

I appreciate you pushing me.

Another way to describe working with you is training for an Ironman Triathlon. When athletes are training for those events with coaches, pushing through the pain, they often say, “I hate you. You’re torturing me. You’re killing me.” It can feel that way, but the coach and athlete respect each other, and the athlete knows the coach has good intentions.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 4

The agent list you made for me, with the agents prioritized regarding who’s really good, was also a godsend. Copying and pasted agent information manually is a lot of work and that takes too much time. Having the list you sent to me allowed me to get a lot of queries out pretty fast, much, much faster than before I worked with you.

What first sold me on you wasn’t just the big number of testimonials on your website, or the success you’ve helped people achieve. It was the caring way people who’ve worked with you talk about their experience. When I spent the money to do your coaching, I didn’t know if I’d get an agent, but I knew I’d learn a lot and have a much better chance.

I expected it to be hard, but I was really surprised at the joy and the respect I felt working with you—the partnership. My husband, who is now a fan of yours, was so intrigued by the relationship I have with you that he asked me for updates to figure out what you’d been doing to push me. He wanted to learn your moves, especially after finding me staying up at two in the morning doing the work!

Authors should know they can’t just give you their credit card number. They have to do the work. And they should expect to run into challenges. When that happens, they need to remember that you only want them to succeed. Then need to just shut up and do the work. That’s what I kept telling myself. You can cry inside for five or ten minutes. But then do the work. If you’re not willing to do what Mark suggests, then don’t join his program because you’ll waste your money and also cause frustration for everyone.

Thanks again, Mark, for everything!

N H I . A R O N H E I M

Author of Soles of a Survivor, published by Skyhorse Publishing, distributed by Simon & Schuster, with 52 New York Times bestsellers, named by Publishers Weekly as the fastest-growing small publisher in America

D A N I E L . C O H E N - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for Narrative Nonfiction, Photo of DCAfter sending out the query Mark revised for me, I had the opportunity to speak with literary agents from top agencies such as Janklow & Nesbit, Trident Media, Anderson Lit, and Folio. I signed with Don Fehr at Trident and, a short time later I had a publishing contract with Berkley Books, which recently published my book in hardcover.

Before that, I sent my query letter out on my own to 30 or 40 agents and got a lot of rejections. I then found Mark online while I was researching agents. I was surprised that he offered so much during his initial consultation—for a very modest amount of money. An hour of his time on the phone or Skype and he was willing to read a big chunk of my book right up front. I thought that was extremely generous and it seemed very likely that Mark was genuine.

How I Got My Literary Agent for Narrative Nonfiction, Book Cover for DC Book OneI also took advantage of Mark’s main 1-hour audio training. I was painting my apartment at the time, sitting among a lot of rubble. I stopped what I was doing, laid down on the floor with a pillow, and listened. I was very impressed with the depth of Mark’s knowledge, but also his casual attitude. The audio presentation wasn’t a hard sell. Instead, it struck me as something I needed to look into.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

I knew I’d need to get the attention of literary agents, and that I’d have to get their attention quickly—but I didn’t know how to go about it. Although I have experience in the film business, I knew that I didn’t know the particulars of the book business. I’d made several movies, but I didn’t know the specifics of what would grab the attention of a literary agent or publisher. It was obvious from Mark’s audio presentation and website that he did know.

Although my query and book proposal were already pretty good, ‘pretty good’ and ‘very good’ aren’t the same thing. There’s an old saying, “Good is the enemy of great.” There is a difference, and it’s not so easily quantifiable. The biggest mistake you can make as a writer is to rely on your own limited knowledge. You just can’t beat the experienced eye of a professional. It’s evident in everything from home painting to plumbing to publishing.

Having the personalized agent list that Mark created for me was also enormously helpful. It was comprehensive and up to date, which saved me time and made querying agents much easier. Because of the lead-time involved with writer magazines and printed agent directories like the one by Writer’s Digest, the information is always at least 3-6 months old. You often write to the agents and get a note back saying they quit the business and moved on. Or you query agents and they say they’re not interested in your genre anymore. There’s so much online that’s simply inaccurate.

I do have to say, thought, that I didn’t enjoy writing my book proposal. But I learned a lot and at I was glad to have someone like Mark guide me through that particular part of the process. And really… given the nature and extent of my book, which is more than 400 pages and took me two years to write, we got the proposal done pretty quick.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 3

When it comes to Mark’s personality, he’s affable, approachable, down to earth and sensible without having to meet you face to face. We spent a lot of time together on the phone, and our working relationship reinforced my initial impression. He comes across exactly the way he comes across on his audio recordings and websites.

I know that inexperienced authors, or those who’ve had a bad experience with someone else, might be skeptical about working with someone they found on the Internet. But I wasn’t skeptical in the least when I listened to Mark’s audio materials on his website. Also, some of the things he said, I had already heard from other people, so I knew that I just needed help to do them—and do them as well as possible.

One of the things you learn when you make a movie is that marketing is just as important as your product. If you’re going to make it in the arts, you need help and you need to get educated in a hurry. It’s like working with a physical trainer. I had worked out my whole life and then, at one point, I started working out with a trainer. That’s when I saw about 3 or 4 years of improvement in 11 months.

I don’t know what would have happened if I hadn’t worked with Mark. I can’t even imagine that now though, because of the grief and detours I experienced before we worked together. It was a time-consuming pain in the neck. If you want to get the attention of top literary agents and publishers, there is no substitute for working with an insider. You can’t beat experience. And having Mark on your side is incredibly valuable.

D A N I E L . C O H E N

Author of Single Handed
(Berkley Books, a Division of Penguin Random House)

S I L V I A . F O T I - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for Memoir, Photo of SFI just got an offer from Regnery Publishing! They’ve had more than fifty books on the New York Times bestseller list, including numerous books at #1. Harper Collins Mexico has picked up my book as well. My agent, Helen Zimmerman, has been great. I LOVE her, and I wouldn’t be at this point without your guidance and help.

It took every fiber of my being not to say yes to Helen immediately, but I followed your advice and asked for time to think about it…since I had other agents who were serious. That was really, really hard. I just wanted to scream, “Yes!” Helen said she was “completely engrossed” with the book and added, “This is a really good proposal, I’m so amazed.” She was ebullient, enthusiastic, and eager. No poker face, which I really liked.

I sent out the query you wrote in early November, and I got good responses. You said I might get an agent by Thanksgiving and it totally could have happened that way, but the agents left me waiting, waiting, and waiting. Then it was nothing, nothing, and nothing. Then the holidays came and went. You said I should send out a second round of queries. When I did, I got more responses and two offers.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

I’ve been with this book 19 years. My early versions were horrible, but I sent them out because I didn’t know how bad they were. Every couple of years I’d send the manuscript out again and get more rejections. I knew something was wrong. At one point, a couple years ago, I got an agent to represent me, but she only showed the book to editors at Random House. Then, she said, “I can’t sell it. Your proposal is too weak, you have no platform, and you need a website. I’m sorry.”

How I Got My Literary Agent for Memoir, Book Cover for SF Book OneIn the middle of that, I had my first coaching session with you, to talk about my proposal and platform. I was very impressed and wished I’d worked with you from the beginning. The difference in my positive response rate with queries after we worked on everything together was like night and day. I got mostly nothing before. Once in a blue moon, an agent would respond and that was it.

Agents loved the new query.

It got a very high response rate, and some of the agents who’d rejected me before asked to review my material this time. It wasn’t just the query that did it. It was the things you had me do to make my platform better. I was blind to that. I had no idea what I was getting into, trying to get an agent. It felt like I kept walking into a dragon’s cave and getting burned.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 3

I have four degrees, two of which are writing degrees (journalism and creative nonfiction), but I didn’t have a degree in how to get an agent. Now I feel like I do! School doesn’t teach the stuff I learned with you, and books about literary agents don’t give authors everything you do. You’re a guide, like a Sherpa. I felt like you were holding my hand the whole time, giving me the information I needed and shining a light on what was ahead. I was never surprised.

You’re very hands-on and methodical, and you have an explanation or packet of information for everything, from A to Z, beginning to end. I like that. I was always able to figure things out and I knew what to expect. I should say it’s a lot of work for the author. It’s not like you pay your money and it’s done. It’s not like that at all, but at least I knew what I was doing working with you. I knew I wasn’t spinning my wheels or wasting time.

How I Got My Literary Agent for Memoir, Book Cover for SF Book TwoI was intimidated by the platform work at first, in particular. It took a lot of time and I didn’t think I could do it. I would have never, ever, ever done it on my own. I kept saying, “Okay. Well, he knows, so I’m just going to trust him.” It was always a leap of faith. Before I started contacting agents, when I was reaching out to people to build my platform, I got discouraged by all the rejections. But that changed when Salon.com published the article I pitched to them.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 4

Within a month of that being published, approximately 17,000 people shared it on social media. Then other media outlets saw it and started contacting me. The New York Times and Chicago Tribune wrote articles about me. And was contacted to do an interview for BBC World Outlook heard by 75 million listeners. Others have covered my story as well, in the US and abroad. And I’ve been contacted by people asking about the possibility of adapting the story to TV or feature film. One man I talked to, with a major studio, said it’s “Oscar worthy.”

I kid you not!

Some agents said my platform was too small, while others said it was too big, that I’d gotten “too much exposure” and there wouldn’t be enough places left to promote the book once it was published. You stayed positive and kept saying, “Keep at it.” I was like, “Okay,” and I did. That’s what led to me finally getting the article published at Salon.com. They later named my article their “Best of 2018 Life Stories.” It wasn’t easy and it took longer than a year, but everything we did was helpful.

You suggested important changes for the structure of my book as well, which was impressive. You’re not a developmental editor, but I did a lot of rewriting based on your suggestions. I felt very secure, like I was in safe hands. I had no doubt I was doing the best I could, and that if it wasn’t going to work, it wasn’t going to be because I didn’t know what I was doing. I’d literally tried everything else and your coaching was last thing left for me. I knew, if that didn’t work, nothing would.

I was desperate.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 5

Before my first session with you, you sent me a long questionnaire that might be overwhelming for some people. I thought, “He’s really thorough.” I was impressed that you asked so many questions and wondered, “What else could we possibly talk about?” But the call was illuminating. You gave me a lot of good advice about how to improve my platform, proposal, and query.

It’s almost impossible to get an agent without help. The publishing industry is so complicated and Byzantine. There are a million different ways to do things and it’s hard to know which ones are going to work for you. You need someone to break it down, show you which areas to spend the most time on, and show you the best way to do it. You need a friend in the business, someone who can fast-track you.

I’ve really enjoyed working with you, Mark. I’m grateful for your advice, energy, talent, and kindness guiding me through this crazy maze.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

S I L V I A . F O T I

Author of The Nazi’s Granddaughter: How I Discovered My Grandfather was a War Criminal, published by Regnery Publishing, with more than 50 books on the New York Times bestseller list, including numerous books at #1

M . B R O U N S T E I N - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for Narrative Nonfiction, Photo of MBGood news, Mark…

My two books have been picked up.

Two Among the Righteous Few: A Story of Courage in the Holocaust and Woman of Valor: A Story of Resistance, Leadership & Courage are being released through Square One Publishers. An audio version for Two Among the Righteous Few is also in the works. Thanks for always checking in. I much appreciate your thoughtful responses and support.

Best regards,

M A R T Y . B R O U N S T E I N

Author of Two Among the Righteous Few: A Story of Courage in the Holocaust and Woman of Valor: A Story of Resistance, Leadership & Courage, published by Square One Publishers, a New York-based book company named one of the top ten fastest-growing indie book publishers in North America by Publishers Weekly six years in a row

How I Got My Literary Agent for Narrative Nonfiction, Book Cover for MB Book One

How I Got My Literary Agent for Narrative Nonfiction, Book Cover for MB Book Two

L E S L I E . L E H R - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for Memoir, Photo of LLAfter following your advice, my book was acquired by Pegasus Books, the prestigious PW gave it a great review, and Time Magazine asked for an excerpt.

As a writing consultant who crafts query letters as part of my business, I know how to hook an agent. But your expertise was invaluable in agent-related decisions that followed. I learned critical things, including how to best communicate with my agent, how to get her re-engaged, how to make a decision about staying with her or leaving, how to help her sell the project, and how to get to the point where she ended up calling me a “dream client.”

Prior to that, I felt like I’d done everything possible to help my agent be successful pitching my book: research, revisions, communicating clearly, being patient, and trusting the process. I already had strong television interest, but that’s unreliable and wasn’t enough to convince publishers. Then, finally, after three years with this project, and after I worked with you, I got an offer.

It was validating because I identify as an author, not just a writing consultant. While I was having trouble selling the book, there was this low-lying depression under everything else I did. I knew I was a good writer, but I wondered if I was crazy to feel so passionate about this idea. So, it was great having that “Oh, my God” moment, and seeing my agent so happy because she worked so hard. Now she sees me as persistent rather than a pest. Prior to that, I didn’t know when I was being helpful vs overstepping.

How I Got My Literary Agent for Memoir, Book Cover for LL Book OneNow I understand it was mostly a matter of learning how to communicate and keep my emotions to myself, understanding this is a business. But, like you said, working with an agent is a personal relationship as well. I had to keep reminding myself to respect that anything could be happening on her end, and, unless she said otherwise, she was doing her best and I needed to keep doing my best, while completely dependent on her.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

It’s ironic that when I made the decision to “just” do what I could and let go of worrying, I got the text with the offer. I jumped up and down, screamed and put champagne in the fridge. Seeing the announcement on Publisher’s Marketplace was even better. My agent described the book to sound more brilliant than I dared to imagine.

As writers, we’re so close to our work that self-doubt and a lack of perspective are often part of the artistic journey – especially when changing hats to the sales side. And when we don’t sell a book right away, we tend to feel like it isn’t good enough and we’re not good enough. It’s devastating, because when you start doubting the value of your work, you often start doubting yourself and whether you have the tools to deal with an agent.

Authors don’t want that, not just because it’s painful, but because it’s counter-productive. We need to sound important and impress agents so they respect our work. We want to be cool and confident, without communicating self-doubt, because otherwise the agents follow your lead and feel the challenge to place it. That’s what I was hearing from my agent before I spoke with you. Later, she admitted she’s never stuck with an author that long or sent their work to that many publishers.

The advice you gave me included things I hadn’t thought of doing, I was too lazy to do, and I was afraid to do. Your tips ultimately got my agent back on my team to sell the book and call me a dream client. With your advice I was able to be more patient, practical, and considerate while communicating with my agent. I was able to make a logical plan to decide between the risks of staying versus the risks of leaving. You also helped me see how to share things she might find helpful. I used to just email a nudge and run away.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 3

Another thing you got me to do was look differently at the positioning of my book. The author questionnaire you had me fill out, that we then talked about, gave me a chance to revise the project to have a stronger orientation. When I talked to my agent again about it, and I mean really talked to her on the phone, not just emailing her like a coward, I had more confidence and a better package for her to send to publishers.

Before you and I talked, I read your newsletter and everything on your website. I wrote reams of notes about things to do. But when we spoke during coaching, your tips were personalized. You suggested ways to reword things and, in terms of platform, you shared ideas to quickly improve my platform prior to publication, to show agents I was willing and able to get interest and exposure and sell books.

I liked that when you and I got on the phone, you had read all my stuff, knew exactly what I was talking about, and it felt like we were friends. And, with your platform-building suggestions, you showed me how to address people the way a publicist would. You made it seem like I could do it on my own, and I actually explored going in that direction. That made the book real, and it resulted in a more attractive pitch, opening people’s eyes to the possibilities of where and how the book would sell. And now that I have a hardback book to show off, the TV deal is moving forward with a “based on” credit.

The niche you have helping people get agents is just—nobody else does it like this. Writers ask me for advice about publishing all the time and I say what has worked for me and lot of the same tips writers can learn at seminars. It’s all good basic information, but not specific to any one project. I now recommend you to my clients as soon as they are interested, whether they are just starting, or when they are about to give up.

You’re the only one who exclusively helps authors get agents, and you’re the only one who’s helped hundreds of authors get agents. Thank you for believing in my book, and for helping me share the surprising truth about women’s most popular body part!

L E S L I E . L E H R

Author of A Boob’s Life: How America’s Obsession Shaped Me―and You, published by Pegasus Books, distributed by Simon & Schuster and now in development for a TV series by Salma Hayek for HBOMax

L . S U B R A M A N I - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for Memoir, Photo of LSWithin 4 minutes of sending out my query letter, a top literary called me on the phone. Less than 30 days later I had three major publishers making offers: Penguin, Harper Collins, and Random House. A few days after that, I signed a deal with Random House.

Mark, your query letter did that.

Thanks to your tips and tricks, I got the #1 agent on my wish list. He’s done nearly 125 deals in just two years.  His literary agency, Writer’s Side, is the fastest growing literary agency in India. And he has a long list of accolades, including being talked about in the New York Times.

My agent talked about the query letter you helped me create for a long, long time. When he first called me on the phone, he hadn’t seen any of my sample chapters. It was just the query letter that did it. Communicating the right thing is so important.

How I Got a Book Agent for Memoir, Book Cover for LS Book OneI had been thinking about writing a book for nearly 3 years before finding you online. Because I lost my sight as a teenager, I had long wanted to write a book that would help some of the hundreds of thousands of people suffering from retinal disorders in India.

Instead, you helped me see that my story could be bigger. By focusing on the broader, universal themes of grieving and loss (instead of just blindness and a rare eye disease), my book is now going to reach more people and make more of a difference. I’m also going to sell more books.

You are a wonderful medium helping authors find their voice and elevate their writing from just a hobby to a real business… a source from which they can both learn and earn. Writing should be both, a tremendous door that can open you to a lot of possibilities and a totally different life.

Mark, you are a man of precision and offer so many nuggets of valuable information. You know the publishing industry well, protecting authors from the pitfalls that can cause them to fail. And you summarize important learning lessons in a short amount of time. That’s not easy to do.

Why are some authors successfully published with traditional publishing houses, while others are not? I think it all boils down to one thing, the fact that we all need someone to hold our hand for a time… someone with the kind of credentials that you have.

My advice to authors is to work with you, 1-on-1, so they can go from having just an idea in their mind… to a clear plan of action. Authors are like seeds in the ground and you are helping them turn into flowering trees. I’m really happy to say that I am one of them.

Thank you for your support and encouragement.

L A K S H M I . S U B R A M A N I

Author of Lights Out (Random House)

E R I K A . A R M S T R O N G - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Book Agent for Memoir, Photo of EAI got a book deal!

After I started sending out my new query letter I had 6 literary agents request my manuscript in a short amount of time, which is awesome. Then, within two weeks of my agent starting to pitch my story to publishers, we had an offer. I signed a book contract yesterday. A little while later my agent told me that a TV co-producer asked for more info about my book.

By the way, the acquisition editor that fell in love with the manuscript jumped in with both feet and we just worked out our timeline for publication. She’s as passionate about getting my book out as I am, and that means everything. She read the manuscript in two days and said she couldn’t put it down. And the book is going to be published as a hardcover!

I had sent out queries before working with Mark and received zero responses. I didn’t hear from anyone—it was the sound of crickets. Even having a rejection would have been better than nothing. If they were going to give me specific feedback it would have been great, but nothing. I submitted several different kinds of queries and the last one I sent out was very formal. It was to the point and really didn’t have a lot of personality, just a dry summary. There wasn’t a lot of “voice.”

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

How I Got My Literary Agent for Memoir, Book Cover for EA Book OneWith Mark’s help, I changed the whole format and style of the agent query and book proposal. Everything had a better flow and it was easier to follow. We added a little humor and a more conversational tone, not just facts (although the new agent query and book proposal did have twice as many facts as before). I guess writers tend to be humble and we don’t think what we’ve done in life matters much, but you need to stand out among the herd of writers. Every little bit of credibility and uniqueness counts. Just one fact or detail can be the key difference to success, even if you think it’s insignificant, which I did.

When Mark helped me rewrite my agent query and book proposal, we made it easy for agents to say: “Hey, this is what makes this book stand apart!” Mark works off the idea that you should give literary agents everything they need to be able to sell your book. Why make it hard for them? They’re busy and moving fast so they might not think of half of the things you could say in your query or book proposal. If you spell it out for them, then suddenly they go: “Oh!”

One of the reasons I was able to see (and communicate) all my value is that Mark helped me create a list of the reasons why my book and I are unique. I had to answer the question, “Why does your book have bestseller or high commercial potential?” Until I had to answer that question, I didn’t realize all the reasons. Making that list didn’t just help me communicate more of my value, either; it also gave me more confidence.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 3

When I first found Mark online, I showed my husband his website and I was like: “What do you think about this guy? Does this look like a salesman or what?” Mark had success stories all over the place and invitations to work with him, but I understand it’s a necessary evil. You have to overwhelm the person sitting in front of the computer screen wondering what to do. It’s a huge chunk of money to work with Mark (it took me 1-½ years to save up to do it). That’s why he has to talk it up. There truly is no other way. And, it works. Mark used the same marketing strategies to help me stand out from the crowd.

I would kick myself if I hadn’t tried working with Mark. I knew I couldn’t break that next barrier without help, professional help. Even the best books in the world can’t get in the door until someone helps you. Plus I was really committed to getting my book out there, and I’d already spent a lot of time and energy on the book. I couldn’t just let it go away without trying the top of the line advice. Even if Mark had failed to help me get a literary agent and book deal, I would have been okay with that. Ultimately, no matter how good Mark is at getting people to read your work, you still have to produce a great book. You can’t blame anyone else. I knew that if things didn’t work out with Mark, I’d have done everything I could.

My favorite part of working with Mark was my phone calls with him. He’s calm and sincere but also very enthusiastic. You can feel Mark thinking and processing things over the phone, and he’s able to understand you with just a few words… what you’re trying to get across. I appreciate him having that insight. I also liked having to check in, having an expectation to get things done, having deadlines and always working toward something, and keeping the momentum going. Before that I had a lot of starts and stops, and I’d set the project aside. Having accountability and learning from Mark’s experience is inspiring. It’s much more exciting to know you’re on the right track instead of doing things blindly and hoping they’ll work.

If it weren’t for Mark I’d still be floundering, sending out queries. Writing the book is the easy part. Getting published after my book was written took three years, many tears, guidance from those in the know (like Mark!), and the focus of a Buddhist monk. But, if you believe in your project, wake up each morning with the thought that you’ll do one thing to keep it moving forward, you will eventually get there.

E R I K A . A R M S T R O N G

Author of A Chick in the Cockpit
(Behler Publications)

M E L I S S A . B O N D - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for Memoir, Photo of MBWoot!!! I’m so excited I could cry.

My agent just sold my memoir to Simon & Schuster/Gallery Books. Anyone who has the great fortune to work with you should consider themselves lucky. You were my compass. You didn’t walk for me, but you showed me how to get there.

Working with you was a big learning curve, but I got a very good response rate from my queries, including from A-list agents who were interested. That was exciting. I was actually preparing to send out my second round of queries when my soon-to-be agent sent me a beautiful email saying, “Your work is absolutely captivating, and I’d like to talk with you.”

My agent is genuine, and she loved my book for all right reasons. I felt this kinship. I wanted that because my book is a memoir. It’s personal for me, and I didn’t just want an agent interested simply because she thought she could sell it.

I wanted a heart connection as well. It felt like that. She’s everything I wanted: established in her career but also a mom and very professional and on the ball. She’s even had several of her own books published.

When I got the offer, I called you immediately and you helped me see how to screen the other interested agents to see who the best fit was. I hadn’t anticipated things happening that fast. You had prepared me to send queries out for a year, since it’s usually harder and takes longer to get an agent. So, I was holding my energy.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

How I Got My Literary Agent for Memoir, Book Cover for MB Book OneThe greatest thing about the experience so far is that my daughter, who is eleven, was sitting next to me when I got the email about the deal. I yelled and did a happy dance. She was like, “Oh my gosh, mom. Are you okay? I’ve never seen you like this.”

We cried together because she knows I’ve wanted this for a long time. It was beautiful to share that moment. Then I went out to dinner with my family, and we celebrated. But the big celebration will come when I feel the weight of the published book in my hands.

I spent about three years sending out queries before I found you. I didn’t know what I was doing. It was like I was on a muddy trail crawling through branches and underbrush. I tried to figure it out, but all I got was rejections.

The query I sent out after working with you had more of what agents are looking for. Without a lot of fluff or fanfare, it got to the point quickly. Since I’m a writer, I’d been more focused on showing my style. I also didn’t know which things to put up front, whether I should give them exclusivity, etc.

It’s like knowing the ingredients for a dish, but not having the instructions to make it. If you just throw a bunch of stuff in a pot, sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. It’s much better to have a proven recipe.

My agent changed the book proposal a little bit and condensed it, but everything she needed was there. Stuff I had no idea they would want that can help an agent sell a book to a publisher without them needing to fish for it.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 3

I also liked having someone like you who’s been in the industry to help me see how to make my book more marketable, without compromising its integrity in any way. Like most authors, I kind of hated the platform-building part of your process at first, but that ended up being one of my favorite parts in the end.

I hated it at first because it was daunting and hard, but now I’ve built up my “outreach muscles.” When I got into the right heart space about connecting with promotional partners about the book, it got a lot easier.

Staying in that space of authenticity, realizing what a beautiful thing it is to interact with people doing things I admire, helped me connect with people I never would have imagined. That’s a skill that you helped me build, one I’ll continue to have and use going forward.

You’re the best coach I could imagine. You’re professional and incisive in your knowledge, but kind. You get back to your clients quickly, you’re clear with your boundaries, and you know how to nudge without pushing. It was clear I was either going to walk up that mountain or not, and that was up to me. You weren’t going to drag me.

The first coaching call with you was everything because I got so much out of it, and I was able to experience your level of integrity. After that call, I thought about the fact that I’ve been a writer my entire life, but I’d never invested in becoming a professional writer.

That’s when I made a shift. I thought, I know how to write, but I don’t know the business of writing and I’ve gone as far as I can go. Why wouldn’t I get a mentor to show me how to get where I want to go? It was a stretch for me financially, but I knew I could do it and felt in my gut that you were the right person.

Right before I decided to work with you, I talked to my dad and he was like, “Oh, my gosh. Walk away.” I was like, “Thank you, Dad. I’m going to work with Mark.” He said, “Alright, you’re being stupid.” I was like, “We’ll see.” Now, he’s hats off.

You’re an angel, thank you.

With endless gratitude,

M E L I S S A . B O N D

Author of Blood Orange Night (Simon & Schuster/Gallery Books), a memoir about insomnia, prescription pills, and the unbridled love for a little boy with Down syndrome

D A V E . M C O M I E - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for Memoir, Photo of DMI thought landing an agent would be a piece of cake.

I got a list of agents off the Internet, confidently hit every single one of them up, hundreds of queries, and it was a colossal fail. Zero responses. I got frustrated, found you on the web, and you seemed to know what you were talking about.

As a result of your program, I promptly got multiple agents offering to represent me, and a top agent who promptly sold my book. I had the luxury of picking and went with #7 on your list of most influential agents: Richard Curtis in New York.

An amazing, good guy.

I adore him.

I’m a blue-collar grunt, but now my book is published in hardcover and I’m getting interview requests. I’m weeding them out and just doing the more popular ones. For example, This American Life with Ira Glass and David Kestenbaum, and a TV special for Vanity Fair.

How I Got My Literary Agent for Memoir, Book Cover for DM Book OneThey’re flying me to New York to show me movie clips of safecracking episodes in a studio. Burt Reynolds in Breaking In and a bunch of other movies with safecracking themes. They want to get my response regarding how accurate everything is.

Primary among what you taught me is how to write a query that someone will read instead of toss into the round file. You keep the query short and sweet, and start off strong, making sure each author puts their best foot forward.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

Your program is very precise: do A, B, and C. You also convey optimism, bigtime, which is important to anxious authors. Others too often convey, accidentally or intentionally, that they’re in a hurry and would rather be somewhere else.

Anyplace else.

You enjoy talking with authors, and you’re a stabilizing entity. You take an author’s mood and make it better. My wife and I have marveled for years about how certain people draw other people like magnets. It’s rare to find people like that, and you’re one of those people.

You provide a valuable service, not just for authors new to this world but for those who aren’t new to it. There’s a lot to this game that one never knows going in.

To other authors reading this, trying to get an agent yourself is pointless. A waste of time. You don’t need to learn that the hard way like I did. Get help. If your book has promise, Mark will show you how to maximize your odds to land an agent.

Without Mark, I never would have gotten a book deal.

D A V E . M C O M I E

Author of Safecracker: A Chronicle of the Coolest Job in the World, published in hardcover by Rowman and Littlefield, a leading traditional publisher of many bestsellers that produces both trade and academic books, and one of America’s largest book distributors: National Book Network (NBN)

C . J . W Y N N - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for Narrative Nonfiction, Photo of CJWIt was nighttime when I got an email saying I had a book deal with a traditional publisher with multiple Amazon #1 bestsellers. Now my book, even though it just came out, has hundreds of reviews with a 4.5-star rating, was a #1 Amazon bestseller for more than 2 weeks, and a NY Times bestselling author said it’s “extraordinarily well-written and thrilling.”

When I saw the email about my book deal, I thought, “I have no idea what to say or do.” I’d been guarded up to that point because it had taken a while to get an offer, and I’d gotten rejections. Once I knew they were the publisher for me, my husband gave me a hug. He’s been incredibly supportive.

I queried agents before working with you, but always heard a “no thank you” or nothing—even with a referral from a successful author who recommended me to her agent. I then followed your site for a while and read things you had posted. I also saw online that you’re very well-respected within the industry.

When I reached out to you, I was feeling forlorn, thinking, “This is never going to happen. What am I doing? This is a waste of time.” Then I thought, “Okay, I need to call Mark and invest in help because I’m obviously on the wrong track.” The part I was most worried about was my writing style, but you told me that wasn’t the problem.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

How I Got My Literary Agent for Narrative Nonfiction, Book Cover for CJW Book OneYou said my writing was great and focused on my query letter, which turned out to be as important as what my book is about—because no one will read your story without a great query. Now I tell authors, “If you think you know how to write a query letter, you don’t, until you talk to Mark.” You brought up things I hadn’t even thought about.

You told me exactly what my query letter needed to include for my unique situation, paragraph by paragraph. During our time together, you also showed me the best way to talk about marketing my book. You said, “It’s really important to tell agents and publishers how you plan to promote your work.”

There’s a lot of information about how to write queries on websites, including yours. But, during our coaching time, you told me the dirty details of what I needed to say and how to say it for my situation. “Here’s what you might think they want,” you said. “But here’s what’s really happening.”

You weren’t afraid to tell the truth either, about how hard it is, or how to approach the process. Your honesty was helpful, since there’s a lot of competition, including writers who are better or have bigger platforms. You helped me treat my writing more like a business, with more deadlines and consistency, and you helped me have thicker skin.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 3

Authors shouldn’t approach their work thinking, “I just want to write a book.” You can’t just write a book. There are other things you have to think about and do. It can be overwhelming to consider all those things, but you break it down and make it digestible. One of those things, since I’m a nonfiction author, was improving my profile or platform.

I cringed when you talked about the hours I should put in reaching out to influencers before pitching agents and publishers. You said, “Hey, it’s going to take time, but if you want to be successful, commit.” I felt a little guilty that I wasn’t already doing it, but then I started feeling motivated. Now I realize platform is just as important as the query and book if you’re a nonfiction writer.

Another thing you said was, “There are two reasons talented authors don’t get published. One is they’re not educated enough about the industry and how it works.” And, you added, “The second reason is that most authors who areeducated aren’t willing to do what it takes.” You help authors with both of those things.

I’ve never met you in person, but you’re awesome to talk to, funny, and encouraging. I also have to tell you that the NY Times bestselling author who wrote a blurb for my book just asked me to co-author her next book. So, we’re starting work on that now. I’m a bit in shock over that, but very happy.

Your suggestions have been incredible—they helped a good publisher take a chance on an author with absolutely zero professional experience or journalistic credentials. I’m so excited this is finally happening, and you’re a huge reason. I appreciate you. THANK YOU SO MUCH for your amazing insight and guidance!!!

C . J . W Y N N

Author of the true-crime book Wilder Intentions: Love, Lies and Murder in North Dakota, published by Black Lyon Publishing, a traditional publisher with multiple Amazon #1 bestsellers

J A N I C E . E L L I S - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for Memoir, Photo of JEMark, when I listened to the voicemail I got from Peter Miller offering me representation, in all candor, I was blown away. I sat in my chair for about an hour in disbelief. I was so excited, and nervous. He’s a very well-respected agent who’s had many of his New York Times Bestsellers converted to television and  film. I didn’t want to reply at first. I thought, ‘Oh my God, what am I going to say?’ Especially since other agents were also seriously interested in my work. But you helped me through the process and I was able to keep my wits about me. It was extraordinary.

I sent out query letters before working with you and they generated requests for more material, but my original proposal didn’t spark agents’ interest enough to get offers for representation. I would grade that proposal a C. It needed a massive rewrite. The proposal I sent out after working with you was an A+. It was twice as long. Most agents said they had not seen a proposal that detailed, and my agent didn’t ask me to make any changes. The professional editor I worked with also commented on the proposal’s quality, and she’s worked for major publishers like Macmillan for the last 15 or 20 years.

40% of the literary agents I queried asked me to send them more material. It was phenomenal getting so many positive responses. It took me a while to get the offer from Peter, but, when I did, everything happened quickly. One agent read my proposal and sample chapters, and wanted to see my entire manuscript. That same evening, I had another agent say he wanted to offer me a contract. Then another agent. Within 24 hours, I had multiple agents offering representation. I don’t think I slept that night at all. You didn’t tell me who to sign with, but you helped me make the best decision for me.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

How I Got My Literary Agent for Memoir, Book Cover for JE Book OneChoosing the right agent, as you know, is a subjective process, and I’ve been totally thrilled with my decision to sign with Peter, for many reasons. First, he said that he was interested in my work. He also said that he’d passed my project around the office, and everyone unanimously agreed that my book was a project they wanted to represent. He then asked me if I was ready to sign an agreement, but not just for one book. He expressed interest in a second book I was working on as well, and he said he thought my work had potential for feature film.

Mark, I also found the list of agents you sent me invaluable. It was an extraordinary tool that helped me choose the best agents interested in my type of book, and it helped me get my queries out in a timely and efficient manner. That agent spreadsheet put all the information I needed right there at my fingertips, everything the agents were interested in and how to send it to them. Without that list, I would have had to look agents up individually, then go to their websites. It would have been a more laborious task, that’s for sure.

At first, I had reservations about signing up to work with you. I thought I might just be a number to you, that you would give me a hand but probably not deal with my unique needs. I worried that you might only offer a formulaic coaching process, nothing individualized. I was pleasantly surprised that wasn’t the case. I remember saying to my husband, ‘Mark is the real deal. He’s really going to work with me as a unique author.’ I found that very refreshing and reassuring.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 3

What got me over my initial reluctance was our first phone meeting. Before that introductory coaching call, you sent me an author questionnaire that was very valuable. I realized you were asking so many questions as a foundation for our work together, and that that information would help you do a better job helping me. All that information was the beginning of what culminated in the extraordinary proposal. During my first call, and future calls, you gave me customized recommendations and resources that were effective. But the most valuable thing you gave me was your commitment and encouragement.

It’s so easy to become discouraged with rejection letters and the lack of responses from agents. I was very encouraged by, and still rely on, your experience and belief in me. Even though we may not be talking every month or week any more, I think about the fact that you had so much faith in my work. A lot of coaches provide guidance, but you show an unusual level of interest and investment in your clients. That’s probably why you’re so successful. It’s not just your knowledge and ability to identify marketable books. You love what you do and share that with your authors in a way that helps them be successful.

I don’t think you know what a motivational coach you are, Mark. You’re such a positive force. This may sound odd, but, you bring a humanity, gentleness, and quiet resolve to the work you do with authors. It’s almost like you identify with what we’re going through. You’re careful to show it, but I think it’s natural for you, and I think that you’re expressing what you’re really feeling. You’re sensitive and, no matter what the obstacle is, you say, ‘No, that’s fine, don’t give up.’ You’re not surprised by anything, and that gives your clients more courage to keep going.

I don’t think authors have a clue what it takes to get an agent or publisher. It’s not easy. The writing and publishing business is a very complex environment and market. To have someone like you, Mark, helping authors understand and navigate it, is invaluable. It’s a good investment, because you’re going to invest one way or the other. It’s best to invest with someone who really knows the industry. If I hadn’t have worked with you, Mark, I don’t think I would have gotten an agent this quickly. The proposal we created for agents did much of their work for them. We gave them something they could just hand to publishers.

Thank you so much, working with you has been wonderful!

J A N I C E . E L L I S . P H D

Author of the memoir
From Liberty to Magnolia

M E L I S S A . B U R C H - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for Memoir, Photo of MBAfter working with Mark, I had nearly a dozen agents ask for more material. I talked to different agents on the phone and Mark helped me figure out which one would do the best job for me. I then signed with Susan Schulman in New York City and now my book is coming out in March!

Before I started working with Mark, I was about to try and get an agent all by myself—but I felt that my query letter didn’t have the zing it needed. I was also feeling overwhelmed by the amount of agents and I wasn’t sure who to choose, how many, etc. And I wanted help with the literary agency contract negotiations, if and when I got to that step.

Although I’m a natural marketer and I’ve been marketing my whole life, getting an agent was new for me. I had made some changes to my query using information on Mark’s websites, but it wasn’t really as sharp as it could be. My first draft was more story-oriented and descriptive of the book, rather than why it might sell – that was a big change.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

How I Got My Literary Agent for Memoir, Book Cover for MB Book OneHaving Mark’s personalized advice allowed me to fine tune things and made myself more credible. The whole process of getting the query letter in the right format with the right tone and hook to get an agent is really helpful. Having a professional person review your materials makes sense. Getting a book published takes different skills than it does to write a book.

Mark also helped me with the content, structure, and formatting of my business proposal. I didn’t have a proposal when I first talked to Mark. My thinking was that with memoirs you didn’t need a proposal. I would have been caught off guard with agents and panicked when I got a request for one.

The personalized spreadsheet Mark sent me with sorted agents helped me a lot as well. Mark helped me target the right agents through prioritizing things that were important to me. We decided to go after the most successful and reputable agents in New York who were interested in the different topics and themes in my book that has crossover appeal.

I expected Mark to be a ‘fast talking’ New Yorker…but he didn’t give me that vibe. He was more laid-back than I’d anticipated, even when I bombarded him with questions. Mark is great on the phone and I’ve enjoyed getting to know him and how he thinks. If you’re serious about getting your work out there, consider working with Mark. He’ll give you the best chance of making it happen, and it’s fun.

M E L I S S A . B U R C H

My Journey Through War and Peace:
Explorations of a Young Filmmaker,
Feminist & Spiritual Seeker
Garn Press

C R Y S T A L . D U F F Y - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for Memoir, Photo of CDMark, I just signed with the Donald Maass Agency!

I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for your support, guidance, and faith in me. I was so surprised and shocked when my agent called me on the phone and told me the news. I didn’t say anything for a few seconds. I had to process it. It was such an amazing feeling. She’s a great agent, a top agent, and I’m very lucky. She’s successful but also very friendly, very approachable.

Before I met you, Mark, I had never even heard of a query letter. I was just beginning my search on what literary agents were. Then I found you. All our work together paid off. I remember how excited I would get when we first started working together. I would think, ‘I have a call with Mark, and I’m going to learn so much and it’s going to bring me one step closer to my end goal!’

When my agent first asked for more information on my book, I sent it to her and, later that night, she emailed back saying, ‘I’m already reading this and loving what I’m seeing so far.’ Then, later, she told me that she loved the proposal. She said it was a fresh breath of air to get a proposal and not have it be a mess. She made it seem like sometimes she loves an author’s ideas, but it would be overwhelming for her to put it all together.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

How I Got My Literary Agent for Memoir, Book Cover for CD Book OneMy agent loved the commitments for testimonials that you helped me secure also – the potential blurbs for the book. There were about a dozen, a few from well-known people. My agent never said to me anything about my platform being weak, even though I didn’t really have a platform when you and I started working together.

I spent a long time going through the list of agents that you gave me, narrowing it down – and I really read the comments that you provided about them. It was so helpful to have that, because then I didn’t have to go back to the agent’s website. It was also important that you showed me how to follow up with agents. My agent didn’t remember getting my original submission. If I hadn’t followed up, I might have missed out.

Mark, I really appreciate that you made the process of getting an agent such a wonderful and positive experience. You made me feel like it was totally fine that I knew nothing about the process. You also helped me come up with a great title, improve the opening of my manuscript (I always knew that was Achilles Heel), and tighten everything up a bit.

When I was considering signing up for the introductory call with you, what distinguished you from other people I could have worked with was the number of testimonials you had. Not everybody was like, ‘Oh my God, I got a #1 book deal’, but everybody said really positive things about the experience of working with you. I knew I would benefit, like them, having you as a coach to take me through everything.

I like your newsletter, too – I remember when I’d get those emails and I would see a new testimonial from one of your clients… it was uplifting. Like, when you’re in the middle of, ‘Who should I reach out to now?’ and you get those emails, and see another success story and you’re like, ‘This is what I’m working toward. This will happen and I’m going to keep doing what Mark is telling me to do, even though I might not always want to!’

Everything came together so beautifully.

Thank you so much!!!

C R Y S T A L . D U F F Y

Author of Twin to Twin (published by Mango,
one of the fastest-growing independent
publishers in the United States)

J A N I S . P R Y O R - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Book Agent for Memoir, Photo of JPAhhh, timing (and a great query letter) is everything. I have an agent! Karen Canton with Canton Literary Management called me an hour or so ago. Loves the book. Loves the story. Understands the story! They also seem like really nice people so that’s a relief, and they’ve done a lot with TV and feature film.

I’m in shock, frankly.

As the gods would have it, right before I submitted my work to them, I was thinking that if something didn’t come of my submissions soon I didn’t know what I was going to do. I wanted to throw myself off Mt. Washington. So you can call it divine intervention, or maybe determination. I don’t want to call it ‘patience’ because it wasn’t solely that. I’m impressed by what a deliberate effort it takes to get an agent. Mark talks on his website about making a ‘decision’ to get published instead of just hoping it’s going to happen, and you do have to be very deliberate to get a literary agent. The process is very methodical and you need a lot of stick-to-it-iveness.

I sent out queries before I worked with Mark but didn’t get any requests for more material. That’s what made me realize I was doing something wrong. I looked online and read books about getting an agent. I also talked with friends who were going through similar struggles, but I just wasn’t getting it. I’m used to writing in my professional life so I know how to put sentences together and make a point, but it was absolutely clear that something was missing. Mark helped me revise my query and I got five requests for more material. It didn’t happen within a few minutes or days, and there were times when I wanted to go running and screaming down the street, but it did happen!

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

How I Got My Literary Agent for Memoir, Book Cover for JP Book OneThe query letter was the most important part of the process and I thought about it a lot—the magic behind the evil query letter. My friends would ask me why I couldn’t write a simple letter about my book since I was the one who wrote it. I told them that there’s nothing simple about writing a query letter! For me writing a book is like creating this wonderful tapestry that you see in a museum. Writing a query letter is like brain surgery. You have to know exactly what kind of information to target, and you have to do it concisely with the right specificity and nuance. That wasn’t something I knew how to do, but Mark knew. He said everything that I wanted to say in my query, and he said it better.

The list of potential agents Mark gave me for my book was also absolutely wonderful. I never would have put all that together. I mean, good god… I would have been a crazy person! Mark showed me all of the best literary agents interested in my genre, listed in priority order with all of their personal preferences, submission requirements, and contact information. A friend asked me why I couldn’t put a list like that together myself, either. I said that by the time I got to fifty agents I would have killed someone. I don’t have that kind of temperament. I know what I can’t do. If I had to do all that before I even got to send the letters out, it would have made me crazy.

Mark is an interesting balance of someone who is easygoing but also very knowledgeable about the publishing profession and the art of writing. That’s an important balance, at least for someone like me. I have recommended Mark to three other authors now and, in the process of doing that and watching their responses, I realized that you, the writer, need to have a certain amount of humility. If you want to be successful, you have to realize that you might not be able to get a literary agent by yourself. I was so ready to admit that I was there, that I couldn’t do it myself, that I needed help. I reached out for help and it worked. It worked out really well! After sending out my second round of queries, I got a great agent.

What I first signed up for with Mark was the 1-hour introductory coaching call. I didn’t have any doubts about Mark’s ability because of the detailed information on his websites. I also followed Mark for about a year online and read his newsletter to see if he was going to stick around, and he did. The investment for the first call with him wasn’t a lot, and I knew Mark was savvy enough to help me. I figured it would be worthwhile and, if I didn’t like what I heard, I wouldn’t be out of a whole lot of money. Maybe a pair of shoes, but that was it. So I did it. Mark seemed legit, and I was plain desperate!

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 3

During that first call, Mark gave me a lot of advice that I would have been able to implement on my own. But he also told me that he thought he might be able to help me get an agent if we did more together, and he sent me a personalized program proposal. When I saw the price I thought…huh…that’s not just one pair of shoes. That’s a whole lot of shoes! So I sat with it for a while and a lot of people told me not to do it. But the thing that outweighed their concern was the fact that Mark never overpromised anything. If he had ‘guaranteed’ to get me an agent’ I wouldn’t have trusted him, but Mark didn’t do that. So I took the plunge, even though almost everyone I talked to about it thought I was crazy.

I will tell you now what I told my friends. You have to decide how badly you want to get a literary agent. You also have to recognize that the work we do as writers doesn’t exist in a bubble. You need cold eyes on your writing. I can’t remember what the exact investment was for Mark’s introductory coaching call but, whatever it is, you spend more than that on god knows what in a week. So do it. At the end of the day you’ll be able to say that you did everything you knew how to do to make your publishing dream real. At least that’s what I wanted to be able to say. I didn’t want to say, ‘God if only I had ended up going to that guy. Maybe I wouldn’t be here looking at this manuscript collecting dust.’

Making a decision to work with someone like Mark is sort of a come to Jesus moment.Some people don’t really want to know the truth. You have to make a decision about that and have a conversation with yourself. How badly do you want to get published, and why? Are you really committed? If the answer is yes, then you should do it. Talk to the man.

J A N I S . P R Y O R

Author of the memoir
White Roses

How I Got My Book Agent

Memoir And Narrative Nonfiction Authors

Mark, you're a thoughtful gentleman and a constructive critic. Before we met, I wanted to find a certain type of agent—one who'd understand the value of my work, bring it to life in the mind of readers, and bring it to life on the screen. When I looked online for a coach, your name rose to the top. After we spoke, I knew we'd work well together. I could tell by the questions you asked and your ability to listen. You understood where I was coming from, and you were extremely helpful. I value our friendship.

N E L S O N . J O H N S O N

Author of the NY Times bestselling book Boardwalk Empire, which led to the critically acclaimed HBO series (produced by Martin Scorsese), and Darrow's Nightmare: The Forgotten Story of America's Most Famous Trial Lawyer

NJ Book Cover for BE on boardwalk with cast from the HBO TV series, posted by Get a Literary Agent

NJ Book Cover with photo of C. Darrow in suit, posted by Get a Literary Agent Guide

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CHILDREN’S BOOK AUTHORS – How i got MY LITERARY agent

Get informed and inspired reading about these successful children’s book authors. Writers of all kids’ book genres: picture books, board books, early readers, chapter books, middle grade, and young adult. These are just some of the kids’ book writers who’ve used this literary agent blog and gotten literary agent advice about how to get a literary agent for children’s books.

Children's book authors explaining how they got a literary agent, with photo of book agent in suit, posted by Get a Literary Agent

M I R I . L E S H E M . P E L L Y - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for a Children's Book, Photo of MLPAHHH! OMG, it happened!

I’m really excited to tell you that my literary agent got offers from multiple publishers and my book deal was announced this week on Publishers Weekly! I can hardly believe it.

I signed with Kane Miller, a division of EDC publishing. Their sales reps sell to all major retail outlets, including bookstores, gift stores, museums, etc. They also have a direct sales division made up of nearly 18,000 independent sales consultants who sell their books to schools and libraries, and at home parties, fundraising events and school book fairs.

Yay!

After that, my agent sold my next book to Philomel, a division of Penguin Books.

As you know, I got three offers for representation from top literary agents in the United States for my first book, even though I live abroad! When I woke up and found the first offer for representation in my email in box, I wanted to scream. But my family was still asleep so I couldn’t. 🙂

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

How I Got My Literary Agent for a Children's Book, Book Cover for MLP Book OneJust 8 minutes after I sent a query letter to one of my favorite agents, she replied and asked to see my manuscript. A short time later we had a lovely conversation. She was interested in representing me and sounded very positive and enthusiastic about my book.

Since I also got offers from two other agents, I had to turn two of them down. One of them was upset and it felt like I was breaking her heart, but you just have to do it. I kept reminding myself that this is a good problem to have!

The whole process of getting a contract only took 18 days from the time I started sending out queries. It would have even happened a lot sooner but, for some reason, my agent didn’t get the manuscript when I sent it the first time!

I tried to get an agent before, without Mark.

No luck.

Now I know why. I would never have written anything close to what Mark suggested in my query letter. He says things in the most attractive way, very convincing. Working with Mark also gave me the confidence I had what it takes. That was very helpful.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 3

I put everything into the process because I trusted Mark’s procedure. I just kept going and going and never looked back no matter what. Even when I got rejections I didn’t care, they didn’t hurt me because they didn’t hurt my confidence.

Without Mark I would have kept taking one step forward and two steps backwards, thinking it wasn’t going to happen. That’s what I did before. I would send out 6 or 7 queries and get rejections or nothing coming back. Then I’d think, okay, I probably don’t have a chance. I stopped. I was stuck.

How I Got My Literary Agent for a Children's Book, Book Cover for MLP Book TwoMark also helped me make small, but important, changes to my manuscript. For example, I realized that my main character needed to solve her own problems instead of having someone else solve them for her. I also got clearer about the message in my book, and the best way to talk about it in the query.

Researching agents can also be overwhelming. When I did it on my own in the past, I didn’t know how to choose the best agents. There are so many. Mark created a list just for my book and divided the agents up into different groups and showed me how to choose. This was a very important part of the process because it’s personal, and it really helped me.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 4

I also appreciated how much Mark communicated with me. He was helpful every step of the way, someone I could rely on through every little situation. Many times I was confused and not sure what to do and Mark answered me quickly and knew what I should do.

The most surprising thing about working with Mark was how fast I got an agent, and the fact that I got several agents interested. I saw other people saying that in the testimonials on Mark’s website, but I didn’t really think it was going to happen to me. So now it is my honor to add my success story to the long list of testimonials I’ve read on Mark’s website. 🙂

Those testimonials helped me decide to work with Mark. I saw different people in different stages of their career and different situations and they all ended up very satisfied with a lot of success. This was very inspiring and reassuring. They also said that Mark is a nice person to work with and very encouraging, which is completely true.

Mark also came into my life at the right point in time, as I said before, when I was stuck and not moving. For several months I didn’t do anything but my dream wouldn’t let go. It was nagging me and I couldn’t just continue to do nothing.

Thank you so much Mark for everything!

M I R I . L E S H E M . P E L L Y – HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

Author/Illustrator of the picture book Penny and the Plain Piece of Paper (Penguin Books/Philomel), Scribble & Author (Kane Miller), and many other children’s picture books

K . B . A N D E R S E N - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for a Children's Book, Photo of KBAI was staying at a summer house with my family when I received two offers for representation. It was awesome. Both agents were very enthusiastic, so it was a very hard choice, but I decided to sign with Jennifer Lyons. I didn’t want to say yes immediately because one of the agents offered to represent me based just on the query and my first chapter.

My situation was even more complicated because I had already worked with a literary agency that wasn’t able to sell my book, I had self-published after that, and I had already sold some subsidiary rights…so those were no longer available for agents. You helped me explain all that to agents in the right way at the right time.

How I Got My Literary Agent for a Children's Book, Book Cover for KBA Book OneI also wasn’t sure if my book should be pitched as Middle Grade or Young Adult. You helped me decide who to send my work out to, the best agents, and you helped with my pitch letter. Then you told me when and how to follow up with each agent. It was a labyrinth, one that I never would have found a way out of myself.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

I was very worried that the agents I contacted might like my writing but then lose interest once they learned that books had already been self-published, etc. You helped tweak my important emails to literary agents, which was perfect, especially since I’m not a native English speaker. That was extremely helpful.

The whole process really opened my eyes regarding how hard it can be to get an agent. It took quite a bit of effort, hard work, and time. You were easy to talk to though. You make people feel good, and you always provided answers to my questions that were to the point. They were honest answers, too, including some that I did not want to hear.

I also want to say that your fast response times were a huge factor. Every time I emailed you with a new question or situation, you replied fast. Very fast. Each time I woke up in the morning in Denmark, there was a reply from Mark. Extremely professional. So, thank you. I’ve got a ton of positive things to say about you.

Your support meant a lot to me, and it still means a lot to me.

I can’t thank you enough,

K E N N E T H . B O G H . A N D E R S E N
Award-winning author with approximately 500,000 copies of his books sold, including The Devil’s Apprentice and other titles in The Great Devil War series

L A U R A . M O E - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for a Children's Book, Photo of LMAdams Media / F+W / Merit Press is publishing my book this year in hardcover! Before I started working with Mark, I sent out my own horribly written query letters (about three dozen), and I got only rejections. When I sent out my revised query, I was only able to send it to five agents before I started getting multiple requests (one of them in just a few hours) to send sample chapters or the complete manuscript.

The most valuable part of the coaching process for me was answering all of Mark’s questions in his author questionnaire and on the phone. They made me think about things in my background that never occurred to me to mention in a query letter, things that I was able to use to make myself more credible. My previous queries didn’t have enough information about me, and they didn’t have a tone that accurately reflected my manuscript.

How I Got My Literary Agent for a Children's Book, Book Cover for LM Book OneThe second most valuable part of the process was avoiding working with an agent who showed early curiosity in my manuscript but may or may not have served my best interests. Most agents are proud to display a catalog of books they have represented, but this particular agent, who requested exclusivity, made vague claims about selling a number of books but no specific titles.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

Mark explained there are many out there who hang out their shingles and call themselves agents, but they lack the connections to make many sales and sometimes hold onto manuscripts for a year or longer and do nothing with them. Mark helped me realize the importance of research and working with someone whose sales record is credible and transparent.

My favorite part of the coaching experience was talking to Mark on the phone. He provided interesting insight and we also shared a nice rapport. Mark is open-minded, intelligent, funny, knowledgeable, and quick on his feet. Give him a question or challenge and he only needs a few seconds to come up with an answer or solution.

If you’re the author of a book with commercial potential, and you’re thinking about working with Mark, go for it. I definitely recommend that you have a preliminary conversation with him and get some feedback on your query, synopsis, proposal, and/or sample chapters.

Even if your relationship with Mark doesn’t go beyond the preliminary phone call, you will benefit from it a lot. Mark has already helped me get the attention of several good agents that never would have responded to me before.

L A U R A . M O E

Author of Breakfast with Neruda
(Adams Media/F+W/Merit Press)

J E R I . A N N E . A G E E - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for a Children's Book, Photo of JAAMark, after you helped me get represented by Sanford J. Greenburger Associates, they got me a contract with Sky Horse Publishing, the fastest-growing small publisher in America according to Publishers Weekly. They have 52 New York Times bestsellers!!! It’s very exciting because Sanford J. Greenburger Associates was one of my favorite agencies and I get along with my agent very well. She gets everything about my writing and, although she’s a new agent, she has more than 30 years of experience in children’s publishing—and she helped me flesh out the manuscript.

I can’t stress enough, honestly, how working with you was 100% the only reason this happened. I talked to a lot of people before I found you. Many of them said you don’t need an agent if you’re writing books for younger readers. Later, I found out that wasn’t true and started researching agents online. That’s when I found your agent directory and everything else you. I knew basically nothing at the time. I was clueless and I would have bombed out with agents if I’d approached them alone. Looking back on it now, I see that I learned so much.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

Our work together was awesome, starting with the questionnaire you sent me before our first phone call. You asked so many questions that it was a little overwhelming and intimidating at first, but once I started working on it everything was fine. It was also clear from all the questions that you wanted to help me, and you later used my answers to improve my query. You know exactly what agents are looking for, and obviously it worked!

How I Got My Literary Agent for a Children's Book, Book Cover for JAA Book OneI also didn’t know anything about the different book genres for younger readers like chapter books, juvenile, middle grade, and young adult. That really helped. Another thing that really helped was the agent list you created for me, and you showing me how to format everything correctly. I wanted to get everything right and I was using a lot of brainpower on that. You showed me a shortcut that saved me lots of time.

Everyone has a dream of getting an advance and being published. That’s because authors know, if you really want to make a self-published book work or be a big deal, you have to work your ass off. I did that with my first book. I traveled to book shows and schools, entered contests, and all that good stuff. I had no help—it was just me doing everything. Later, I worked with a small publisher but that wasn’t much different.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 3

Here’s the thing…

When you write a book and it’s done, you can’t spend all the time in the world publicizing that book. You also need to start on the next one. You don’t have time to be selling that first book all the time. Plus I have a husband, three kids, and four dogs! Having a life was a huge motivation for me to try and get an agent and a major publisher. I wanted to focus mostly on writing, and I wanted to talk to someone who’s knowledgeable about the industry who could help me get to the next level.

Because I’m very busy, I also have to say that the agent spreadsheet alone was worth every dime I spent to work with you. The amount of time that saved me, having all the information I needed at my fingertips, was huge. It makes it easy to see what each agent wants since they’re all different. It also makes it easy to keep sending out queries, even if you’re discouraged because it’s not happening right away.

How I Got My Literary Agent for a Children's Book, Book Cover for JAA Book TwoYou were up-front with me and said getting an agent might be a long process and it did take a long time, about six months, but you were always accessible. You’re also very professional, extremely knowledgeable, and super easy to work with and bounce ideas off of. You never said anything that wasn’t true and you didn’t promise to do something and not follow through. Everything was just as described.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 4

I was never disappointed in you and that was a relief. My husband would say I’m a bit of a sucker because I’ve been party to some things that weren’t so legit over the Internet at times and paid money for some things that were disappointing. After I got so much out of my first call with you, I talked to my husband about it. He was skeptical at first because he’s heard me say things like that before

You didn’t strike me as someone who was trying to pull one over on me though. You seemed like the real deal. And you sounded sincere when you told me that you don’t invite most people to do more with you. The other big thing for me was the testimonials on your website. I visited some of those authors’ websites and saw what they said about you. I knew that if I decided to work more with you and I was successful working with you, it would be the best decision I’d ever made.

And that’s exactly what happened…

To the authors reading this testimonial getting an agent is like anything else in life, like trying to get a great job or be a high-performance athlete. If you want to be successful, you go the best person you can find, with the right experience, who can help you be better. Investing in an introductory coaching call with Mark is a no-brainer. Then you can see how it goes and figure out if you’re a good fit to do more.

I just can’t say enough about the experience and how working with you has been the best investment I’ve ever made by far. I’m telling every writer I know. Not everybody has that kind of money lying around, but if you can make it happen and you’re passionate about your writing, there’s really no reason not to do it. I guarantee you’ll get something out of it and find it valuable.

Thank you, Mark!

I really do feel that I owe this all to you.

J E R I . A N N E . A G E E

Author of the chapter book series The Life and Times of Birdie Mae Hayes published by Skyhorse, named the fastest-growing small publisher in America by Publishers Weekly with 52 New York Times bestsellers

L I B B Y . K I S Z N E R - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for a Children's Book, Photo of LKWhen I first got an offer for representation from Regina Ryan, who runs a Manhattan-based boutique literary agency, I was just starting my day checking my email. The first thought that came to me was, dreams do happen!

I started writing 15 years ago for magazines and newspapers. And I remember well, what I think every writer can remember, those moments early in your career where you’re waiting for acceptance or rejections. It’s like your whole life revolves around that.

About eight years ago, before I met you, I sent out queries over three months’ time, with no requests for more material. I didn’t know what I was doing. It was like shooting darts in the air. My first query letter and book proposal were very step-by-step, following instructions that I found in books. When I found your website and read about your coaching program I wanted to do it, but I have nine kids and didn’t have the financial means. 

I thought I would do it one day though, and I knew that you were the right person to help me pursue the project. When later that same week I got an unexpected amount of money I knew in my heart that working with you would be the right thing for me. Even if I never got an agent, I would have known that I gave it the best chance. So I took a leap of faith.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

How I Got My Literary Agent for a Children's Book, Book Cover for LK Book OneMy project, before meeting you, was just a dream. Your belief in my book breathed new life into everything. There was something in your energy, in my first conversation with you that made me feel it was possible.

After working with you, my submissions were a lot more professional, very polished. You kind of sharpened the whole thing and brought it into focus. Then, with your guidance, I got my first request for more material from an agent within five minutes of sending a query letter. Then I got more requests!

The most valuable part of working with you was the lack of pressure. That was extremely important to me. Everything we did became joyous as opposed to burdensome. Also, you’re very present, grounded, down to earth, and peaceful, which brings my creativity alive. It wasn’t just the mechanical part of what we were doing that I enjoyed, but the actual experience of it. You came along and you believed and that made it all possible.

For a long time I had the vision that my book would be published one day. But it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t invested in myself. I think that’s something we all need to do – to invest in ourselves and to find someone who will help us believe that we can do it. Investing in yourself leads you towards authentic, peaceful and joyous productivity. You get to create meaningful work and contribute more to the world.

All of us have dreams, but sometimes we don’t believe in them. If you have a dream to be published, there is a reason you have that dream. And the pull of that dream won’t leave you alone. It won’t quiet down until you try!

L I B B Y . K I S Z N E R

Author of Dear Libby: An Advice Columnist Answers the Top Questions About Friendship, published by Familius, a traditional publisher with many bestselling authors

D E R I C K . W I L D E R - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for a Children's Book, Photo of DWI never gave up on querying, and now I have an agent with Red Fox Literary and three children’s books coming out with Chronicle Books…which paired me with a top illustrator for each! After many years writing and pitching, it then happened really fast.

Multiple agents contacted me within days and three were seriously interested. I then took a picture of me signing the contract with my daughter in our library since that’s where this journey started, and because she was so instrumental in the process.

It took a while for everything to sink in because I’d had close calls before. Every time, I tried not to get my hopes up. When I first contacted you, Mark, about author coaching, my daughter was in kindergarten—now’s she’s in middle school!

Writing and trying to get published is difficult and emotional. You need someone with expertise to say your writing is good enough, and to help you craft a succinct query that gets the attention of agents. Family and friends will always say we’re great. Well, mostly. But the level of confidence you get working with a proven coach is huge.

In addition to giving me confidence, you were one of the first, maybe the first, professional person to evaluate my stories, prioritize them regarding their marketability, and provide suggestions for improvements. You liked my first book, but, for the second one, pointed out strengths and weaknesses—what to keep and toss out. I’ve participated in critique groups but coaching with someone like you is the next level.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

How I Got My Literary Agent for a Children's Book, Book Cover for DW Book OneLearning to cut things out of my stories is probably the biggest thing I’ve learned as a writer. Especially since the industry has changed during the years I’ve been writing children’s books. For example, agents and editors have cut the number of words they want in picture books. I guess every author goes through things like that, but I really love words and tend to get long-winded in my storytelling at times.

When I found you, I was getting ramped up to start figuring out which agents to query. That’s a huge undertaking if you don’t have a list and a good strategy to go with it, like what you provided. I was going hook and crook, finding bits and pieces here and there, trying to cobble together my own information.

Writing is a double-edged sword because it can be hard and emotional. I also can’t describe the joy of finally knowing that one day soon my daughter will be able to pull my books off her bookshelf. Seeing their writing come to fruition is probably personal for most authors, but, for me, the writing journey has been even more so.

My daughter inspired my second book. When she was four, we were behind a school bus when she said, “Daddy, look…the school bus has a butt.!” I wrote the first draft that night. You never know where inspiration will come from, or where your writing journey is going to take you. So, it’s fulfilling following your passion. Sometimes, it goes from hobby to making money and having a career.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 3

How I Got My Literary Agent for a Children's Book, Book Cover for DW Book TwoI decided to get help from you because of the overwhelming nature of what’s out there on the Internet. There is more information at your fingertips there than any time in history. But how do you know which information is reliable? How do you filter it and narrow it down? How do you know which information applies to your individual subject and situation? And what’s the best way to apply it?

Having someone help figure those things out was especially valuable for me, since I have other responsibilities. Time is my most valuable commodity, so I can’t spend time diving down rabbit holes on the Internet. When people complain about paying their literary agent their commission for selling their books I say, “Are you kidding me? I’d pay her more than that. Because of what she handles, I can now write.”

Working with someone like you is similar. I’m very creative but I also have a consulting background. I’m very logical and understand the value of having someone who knows a certain industry show you the best steps so you can get from A to Z. Authors might be experts or semi-experts at writing when they’re getting started, but they’re not experts at the business of publishing and getting agents.

Picture yourself as an accountant competing with other accountants where you live. Now picture competing with every accountant in the whole country for the 50 clients in your town who need accounting services. That’s what it’s like as an author. There are only so many agents and publishers, and you’re competing against the best writers in the world, including those who are already successful.

I’m now glad to be one of them. Thank you, Mark, for being one of the important people in my life who helped me get here.

D E R I C K . W I L D E R

Author of The Longest LetsgoboyDoes a Bulldozer Have a Butt?, and I Made Those Ants Some Underpants (Chronicle Books, publisher of many award-winning and bestselling books including New York Times bestsellers)

C . M A T T H I A S - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for a Children's Book, Photo of CMWorking with you was the smartest move of my writing career!

Janet Reid, one of my favorite agents, is now my agent. My heart is pounding and the song “At Last” is going through my head. It was utter relief to get the contract, because it didn’t come in immediately. I got an enthusiastic letter in the beginning, then had to work on manuscript revisions for three weeks. After that, a series of things happened at the agency—people on vacation, someone having a baby, etc.

You calmed me down and said, “Those things are normal, life happens, just wait.” So, I cooled my jets. From the agent’s end, I’m sure it seemed I was extremely patient. But I was anxious! “Gee,” I thought, “We’ve done all this work together, is this going to happen?” Three or four weeks later, the contract finally arrived. I signed it and sent it back, then it came back to me again with the agency signature.

My husband and I did a jig around the living room.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

How I Got My Literary Agent for a Children's Book, Book Cover for CM Book OneOne reason Janet didn’t send the contract right away was that we had manuscript revisions to do. She said, “Let’s see how well we work together first. That will make it easier for either one of us to walk away.” I thought, “Hmm, good idea.” She’s been easy to work with though and we laugh a lot together. She made suggestions for my manuscript, but she ended each email saying, “This is your book, take what you want and leave what you don’t want.”

One of the most interesting things about my work with you, Mark, is that I wasn’t planning to pitch this particular book to agents. I was going to submit another one. But you offered to review all nine of my books since they’re short (picture books), and you told me which one you thought was most marketable. Like Janet, you told me I could take what you said or leave it. But I thought, “I’m paying for your advice, I’d be a fool not to take it.”

You were absolutely right because the book we pitched had the broadest appeal and a universal theme. I hadn’t sent out queries for that book yet, but I’d sent out queries for another book and I’d only gotten rejections. When that happens, it’s hard to know if there’s something wrong with your manuscript or your query. You helped me improve both! When I read the query you wrote, I thought, “Oh, who is that person? Ah, I like her.” It was great.

What I loved most about your query is that it was totally different from all the other information I’d learned about in articles, books, and conferences. You didn’t stick to just one page, and you didn’t lead with a typical hook line about the story. There were very good reasons for that, which you shared with me. Now I understand. You showed me, that, in my particular case, there was a better opening that would get me better results.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 3

How I Got My Literary Agent for a Children's Book, Book Cover for CM Book TwoI also remember telling you, “Oh, that’s a great line you added to the query.” You replied, “Those are your words, from the author questionnaire.” I had to go back and find them because I didn’t believe you, but there they were. You know how to use what authors say, in the context of a query, in a way that stands out. I thought, “Okay, that’s what he’s genius at, taking the best parts of what an author says, down to a one or one-and-a-half-page query.”

When my husband saw the query, he said, “This was worth every penny.” You took all my ideas and answers, which were roaming all over the place, and put them together in a coherent system of thought that really worked. As you know, I manage an art gallery and work with artists all the time. My thing is helping them get their creativity seen and sold. So, I understand the importance of needing someone else to help you do that.

You also had me do something I’d never done, which was find books similar to mine to get a better sense of how my book was special. It took a lot of research, but I did it and that information made the query much stronger. Within nine days, I got my first expression of interest from a top agent, then I got a couple others. You helped me see that Janet was the most successful and enthusiastic, so I decided quickly to go with her.

I really love that her agency is “open.” The agents there all speak to each other and have a weekly meeting, during which they talk about what they’re doing. I’d actually sent my manuscript to a different agent at the agency, but, when she told everyone about my project, three agents wanted to represent me. Janet told me she loved it so much that she put her foot on it and pulled it toward her. And, that was that.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 4

How I Got My Literary Agent for a Children's Book, Book Cover for CM Book ThreeThe fact that Janet’s my agent is interesting because she teaches very different things about how to write a query. But your query worked with her, proof that there’s more than one way to write a great query. I’d known about Janet a long time and I’d been following her online. She’s known among writers as the Query Shark and she answers writers’ questions on her blog. I’ve always liked her style. She’s wonderfully snarky and funny.

When I first heard from Janet after I sent her my manuscript, she was just like she is on her website—funny and enthusiastic. I felt like she was popping out of her shoes and socks, she was so excited about my book. I didn’t expect that from an agent. I was expecting calm and buttoned up. I knew immediately we’d have a good relationship, that’s exactly how it’s gone, and it wouldn’t have happened without you.

Before I found you online, I just Googled agents for children’s books and it was a long, slow process of going through each agent’s website. I also looked at agent information in the Writer’s Digest Guide to Literary Agents, but that information gets old quick. Agents move around and change what they’re looking for. There were even some things on the agent list you sent me that were no longer correct, but I was expecting that because agent information changes so much, and I just verified information at the agent websites when needed.

Researching agents was time-consuming, but it was extremely time-consuming before I decided to work with you. Everything I needed was on the agent list you prepared for me. That list allowed me to do the agent research and ranking I needed to do in a couple weeks instead of months, which is what it would have taken doing it on my own. That was very valuable. It was also well laid out and made life simple compared to what it normally is.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 5

How I Got My Literary Agent for a Children's Book, Book Cover for CM Book FourOne of the worst parts about being an author isn’t the writing. It’s trying to get accurate information. You don’t want to waste time or annoy agents by sending them things they don’t want. Being an author is also challenging mentally. You have to tamp down the enthusiasm now and then, and just keep going. You can be happy when it happens, if it happens, but you also have to not slit your wrists if it doesn’t.

The questionnaire you had me fill out before our first phone call was helpful setting expectations. I loved the questionnaire. I worked on it for days and it made me think differently, about my books and my career. It was challenging but helped me focus in in a new way. Of course, I also loved talking about the questionnaire with you once I was done filling it out.

I was surprised and pleased with the ease I felt talking with you. You never know what you’re going to get with people. What’s that voice on the other end going to be like? Some people are fairly easy to work with and others are kind of grumpy or difficult. I didn’t have a lot of questions because you go through the process so well, step-by-step-by-step. And I never felt I was left out or couldn’t ask you questions. You were accessible.

I was pretty surprised you wanted me to send out so many queries all at once, but now it makes sense not to dribble them out there. Once you know the query is as good as it can be, especially if someone like you has improved it, there’s no reason to go slow. But if you don’t have help, you’re better off only sending five or six at a time, then trying to figure out why something isn’t working, if it isn’t working.

Thankfully, it worked for me. I think about you and how far you’ve gotten me. With big smiles and many thanks. I’m grinning like the Cheshire Cat.

C A T H E R I N E . M A T T H I A S

Author of the children’s book The Word Gobblers (Square One), and six other children’s books produced by Scholastic/Children’s Press (hardcover, softcover, boxed set) including Too Many Balloons, I Love Cats, Over-Under, and In the Door/Out the Door

K E N . D E R B Y - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for a Children's Book, Photo of KDI just sent out the query letter that Mark helped me write… and I’ve already had six top agents request my full manuscript or a partial. Some agents replied to the query in just a few hours… another one asked for my full manuscript just 15 minutes after I contacted her.

The most critical aspect of working with Mark is what he helps you do with your query letter… getting clear but also understanding that you’re selling yourself (maybe more than your book). Of course, your book is important, too. But you also need to sell yourself.

How I Got My Literary Agent for a Children's Book, Book Cover for KD Book OneIt never occurred to me to mention a lot of the things that Mark came up with… things that were very powerful. My grammar was correct and my query had a good flow to it, but I was missing important content. Mark made sure we looked at every possible angle to promote myself in the best way possible.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

One thing that surprised me was learning that query letters don’t have to be formal in tone. Mark helped me put more of my own slightly cynical voice into my query (something that’s a big part of my books). Understanding that I could use my own voice gave me more confidence.

When I first found out about Mark’s services, it didn’t take me long to commit and say ‘Okay I’ll put the cash down and do this.’ It’s a fair chunk of money for the everyday person but I’m smart enough to know that sometimes you have to pay for a worthwhile service. The payoff in the end, if it goes right, will be much higher than your initial investment. And I consider this an investment in myself so to speak.

Writing a query letter is different from writing a manuscript. When writing [fiction] manuscripts you’re in la-la land, making stuff up as you go along. But a query letter is the real thing. It’s writing about yourself and your book and the reality of how your book will sell. Not so easy. There are many places where you can get query letter advice… but they’re all different. So you don’t really know what’s right. You get canned suggestions that might suck, but how do you know if they suck?

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 3

How I Got My Literary Agent for a Children's Book, Book Cover for KD Book TwoWhat I appreciated most about this Mark’s process is that he saved me a lot of time. Mark understood all the other things I have going on in my life as a teacher, etc. So he was flexible and didn’t ask me to do lots of rewrites on my query… that was already pretty good. Instead he took extra responsibility and said ‘Listen, I’m going to do a revision for you, based on all our conversations and notes, and then see what you think.’ That took pressure off me, and the query letter was super.

I also liked that Mark was willing to get on the phone with me more often when I asked, so we wouldn’t have to send 50 emails back and forth. And he used Skype so we could have more of a personal connection, even though were 5,521 miles apart. I live in Budapest.

To be honest, I was skeptical when I first learned about Mark’s services. I didn’t think Mark was a scam artist, but you never know if someone’s going to do their job or take it seriously. So I should say here that Mark responds quickly to everything, and he does everything well. He also seemed genuinely interested in me, not just the idea of filling his wallet with my money.

If you’re thinking about working with Mark, it’s a valid worthwhile investment to write the best query letter possible. Your query letter is your first link with agents. They open that email or hard copy letter, read a few words and… it’s over. If you don’t hook them right away, they’re going to stop reading. Mark’s really good at finding the best hook for you, even when you might not be aware of it yet.

To sum it all up… Mark is a nice honest guy who really knows what he’s doing.

K E N . D E R B Y

Author of The Top 10 Ways to Ruin the First Day of School
(Holiday House/Scholastic)

O G I . R E S S E L - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for a Children's Book, Photo of ORMark, you helped me get offers from two agents and I just signed with Lee Sobel. This is EXACTLY why I hired you.I was on my computer when Lee called to talk about my book. He loved it, said it was one of the best stories he’s read in years. “Really well-written with a new perspective about the war.” He wanted to represent me right then and there.

My wife had to scrape me off the ceiling!

After I came down to earth, I sat outside with my wife looking at our pool, thinking, “This is unreal.” We went out for dinner and talked about it. When we came back home, there was a contract from Lee in my inbox. I sent it to you, you reviewed it, then I signed it and sent it back to Lee. It’s still unreal to me, damn exciting.

Right before I got the offer from Lee, I got a call from another agent who was excited about the manuscript and wanted to represent me. I thought, “Well, you couldn’t have read the damn thing, I just sent it 15 minutes ago.” Then I realized she was offering representation based on the query. She hadn’t even seen sample pages!

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

That agent has been representing authors for 20-odd years. She has a lot of experience and said, “I’ve never done this in my life, never sent a contract to an author I just met. But I’m doing it with you because I loved your query.” She was absolutely lovely, and I really enjoyed meeting her, but I felt Lee was a better match.

It was a tough decision and I had some sleepless nights before I went with Lee. I like that his father owns a publishing company, so he’s been at it with books since he was a little boy. He also spoke, when we talked, with strength and wonderful conviction. I thought to myself, “I feel good about this guy.”

I didn’t query anyone before I met you, Mark. My query letter was really weak. The query you wrote was fabulous. A number of agents said, “You’ve got one of the best query letters we’ve ever seen.” They said it was succinct and hit all the important points, whatever the hell that means. The agents never elaborated!

How I Got My Literary Agent for a Children's Book, Book Cover for OR Book OneWriting a powerful query is an art, and you’ve got it down. “Don’t change a word,” you said, and I didn’t! I had to send out a lot of queries to get offers, but I got a lot of requests from agents to read my book. At first, I didn’t think I was doing very well. I thought, “Oh, sh*t,” but I didn’t have anything to compare it to. Then I learned that most authors don’t get as many requests as I did.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 3

Querying agents was an amazing exercise. It was all new to me, so I learned a ton. Holy crap, the learning curve was steep. I’ve got to tell you, I don’t know if I’d be in this place today, Mark, if it wasn’t for your help. I totally believe that. You’ve been so instrumental in moving this thing forward, you have no idea. I’m so grateful.

Canada only has about ten, maybe fifteen agents. I started approaching them first, before you and I connected. I think I found you Googling literary agencies. You came up online. The number of literary agencies you sent me, to choose from, was mind-boggling. I thought, “Wow, that’s incredible!”

Dale Carnegie said, “Surround yourself with people who know more than you do.” That’s brilliant, how he formed his steel empire. He’s right. I look at my kids and they’re wizards on the computer. I think, “Do I need to take years to learn all this? No, I’ll hire someone else to do it!” I’m good at writing, so I’m going to concentrate on that part of my life, not on learning technology.

I’d rather let someone else worry about the publishing industry, like my agent. That’s his job. I honestly thought, at the beginning, “I’m going to write a book and submit it to a publisher and it’s going to be published.” I was so naïve! I had no idea a writer needs an agent and that agents don’t accept everybody. I was surprised how difficult the process was, there’s so much competition.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 4

Going through this with you has been a huge awakening. My favorite part, it’s going to sound corny, has been our conversations. You’re less formal with me now than you were during our first talk, nearly a year ago. I’ve enjoyed our time together and consider you a mentor and friend. We don’t talk often, but, when we do, we pick up where we left off. You’re not some distant guy that I can’t reach.

I’ve been in business long enough to know who I want to work with and who I don’t. I’ve been a coach myself, helping doctors run a successful practice, so I get it. Like you, I didn’t accept everybody into my program, so I totally understand how that works. The more successful I became, the pickier I became, it was good.

To anyone reading this: “If you’re serious about writing and want to get an agent, hire a coach to give you the tools to become successful. If you do it on your own, it probably ain’t going to happen. If it does, it’s going to be a very long and laborious process. If you want to avoid spending years doing things that don’t work, hire Mark. Then listen to what he says. It’s really simple.

Business has taught me that in order to make money you’ve got to bloody well spend it. Publishing is a business, and Mark knows that business as well as anyone. Thank you again, Mark, from my heart, for everything you’ve done for me. I appreciate you more than you know. I’m definitely going to take you up on your offer to meet in person. I would love that. And, of course, I’ve mentioned you to a bunch of my colleagues.

You’re an absolute gem.

O G I . R E S S E L

Author of Kids First (Square One) and
the novel series Young Partisans 
(not yet published)

D A M O N E . B E S T E R - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for a Children's Books, Photo of DBI just got offers from multiple publishers and signed a three-book deal. My friends want to take me to dinner to celebrate, but I’ve also planned a day fishing.

Before I decided to work with you, I sent out queries by myself and no one ever asked to look at my stuff. With you I felt more confident. You set things up well and took the guesswork out of everything.

When I got the first offer from a publisher, she said I had a great book and that my voice was needed in the world. That was nice to hear, but you suggested I wait, since other publishers were also interested in my work. So, we went through the process of applying a bit of pressure to them to see if we could create a “bidding war” or an even better situation.

The query I wrote before working with you was me taking a shot in the dark. That query was based on research I had done online, in a book, and it was based on a class I’d taken. But there’s a stark difference between what an author can do alone compared to working with someone like you who knows the industry and the lingo.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

How I Got My Literary Agent for a Children's Book, Book Cover for DB Book OneMy query was missing a first line that grabbed attention, and you knew the best way to intertwine my biographical information. You also added nuances to pique agent interest know how to get readers to nibble, and how to keep them on the line. And you ended the query differently than anything I had seen anywhere else.

Because you had me write to authors I admire we were able to mention in the query that three well-known writers had agreed to accept a review copy of my book. That beefed up the query. It showed I was able to help market my books, and that I was willing to invest that time and do some of that footwork.

It was also amazing to see how you much condensed my synopsis. It still made sense and sounded interesting when you were done with it, but it was shorter and nothing was missing. I was freaking out about how to fit everything. You also saw things in my synopsis that caused you to make manuscript revision suggestions.

My book is part of a series, and you said the end of the first book was too much of a cliffhanger. That made me weave content from the second book into the first one to make it more satisfying. You also convinced me not to kill off my main character in the first book. All that took several months of rewrites, but it worked out better that way.

You made researching agents easier, too. I used to go to Barnes & Noble each year to buy the Writer’s Market book. I’d weed through it to see who I could query. You streamlined that process for me with the Excel spreadsheet you sent me. It included every agent I could query, with everything I needed to know about them, and you dividing the agents into different sections based on how successful they were.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 3

Before I got that list, I thought I’d already queried everyone. I thought, based on my knowledge at the time, “There can’t possibly be more agents. This Mark guy is telling me there are more, but I’ve gone through the Writer’s Market. I’ve hit all of them.” Now that I’ve made it, I appreciate the process more. I feel like I can do anything, having gone through such an arduous process.

Beyond the tangibles, you gave me hope.

It took me 4.5 years to get my book deal, and I probably would have quit if you weren’t in my corner. I appreciate how you went above and beyond the one year of support you promised. You don’t quit on your clients, unless and until they quit on themselves. You’re always there, just an email away. That helped me continue, especially when I was thinking, “Man, this sucks.”

To be quite honest, I was surprised you stuck with me as long as you did, and that you didn’t make me pay more each year. I would have paid every year, as it would have been worth it. That was the most unexpected thing, to see you’re that dedicated to your clients. I didn’t know what I was going to get at first, when I found you online. But, during our first call, I picked up on cues that you were the real deal.

I have an advantage because I’ve worked in social services for many years. My wheelhouse is reading people. I know what types of questions to ask, and it was clear to me that you’re not just in it for the money. You’re genuine, you speak your heart, and there’s no fluff. If you think someone needs to improve or they’re not ready to query agents, you tell them, instead of hustling them.

I’ve come to value what you do so much that I’ve started referring you to friends. Anyone who sees what you’re doing should give you a try. If they don’t, they’ll be doing themselves a disservice.

D A M O N E . B E S T E R

Author of the YA novel, Mendel, published by The Story Plant, a traditional publisher dedicated to quality fiction, founded by long-term industry professionals Lou Aronica and Peter Miller

How I Got My Book Agent

Children’s Authors

AHHH! OMG, it happened! Mark helped me get three offers for representation from top literary agents! A short time later I signed a publishing contract with Kane Miller (a division of EDC publishing). They distribute books to all major retail outlets including bookstores, gift stores, museums, etc. They also have a direct sales division made up of nearly 18,000 independent sales consultants that sell their books to schools and libraries, and at home parties, fundraising events and school book fairs. After that, my agent sold my next book to Philomel, a division of Penguin Books. In short: I'm in heaven!

M I R I . L E S H E M . P E L L Y

Author/Illustrator of the picture book Penny and the Plain Piece of Paper (Penguin Books/Philomel), Scribble & Author (Kane Miller), and many other children’s picture books

MLP Book Cover for P and the PPP with scribble drawing of cute blotch character, posted by Get a Literary Agent Guide

MLP book cover of S and A with paintbrush drawing cute animated figured, posted by Get a Literary Agent Guide

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CHRISTIAN BOOK AUTHORS – How i got a book agent

These Christian book authors share how they got literary agents. Christian writers of all genres (fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books) can use this information to become successful authors. These are just some of the Christian book authors who’ve used this literary agent blog and gotten literary agent advice about how to get a Christian literary agent.

Christian authors explaining how they got a literary agent, with photo of book agent in suit, posted by Get a Literary Agent

S C O T T . L E R E T T E - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for a Christian Book, Photo of SLBoom!!!

I just signed a contract with Thomas Nelson/Harper Collins for (what I’ve been told by several people) is a very large advance for a first-time author.

Before working with Mark I submitted my book to agents but didn’t get any interest. This time around I got a top NY literary agency, FinePrint Lit. They teamed up with MacGregor Literary and got publishers bidding against each other. Now I’m looking forward to my book tour. I’m also excited to say that the Editor in Chief at Thomas Nelson is going to be my editor!

What cloud is higher than 9?

How I Got My Literary Agent for a Christian Book, Book Cover for SL Book One Movie PosterI actually had several agencies interested before deciding to go with Fine Print. And, to be honest, all of the attention didn’t surprise me. The query letter and proposal that Mark helped me develop were incredible. Agents actually said things to me like: ‘Scott, I read your proposal and I’m just blown away by it! Are you available to chat tomorrow afternoon?’

One of the reasons I’m having so much success is that Mark helped me steer my entire vision for the book. He took the time to get to know me and understand what it was that I was trying to do. That’s just as important as the actual writing of the query letter and proposal.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

Mark walked me through every step of the process, baby step by baby step. He showed me how to give my book greater bestseller potential, making it more meaningful and appealing to a broader audience. He guided me through some minor rewrites. And he showed me how to communicate all of the project’s value to agents. I was too close to it.

How I Got My Literary Agent for a Christian Book, Book Cover for SL Book OneI might have been able to get an agent without Mark’s help, but it probably wouldn’t have been a TOP agent. My chances of eventually getting published would have been a lot less. And, if I did get published, it probably would have been on a much smaller scale, for a much smaller deal.

The sample query letters, proposals, questionnaires, and training documents that Mark gives his clients are significantly better than anything I’ve ever seen. I’ve gotten a lot of information online and in writers’ forums, and it doesn’t look anything like this.

Going through Mark’s process helps you pull every useful thought and detail out of you… so your finished query letter and proposal are mostly your words, in your voice. But Mark has this amazing expertise and ability to take your words, move them around, and make them sound so much better.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 3

In fact, there were things that I told Mark casually on the phone during our sessions, that I later saw he’d added to my query letter! I’m reading it to my wife… saying ‘Yeah!’ and high-fiving her because it’s exactly what I said… and it works great.

Mark also brings passion and compassion to his work. He really cares about the authors he works with, and he’s sincere. It’s pretty neat to have someone like that, when you can feel they’ve ‘bought in’ and they’re passionate about your project. It’s great to have someone that you can call your mentor or guiding force, your silver bullet or secret weapon.

Mark is extremely talented at what he does, and the process of working with him has totally opened my eyes. If you have the opportunity to work with him, take advantage of it.

S C O T T . L E R E T T E – HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

Author of the memoir The Unbreakable Boy (Thomas Nelson/Harper Collins), adapted to feature film with Lionsgate starring Zachary Levi, Amy Acker, and Patricia Heaton

K A R E N . S A R G E N T - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for a Christian Book, Photo of KSI was thrilled when I checked my email and saw the news that a publisher was making an offer on my book! The Acquisitions Editor met with her partners and they discussed the manuscript because they’d never published anything like it before. But they still wanted it!

My literary start was kind of odd. I found out that the wife of someone I work with had a best friend who was a literary agent, and I had an immediate connection with that agent. I hadn’t written a word of my book yet and she encouraged me through the initial process. Then when the manuscript was finished, I wrote my version of a query letter, which, when I look back on it now, was absolutely ridiculous. Everything I’ve read about query letters since then said, “Don’t do this!” and I did every single one of those things.

My original query was awful, but I didn’t think it would matter because I knew the agent and got to bypass the normal submission process the first go around. That agent took several months to review my book and recommend some revisions. But ultimately, in the end, there were three things they wanted me to change. I did two of them very well I just couldn’t hit the mark with one of them. So that didn’t go any further. Then I really had to dive into the query letter, proposal, and synopsis process for real.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

How I Got My Literary Agent for a Christian Book, Book Cover for KS Book OneI only sent four query letters out after that, before I started working with Mark. Not many, because I knew that I didn’t know how to write them. I sent them and they weren’t good, but I really didn’t know what to do. So not only was I writing poor query letters, I had no strategy and everything was wrong. Then I eventually pitched the project to an editor at a writing conference, and I used the query that Mark helped me with as a good chunk of my in-person pitch. That editor then asked to talk with me after the workshop and later asked me to send the manuscript.

The query Mark helped me put together made agents and publishers want to keep reading.My first query was too wordy. Agents would have had to read through too many things to get down to the gist of what they wanted to know. Agents don’t have time to wade through all that stuff. Mark’s final query gave them what they were looking for immediately.

I was also shocked and amazed that Mark helped me to get a positive response from a very, very well known New York Times bestselling author who agreed to let me send her a copy of my book for a possible testimonial. I’ve had several exchanges of emails with that author since then. She said my novel sounded like a great story. I was just surprised she took the time to reply at all!

When I first found Mark’s website, I was definitely floundering. I read everything and it felt too good to be true, some guy on the Internet with all the answers. I really wanted to believe it, but I also wanted to make a good decision, a logical decision and not an emotional decision. So I actually contacted some of the authors Mark had worked with to ask them about their experience, if it was worth the money.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 3

I received wonderful feedback and it was the same kind of feedback I’d give someone if they asked me that same question today. I think, when I was trying to decide whether to spend the money to work with Mark, the number one important thing for me was integrity. To me that’s everything. I’m a teacher and my husband is in law enforcement and we’re not wealthy people, and it was a little bit of an investment for me to work with Mark.

I’m in charge of our family budget and I have kids. One of them is is in college and the other one will be one soon. Being a mom you feel selfish if you take a little chunk of the family budget and invest it in something for yourself. That was a real hard decision for me. I even took a little bit of funds out of my daughter’s college fund, trusting I’d make the money back. I had to really make sure that my family wasn’t going to sacrifice in a wasteful way so I could chase what might just be a dream.

The clincher for me that made me decide to work with Mark was the introductory coaching call that I had with him.Listening to Mark’s voice and the things he said, everything was in line with things I already knew or had read or just questions that were floating in my mind and I had no idea what the answers were. Mark had those answers and they made sense. So that first phone call, for me, erased my doubts and questions.

Publishing was such an unknown world to me when I started this journey, but I felt that Mark would be an anchor for me and guide everything in the right direction. It was important for me to have someone who knew the industry, that I could ask questions, and I knew that I could have confidence in him. Mark never led me anywhere or told me anything that didn’t turn out to be exactly what it should have been, or what he said it would be.

Now my whole family is invested in my books. I hardly wash dishes anymore! My husband does it. Everybody in the family has stepped in. They know when I’m writing and working on things and they sacrifice to help.

K A R E N . S A R G E N T

Author of the Christian novel Waiting for Butterflies (Amphorae / Walrus Publishing), winner of the IAN book awards for both Outstanding Christian Fiction and Book of the Year

M . T H O M P S O N - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for a Christian Book, Photo of MTThank you Mark!

After you helped me get a well-known agent with Hartline Literary Agency (for my previously self-published murder mystery), he got me a deal with an American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) approved publisher. I’m hard-pressed to find anything that I had an expectation for that you didn’t deliver on. Now I’m sending you clients!!!

How I Got My Literary Agent for a Christian Book, Book Cover for MT Book OneBefore I worked with you I sent out queries, but no one ever requested my complete manuscript. Everyone says that writing your own query is one of the hardest things to do. It’s true. Comparing your new version of my query to the one I wrote before, I can see a vast difference. You took things out that weren’t important and you put things in that were important. You also came up with a titillating opening sentence and you added a lot more about my background.

The agent list you sent me was also a real bonus. I didn’t expect it to be that organized, have that many agents on it, or have that much detail about all the agents and what they want. If I’d used Query Tracker to look everyone up and find all that information, it would have taken me 3 full days. 8 hours a day. At least. The agent list you sent me had everything I needed to find the best agents for my work—fast.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

I’ve been in business for 35 years so I’m not just saying this… what you’re doing is phenomenal. There are other people offering similar services, but the difference is your success. Others might say they do similar things but, if you research them, they don’t have your background or track record. You’re much more than just a smart salesperson though. You’re a real helpmate with a gift for being friendly, real, and transparent—and you have integrity.

How I Got My Literary Agent for a Christian Book, Book Cover for MT Book TwoEverything you send out is very detailed, organized, and personalized…written like you’re someone’s best friend. I was surprised how quickly I felt I knew you, just through our emails and talking on the phone. You’re always on time, too. And you sell yourself very, very well. But you don’t oversell yourself, and you don’t disappoint your clients.

When I decided to take a shot and invest in your program, I asked myself what it was going to cost me to work with you. I also asked myself what it was going to cost me if I didn’t work with you. I knew something was wrong with my query because I wasn’t getting responses. And you had so many great testimonials on your website that I didn’t have a lot of fear about working with you.

It’s a mixed up, overcrowded world out there with everyone offering advice about publishing and literary agents. Plus everybody thinks they’re a writer—it’s unbelievable—so it’s harder to stand out. Successful authors are good at writing books but they’re not usually good at marketing themselves, especially when it comes to getting an agent. Every serious author owes it to himself or herself to get the best possible help during that process.

M I C H A E L . T H O M P S O N

Author of the Christian fiction novels
The Rector and The Actress

A N N I E . F A R R I S - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for a Christian Book, Photo of AFWhen I got a letter from Bruce Barbour, one of the most successful Christian agents, saying my proposal was one of the best he’s ever seen, I was floored. It was silly though because I’d worked very hard, with your help, but I was still in disbelief. In fact, it took a couple days to sink in. I went whale watching to celebrate. I’m still celebrating.

The main thing I wanted to do was enjoy the journey, whatever happened. Telling my story is something I’ve wanted to do most of my life, to share it with other people in the hope it might encourage them. I didn’t believe I’d be able to get an agent since I’m not famous, but you believed in me.

All your clients say how supportive you are. So, I decided to trust the steps you outlined. I would have leapt into a query letter and book proposal, because I didn’t know any better. You said, “No, let’s start with the book.” I didn’t realize there were things that could be improved. So, I learned up front to relax and trust you. What’s the point of working with someone if you’re not going to trust their expertise?

Following your lead took a lot of the stress out of the process of trying to get an agent for me. I also want to say how reliable and prompt you were with our emails and scheduling phone calls. That was gold to me. I never felt like I was a client put on a shelf, or the tenth one down or whatever. I always felt like a priority with you, and that gave me the extra assurance I needed to keep moving.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

The agent information you gave me was also worth the price of our arrangement to work together. I mean, I’ve got whole books here of agents I’ve gone through in past years, with information about who to query and who wants what, but I’ll tell you, when I saw your agent spreadsheet, with absolutely everything I needed to choose and query agents, I thought, “I can’t believe it.”

The spreadsheet was helpful because it made it clear exactly what to send to each agent. I had it all at my fingertips. So, I could go boom, boom, boom. If I hadn’t had that, it would have driven me crazy, trying to figure everything out. That’s the beauty of your systematic system. It’s “Okay, start here, then do this, and then do that.” I had everything ready and I was confident.

How I Got My Literary Agent for a Christian Book, Book Cover for AF Book OneWhen you said, “Start with the top agents,” I thought, “That’s ridiculous.” The agents you wanted me to query had fabulous clients, household names, so I felt querying them would be a waste of time. “Why not start with the bottom of the list?” I asked. “Or, at least, the middle of the list, where somebody might be more likely to take a first-time author?” If it hadn’t been for you, I wouldn’t have queried top agents.

I’d been told by everyone, “Memoirs don’t get published unless you’re Jennifer Aniston or Joel Osteen.” One writers’ conference I spent thousands of dollars to go to explained that even though I had a great story and the writing was good, nothing mattered but platform, platform, platform. Do you have 100,000 people following you? Do you have an active speaking tour? If I’d known that ahead of time, I wouldn’t have wasted my time or money. You said platform was important, but it wasn’t everything.

There were tons of platform things you had me do though. I started out with a scrawny marketing plan in my book proposal and you said, “No, no, no, that’s not enough. I want more.” I thought, “Gee whiz.” But you had me do things that kept making it stronger. I could have killed you for all the work you had me do. I kept thinking, “The drudgery!” It went on and on, but all your nagging worked!

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 3

Two of the first questions you asked me were, “Are you in this for the long run?” and “What are your expectations?” Those were important questions because I’d talked with a lot of people in my writing class and at conferences. A lot of authors want everything now or they try to get published because they need the money. I knew from what I’d already been through, you can’t think that way going into it. It takes time. I’m not in this for the money. I just want to tell my story to encourage others. Writing has got to be a labor of love.

I understand, from my acting, radio, and real estate careers that if you’re going to get anywhere it takes perseverance, and sometimes you have to go beyond the point where you’re ready to give up. I’ve had negotiations in real estate and some are delightful while others are difficult. But, if you believe in the client, you hang in there. So, when I got writing criticism or didn’t think I could do it, I thought, “No, don’t play that old tape. Push forward.” That’s what I’ve learned.

One of my favorite quotes is by Winston Churchill and it’s on my computer, “Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.” I love Churchill. When bombs were falling on London for 40 straight days, he said, “Never, never, never, never give up.” There have been many times when I’ve felt like giving up but didn’t. In real estate, I couldn’t. If I did, I would have lost my client and they would have told the whole neighborhood, “She’s not going to work for you.”

Another good quote I like, that I had on the refrigerator when my kids were growing up, was by Calvin Coolidge. It said, “Nothing in the world takes the place of persistence. Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

When I came to my writing, I had all that as my armor. I thought, “If I’m going to do this, I’m going to pursue it to the very end. I will go to Mark because he has the best system. If I don’t make it with him, I’ll know I tried my very best and did everything I could. If I don’t make it, I’ll spend more time playing piano, taking the dogs to the beach, learning a language, and socializing with my friends. I knew that with you I’d get closure. I had to know. Did God want me to publish my story or not? There was only one way to find out. Just do it!

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 4

I was irritated it took so long for us to start querying agents, but I trusted you and now I couldn’t be more thrilled. You’ve always had my best interests at heart. When I talk to people about working with you, I say the cost of the arrangement between us was worth it ten times over. I wish I had found you a year earlier, and I’m so glad that I finally realized that there comes a time when you have to invest in yourself.

You were recommended to me by a great teacher I know. She said, “He’s good, but very pricy.” I’d reached the point where reading books and going to seminars and conferences was no longer helpful. Writing teachers are wonderful at helping you improve your writing, but that’s all they do. They’re not always really interested in, or good at, writing query letters or book proposals. I sent out dozens of queries like those I saw in the books, that my teachers and classes thought were good. But I didn’t get anywhere!

That’s why I decided to hire you. I had worked too hard to give up, and the people I knew didn’t know how to help me take that next step. Other people often think they know, but they don’t. When I went on your website and read about what you do, I thought, “This guy knows what he’s doing.” Your passion isn’t just writing, it’s helping authors get agents. There’s a world of difference. You’re also very down-to-earth.

You’ve been a real partner, totally on my team, someone I could turn to, so I didn’t have to rely on my own lack of wisdom. It can be a lonely job, trying to get an agent and get a book published. I could tell from our first phone call, there was nothing arrogant about you. It wasn’t, “Well, aren’t you lucky to be working with me? Send over the bucks and I’ll consider you.” I appreciate that most of all.

Meeting you for brunch was also lovely. I had looked forward for so long to meeting you in person and you exceeded all of my expectations in terms of your warmth and caring. Even as busy as you are, you didn’t seem rushed and I appreciate that. You and Ingrid are a most inspiring, talented, and charming couple. When I found you, I thought I had already done everything possible, but you took it over the top.

I’m tickled I found you!

Thank you, Mark, for a wonderful journey!

A N N I E . F A R R I S

Author of That One Person: The True Story of a God Appointed Stranger Who Saved the Life of a Little Girl with Her Love, published by Crosslink Publishing, a traditional publisher and subsidiary of the CrossLink family of ministries

N A N C Y . W I L L I A M S - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for a Christian Book, Photo of NWElk Lake Publishing just offered me a contract!!

They’re a traditional Christian publisher with more than 175 books in print and they only work with agents. As you know, Joyce Hart, the president of Hartline Literary Agency, is handling everything. She’s a real sweetheart. When I got the contract, I took a deep breath, jumped up and down, and told my husband. He watched me go through this tense process. We’re both relieved because now we have better meals and a cleaner house again!

I’m very methodical and organized, so you’ve been a blast to work with. You’re also very encouraging, and I needed that too at times. I made myself a little chart of your, “Don’t give up, you can do it” messages. That kept me focused when I really wanted to take a nap. You need some type of reminder to look past the moment, because the moments can be really tough. But the end result can be very satisfying.

I really prayed about working with you. My husband and I have a bed and breakfast, and I have an editing business. It’s all been successful to a point, but we’re not going to burn down any barns or anything. I thought I was supposed to work with you and my husband trusts my instincts, so I did it. When you’re working on your own, you need help, especially with your query letter, because you lose the objectivity needed to be successful.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

How I Got My Literary Agent for a Christian Book, Book Cover for NW Book OneI knew my stuff was as good as I could make it, but I also knew I needed a fresh set of eyes, attached to somebody who knows the business. In your case, you know three sides of the business: writer, agent, and publisher. You tweaked my presentation in ways I wouldn’t have thought to do. It was really good because you made the query more thorough and that caused people to more carefully consider the project.

I had nibbles at first that sounded really promising, but they didn’t pan out. When those didn’t come through it was hard to take, but every time I saw any glimmer of hope, I was on it and that’s how everything finally worked out. You helped me through the rough periods so I could get stoked again and say, “I’m going to finish the job and, if I don’t get anything, I’ll at least know I did the best I could.”

Some authors write as a hobby but for others like me, this is our legacy. And, if it’s worth fighting for, it’s worth putting money and effort into. You want to have the persistence needed and give yourself the best chance to get over the hump. I say, “Do it when you don’t feel like it because that’ll be the moment it comes through. When you’re at your worst, do your best. The reward may come in, despite what you feel.”

We’re all good at certain things, and not others. To be perfectly honest, I hate marketing and told the Lord, “I don’t get it, I don’t want to get it, and I don’t want to do it. I want somebody else to do it.” Then your website popped up. Anybody can do a halfway job, but you helped me do the best I could with what I’ve got. That’s been my motto all my life. If I find a good avenue, I’ll go down it. Even if I have to borrow money and eat peanut butter sandwiches…although I didn’t have to do that in this case.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 3

It would have been easier not to try, to not have any hopes. It’s hard to get your hopes up and be torn apart if it doesn’t come. But you never know what might happen unless you see something through, which I did. The right agent might be right around the corner if you stick with it, and you’ll never know if you don’t try. I’d be fine giving my books away out of the trunk of my car, but I’m happier to have a legitimate publisher. That way I’ll reach more readers with the important messages in my books.

The introductory coaching call we did together was huge because hearing you helped me gauge your sincerity. You can sense things in someone’s voice that you can’t get from a website. That was important to me because I’ve been ripped off a number of times and, after a while, you can start thinking everyone’s a bit shady. So, that was very helpful. I wouldn’t have signed up if it hadn’t been for that first call.

I also like that you don’t take anybody who wants to work with you after that first call. Everybody needs to know that, because your coaching can only be as good as your clients’ writing and their commitment to following your suggestions. I’m one of those people who will find gems everywhere I look, but I didn’t have to do that with you. You’re a well-rounded person with a great sense of humor, which can be healing. And, most important, I felt your genuine belief in my writing…every writer needs that.

I’ve had a lot of people say they like my writing, but my confidence grew in leaps and bounds with you, an authority, when you said my writing was good. It’s wonderful when you invest your time, and it works in your favor. For me, it was also a confidence builder. I appreciate all your wisdom and your “Don’t quit” attitude.

You’re a blessing.

N A N C Y . W I L L I A M S

Author of Murder Walks on Peachtree Street, published by Elk Lake Publishing, a traditional Christian publisher and member of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA), the Christian Indie Publishers Association (CIPA), and associate member of the Christian Retailers Association, with more than 175 books in print

M O L L Y . H U F F M A N - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for a Christian Book, Photo of MHI just had a call with Jim Hart and his mother Joyce with Hartline Literary Agency, one of the most established and successful literary agencies serving Christian writers and readers, and they offered me representation!

YAY!!!

I am SO grateful for you and your help. Jim was very pleased with my proposal. He said it was excellent. He was like, “Proposals should be like Goldilocks. Not too short, not too long. Just right. And yours was perfect!”

Jim asked me about the long list of powerful people in my proposal, the ones you showed me how to contact for permission to review my book. I was really excited about that part of the proposal, and I would have never thought to do that.

It’s funny, because I had gotten an email from another agent who was negative about the list of potential endorsers and promotional partners in my proposal. She said, “I don’t know what this is…” and she was kind of mean about it. I was like, “Okay, delete.”

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

Some agents aren’t nice, and they basically say on their websites, “I don’t really have time for you if you don’t have a large platform or social media following.” I have two FB pages and a decent number of friends and followers, but I knew it wasn’t going to be enough to impress agents. You told me I’d be better off doing other things to make my platform stronger, things that would be easier and faster. So that’s what I did, and it worked!

Before I got the offer for representation, I was discouraged because all I had gotten from agents was rejections. A lot of “No thank you’s” and a couple agents who commented that memoir is not selling right now. So, when there was another email in my inbox, I just assumed, “Here we go again.” But then it said the agency wanted to talk to me about representation. I couldn’t believe someone was interested.

I think my mouth fell open.

When I started working with you, I was pregnant. I was working full-time as a teacher Monday through Friday. And I had two preteen stepdaughters. I was living a busy, busy life and it was so crazy. But you and I did everything we needed to do to start getting queries out before my due date. I had my baby just one week before I got the offer.

It was perfect timing.

My family will tell you I was glued to the kitchen table with my laptop, many evening and weekends getting everything done. They were constantly moving my computer because it was always in the way. But that’s part of the fun because when I got an agent, my husband and the girls cheered wildly because they’d been part of it.

We’re all over the moon about everything.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 3

Before I got an agent, I had heard stories from authors saying things like, “I worked a full-time job and did everything on evenings and weekends.” I thought, “That’s craziness.” But then, when it was my turn to have my shot, I wanted it so badly that I did the same thing! It’s amazing what you’ll do when you really want something.

The most beneficial part of your coaching, to me, I think, was realizing my book could have a story arc. Since my book started out as a series of blog posts that I posted mostly for people who already knew me and knew my story, the arc needed work. We needed to add stuff like backstory and character development so the story would make sense to people who didn’t know me. I also added some lighthearted content because the story is really sad, even though, in the end, it’s inspiring and empowering.

I felt deflated and defeated before I found you. A friend of mine who is published had connected me with her agent, but she wasn’t interested. Working with you helped me get back up again, and it made me more confident. I suddenly knew what direction to go in. You also gave me the confidence I needed to query really successful agencies.

My old pitch materials were okay, but the query and proposal I sent out with you were much more polished and professional, geared more toward what agents want, because you were an agent. You know what to put in there, especially when it comes to making a book and author sound more marketable.

I really felt like you knew my project. You understood the story I was trying to tell and what I valued in the story. You’re also very professional and relationship-centered. I didn’t feel like I was just a random person or client, and you were a good cheerleader who kept encouraging me, making me feel that my book could be successful.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 4

I also appreciate that you set clear expectations. During our very first phone call you told me exactly what you saw in my writing and how I could improve. Then, when I signed up to do more, you did what you said you were going to do. All along the way there were clear directions. You made it very simple and I always knew what we were going to do next. It was a lot of work, more than I thought it would be. But it helped that I have a really supportive husband. He wanted my book to succeed and believed in it. He would always ask, “What did you guys talk about this time? What’s the next step?”

I forget exactly how I found you, but it was online searching for something and I listened to your podcast about the seven things every author needs to know to get a literary agent. I took notes and then, at the end, you offered a coaching call. I thought, “This sounds like a scheme.” But then I saw all the testimonials by people on your website who worked with you and then got agents, and I actually bought and read one of their books.

The book is called The Unbreakable Boy by Scott LeRette, and, in the acknowledgements, he gave you a big paragraph thanking you for your work and support in getting him to that place. I thought, “Okay. This guy is legit.” Then I did the one-hour phone call and I was really impressed with your knowledge of the industry and all these things you mentioned that I would have never thought of, and your excitement for my project. By the end of our phone call, I knew you were not a scam and I was really excited to go forward.

I didn’t want to be one of those people who has all these goals but keeps walking in circles. If you really want to do something new and you want to be successful, the wisest thing to do is to get help from someone who has the expertise you need. Sometimes, you have to put your money where your mouth is. If an author really wants to put himself or herself in the best position to get an agent, I would encourage them to get help and, based on my experience, I would say they should work with you.

I don’t know how many people you work with, but I sometimes find myself thinking, “Oh my gosh. That poor man. He’s probably exhausted from all these people and their needs!” But you’re very organized. At first, I remember thinking, “Wow, it’s really assertive of him to say some of the things he does about what his clients can and cannot do.” You have a lot of guidelines. But I can see how you would need them. Some people would take advantage of you or waste your time without those guidelines.

THANK YOU!!!

I couldn’t have done this without you!

M O L L Y . H U F F M A N

Author of the memoir God’s Favor
(not yet published)

A N G I E . G I B B O N S - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for a Christian Book, Photo of AGWoohoo!!!

I just got an offer for representation!!

My work with you gave me the strength and credibility I needed—and my agent LOVED the title and theme framework you suggested, so I want to give you props for that! She said there’s obviously nothing new under the sun, but the way I approached the project felt unique. I initially told you, “Gosh, I don’t know.” I had to trust your judgment and sit with the new title and concept to get comfortable with it. Then I saw how to pull that thread through the book, and I was like, “This can really work.”

The idea of “walking the tightrope of life,” balancing fear and faith, is a powerful metaphor that’s also visual and easy to remember. It accurately represents what my book is about, but in a way that takes it up a level (no pun intended). My agent and I talked about how we’re all walking a tightrope in life, with many things that can cause us to be anxious or fall, with each step in front of us somewhat unknown. We’re not going to change that, but we can learn to get more comfortable, stable, and steady on the tightrope.

My agent, Blythe Daniel, is an upbeat, positive person who loves my writing, wants to work with me on more books, and feels my prospects with publishers are great. It’s the best-case scenario, and she loves that my book proposal had so much information. It wasn’t until near the end our first call, though, that it occurred to me, “Oh, she wants me.” After months and months of preparing and putting myself out there, it was nice to see the tables turned—an agent putting herself out there hoping I would say yes.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

After a celebratory dinner, my husband and I made cupcakes with the kids because we share every victory with them. They’ve been very supportive and helped make this happen. I was constantly lowering my expectations, talking about the statistics regarding how hard it is to get published, since most people don’t really know or understand that. I’d been reading your blog for a year, so I knew it was going to be an intensive time. Fortunately, everyone was in my corner and made space so I could do what was needed.

When I started writing, it was on my blog, but I hadn’t figured out the best way to integrate my blog and my book concept. I knew I needed focus to have the motivation I needed, and working with you helped me find that clarity. I also started with a very small platform, no big email list or social media following. You helped motivate me to invest time in building my platform by saying, “If you do it well, you’ll be able to inspire people with your story and message, right now, no matter what happens with your book.”

That was a powerful motivator because I knew the book might not happen. Like you say, it doesn’t happen for everybody. Doing the platform work the way you suggested helped me see I’d get something out of the process by making connections, reaching and helping people, regardless of what might happen with literary agents later. Because of that, I now have connections and influence I didn’t have before. That’s a huge win, in and of itself. But, as you know, that also helped me get an agent.

I’m surprised how much I’ve enjoyed the fruits of the outreach process. As a typical writer with an introverted personality, I felt like I was jumping off a cliff. I remember thinking, “If I start contacting people and asking them for things like permission to publish an article on their website or to appear on their podcast, I’ll actually have to do it.” So, I was hesitant but pleasantly surprised how positively people responded. It was a much more enriching experience than I expected.

Blythe is really happy with my platform and she referenced it a couple times during our initial call. It’s funny because, looking at my proposal, you’d think I’d been doing this type of platform work for many years. I hadn’t thought about it that way before she started referencing my experience and connections, but it makes a lot of sense now. Before I worked with you, I was doing things haphazardly without much progress because I wasn’t sure exactly what my goals were, or the best way to achieve them.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 3

Before I started querying agents, as an unpublished author, when I started pitching articles and pitching myself as a guest for podcasts, I was shocked when people started saying yes. It took a lot of work, but it wasn’t as hard as I thought because, like you told me, those people are looking for content. I actually started enjoying the process and now all those seeds I planted are blossoming. For example, one person I reached out to recently followed up and said, “I have this podcast and FB group and I’d like to promote some things with you.”

Another example is I recently had an opportunity to do a live Instagram video with another successful author who’s published several books. I reached out to her previously, to ask if I could write an article for her blog, and she’s since put me on her regular writing team. Those types of things might not sound big, but those “little” opportunities add up and I’m now slowly and steadily becoming part of a bigger community. It’s fun and fulfilling, and it’s helped me refine and hone my message.

The other factor that motivated me to work with you is I didn’t want to have regrets. I’d already given a lot of time and effort to writing my book. I didn’t want to walk away from it thinking, “I wonder if it would have worked if I’d just spent a little bit more time or worked a little bit harder.” I didn’t want that hanging over me, so I put some other things in my life on the shelf and said, “I’m going to value myself as a writer, value this process, and give it everything I have. Then if it doesn’t work out, I can say, ‘It wasn’t meant to be.’”

I’d read blog posts and attended webinars about how to get an agent, but there was a lot of conflicting information—and the statistics as well as how the pieces have to come together were intimidating. I knew I wasn’t ready, and I didn’t want to try to get an agent alone. Trying to get published can be a lonely process as well, so the idea of having a coach appealed to me. That’s when I started looking into your program and got excited, about having somebody help me do things the best way and have accountability. Any time you invest in something—time or money—you’re usually going to work harder.

I felt working with you would give me confidence needed to move forward and share my gift, when the idea of doing so was terrifying. I wanted and possibly needed someone in my corner saying, “This is how you do it, let’s go.” Instead of looking into the void, you led me through everything step by step, in an organized and professional way that gave me a sense of security. You have a nice balance of being confident and direct but warm and easy to talk to. You don’t come across as cocky or brash but kind and experienced. That makes it easy to trust you.

Thank you for making this such an enjoyable process. I have no doubt that I couldn’t have done it without you. I’m really grateful.

A N G I E . G I B B O N S

Author of the Christian nonfiction book Walking the Tightrope (not yet published)

J O E L . T O W N S E N D - HOW I GOT MY LITERARY AGENT

How I Got My Publishing Agent for a Christian Book, Photo of JTI now have an agent with Hartline Literary Agency! Mark, before we started working together, I did research on the Internet and picked up a couple of books, one by Michael Hyatt and the other by Terry Whalin. I used that information as well as I could to put together a query letter and book proposal, but then I was shocked and crushed when my book wasn’t picked up immediately. I couldn’t figure out why everyone in the world wouldn’t love what I had written! I felt that there was something I wasn’t getting. That’s when I saw your information on the web and took advantage of it.

Zig Ziglar used to say, ‘You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.’ That’s what you do, Mark. You provide a lot of very valuable things on your websites pro bono: articles, interviews, and your literary agent directory. You just put it out there for free and you’re glad to see people take advantage of it, whether they sign up for coaching with you or not. That soft sell philosophy really spoke to me. You’re one of the few people out there who’ve figured out that you don’t do well by clamoring and jumping up and down shouting, ‘Hire me!!!’ You do well by getting out there and actually providing value.

Your website actually became so important to me that I decided to take advantage of your 1-hour introductory coaching call offer, which was also very valuable. Before we talked, you invested considerable energy in understanding what I was doing by reading my material thoroughly. You took the time to really understand my project and you were able to speak to that. You also had all kinds of positive suggestions for me, and I knew immediately that you knew what you were doing. That moment was golden, a very exciting moment. I felt like I had made a connection with someone on the inside and, during that first call, I began to forge a friendship and professional relationship with you.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 2

I’m more knowledgeable about the publishing industry now and most authors don’t get their material read. You have to know certain vocabulary, specific processes, and extremely sophisticated etiquette. And those first few words of your query letter absolutely count. You have about 8 seconds — and sometimes just the subject line. As I mentioned before, reading books and websites about how to write a query letter and book proposal isn’t the same as talking with someone. There are things you just can’t learn in a book or online. Working with you allowed me to tailor everything that you teach in ways that were specific to my book. There is such a benefit in the give and take of a conversation, and the ability to ask questions.

You helped me stand out from all the other talented authors who want to write, and you helped me get beyond the first waves of disappointment and doubt. When you are trying to get an agent there are many waves of disappointment. It’s easy to pack it in and go do something else. That’s what I wanted to do, a few dozen times. Doubt is a wicked thing, so having someone standing there with you, who knows what you’re going through, and the industry, really matters. It wasn’t like you were cracking the whip, but I always felt you had a certain investment in me. There were times when I would look in the mirror and I was fully willing to disappoint myself, but I wasn’t willing to disappoint you.

If I hadn’t worked with you, Mark, I would have quit a year ago. That’s just a fact. I knew that you believed in my book and we had a very good, quality relationship. Even though it was business, I felt like there was a genuine concern for me and my message, and for my making it through to the other side. You’re very warm and supportive, and you take an absolutely genuine interest in the well being of your clients and their progress. You’re very friendly and easy to talk with as well, and that’s particularly helpful because this is a hard, hard industry emotionally. Authors don’t need a drill sergeant — they need a friend and confidant.

How I Got My Literary Agent – Pt 3

There are so many people offering things for authors online, but I did a lot of research and it was easy to see that you’re different. Everybody has concerns about paying someone they don’t know for something — that’s natural and healthy, particularly on the Internet. But the resources on your website were so valuable and you had so many testimonials that you quickly won me over. I remember seeing the offer for the coaching call and thinking, ‘What an opportunity! I can get someone in the industry to look at my stuff and, even if he tells me it’s bad and I should and quit, it will be worth the investment because I really don’t know.’

After the introductory coaching call with you, it wasn’t a leap for me at all to look at the full-blown program. It wasn’t cheap, and I was in a position financially where that was a difficult thing, but it was worth every penny. You helped me read my material objectively and think like an agent. You helped me make the marketing and promotion section of my pitch absolutely bulletproof. And the agent spreadsheet you put together for me was also very helpful. The agent information that you gave me was much more up to date then anything else I could find online. And I didn’t have a single case where a submission was returned or an email address was no longer working.

I’ve always believed that regret is one of the worst things a human can suffer from — it’s almost worse then a dreaded disease. The older you get, you regret missed opportunities. That includes opportunities to invest in yourself and develop yourself — and that includes your writing. I don’t care what anyone says, writing is a craft. It’s something that has to be developed. And selling yourself in the publishing industry is one step beyond that. You might already know that you need help, or you might think you’re more than you are. Either way, if you don’t go after it and make the investment you’ll always wonder.

I really don’t know that a person can fully explore all their potential without help of some sort. It makes me think about a guy in the gym who once complimented me on how much I bench-pressed. I joked and told him, ‘Yeah, I could have made it in the NFL. All I lacked was size, speed, and skill!’ That’s how it is in writing. You probably already have some of things that you need to be successful, but working with Mark is an opportunity to be sure about what’s working, and see what needs to improve.

J O E L . T O W N S E N D

Author of the Christian nonfiction book
Christian Mindfulness (not yet published)

How I Got My Book Agent

Christian Authors

Fine Print Lit got publishers bidding against each other [for my book]. I ended up signing a contract with Thomas Nelson (an imprint of Harper Collins) for what I’ve been told by several people is a very large advance. What cloud is higher than 9?

S C O T T . L E R E T T E

The Unbreakable Boy (Thomas Nelson/Harper Collins), adapted to feature film with Lionsgate starring Zachary Levi, Amy Acker, and Patricia Heaton

SL movie poster for TUB featuring boy with glasses and jester hat, posted by Get a Literary Agent guide

SL Book Cover for TUB with photo of boy on beach with jester hat at sunset, posted by Get a Literary Agent Guide

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