To clarify, my first novel is technically Middle Grade. I had originally planned it to be YA, but then I met my agent – over a year before she became my agent. She and others since her told me to make my story MG, so I changed it. Here I share my journey to agenthood with ideas and resources on where to find US literary agents for Young Adult (and Middle Grade too).
How I Got my Agent – Local Writer’s Conference
First, I highly recommend attending your local writer’s conference, or go to the nearest good one you can find. I happen to live in Colorado Springs where we have one of the best conferences every April: Pike’s Peak Writer’s Conference. Denver hosts the Rocky Mountain Writer’s Conference every August, and now Utah has a big one in September. I know the Romance Writers Association hosts their annual conference in a different city each year.
A year ago I didn’t have the money to attend the full conference. So I took the advice of the other writer’s in my writer’s group – at least go to Bar Con. Show up in the evenings when everyone is hanging out at the bar – this is where much of the networking happens. One of my friends was there attending the conference, as well as several of my writing buddies, so when I arrived Saturday night I got to visit with them first.
Before I even came I attracted and intended and prayed that I would meet exactly those I was meant to meet tonight. I’ve been studying the Law of Attraction and everything by Esther Hicks for a little bit now – if you want to land an agent, I highly suggest you read every book by Esther Hicks and listen to the videos on YouTube (search Abraham Hicks). It will change your life.
Join a Writer’s Group
Now I wouldn’t even have known to go to Bar Con if it weren’t for my writer’s groups. I had been in one writer’s group for a while which met weekly. I made strong connections there. One of those writing buddies later became one of the main leaders of our local conference – he was the one who introduced me to my agent that night at Bar Con, because he knew my story and knew she would be interested.
It was valuable being a part of that writer’s group for a while. Later I switched to another one – its main focus is for us to get our novels done – this was invaluable to helping me actually finish my novel.
When I was at Bar Con that night, I was still writing my novel, it wasn’t done yet. But I mingled and visited with several people. One writer had just gotten published – he highly recommended I get the book My Story Can Beat Up Your Story. He said before that book he couldn’t get published. Then he applied the principles in that book to his novel and he got published. This is the kind of vital information you get from visiting with other writers.
I ran into my old friend from my first writer’s group. He introduced me to an agent, Natalie Lakosil. I chatted with her for a little while, then got to pitch my novel. Right away she asked for the full manuscript – this was a miracle!
“Okay, I will finish it as fast as I can,” I said. She told me to take my time. I’m sure glad she said that, because my novel didn’t get finished until a year and three months later! But the reason it got done at all was because of my writer’s group. I finished writing the novel, then spent a year revising and editing it.
This year I joined another writer’s group which meets weekly for coffee and chatting. I get such valuable information there from other writers I often take notes. One of the writers had just sold a short story using Duotrope. I had never heard of it, so checked it out and tried the free subscription, then joined for $5/month.
Duotrope shows all the current market, contests, agent and editors and what they are looking for. You can submit to paying markets and contests as well as non-paying. It has a Submission Tracker to track who you query or submit to, it is so useful! A great resource to find both global and US literary agents for young adult and other genre novels – it’s all organized and listed right there.
(Note – I do not get any compensation for recommending Duotrope – I’m just passing on valuable information and sharing this wonderful resource. At $5/month, they’re not in it for the money either!)
Of course I sent the full manuscript to Natalie, but queried about 15 agents over the course of a month this past summer. The Submission Tracker shows when you are expected to get a response by.
I also got to attend the full writer’s conference this year – I was awarded a partial scholarship which helped greatly. It was so fun being there for the whole thing. One editor helped me rework my whole first page – it was wonderful. I learned so much from all the classes, connected with a couple of editors, and got to pitch my novel to five agents! Most of them told me my novel was too novel, that publishers wouldn’t want to take a risk on such an unusual idea.
So, two months later, when Natalie emailed me back telling me she absolutely loved my story and wanted to talk to me on the phone, I knew that she got the vision of my novel – she’d seen it right away. By this time I’d received several rejections and was still waiting to hear from many other agents.
Do Your Research
Before talking to Natalie on the phone I researched online to see what a standard agent-writer contract looks like. After I had spoken with her last year I researched her and her agency. I knew she was legit since this large writer’s conference only brings in legitimate agents. Be careful who you hand your novel over to. Using platforms like Duotrope and meeting agents at writer’s conferences is a safe way to go.
When she offered me representation, I knew I wanted to go with her. She’d known right away which publishers would be very interested in my unusual novel. She has the confidence to go with it, and loves my idea and my book. I looked over the contract and saw it was the standard one I’d already researched.
All of the Above, but Law of Attraction most of all.
When it comes down to it, everything that’s happened with my novel, from its inception to landing an agent, has come from me attracting it successfully and in perfect timing. The more you study and practice the Law of Attraction, the better you’ll get at bringing forth your desire. Practicing these principles also taught me to completely trust all of this to God and relax about it. Then things just began falling into place – it’s awesome to watch.
In the revising process I did study and apply My Story Can Beat Up Your Story, as well as two other highly recommended books: The GMC and Editor-Proof Your Writing. The more you study and hone your craft, the better your novel will be. Attending the conference and going to writer’s groups also vastly improves your writing and changes your novel towards the best – don’t neglect these. These things are what marks a professional writer taking this seriously, from those who just dabble.
All of this applies to US literary agents for young adult as well as for other genres and other literary agents. I even queried agents in England, since my novel takes place in 1665 London.
Which techniques have worked for you? Where are you in the process? Please comment below, we all benefit from each other’s journeys and stories.