Two weeks ago, I got “the call.” 

You know, the call writers who have agents always talk about? The magical moment a literary agent calls them on the telephone and offers to represent their work.

Most authors believe “the call” will never happen to them. I was no exception. 

Let me explain.


It is a truth universally acknowledged that every author must experience rejection. And not just a single rejection, but continuous rejection over and over throughout their career.

Several years ago, I attended a talk where the speaker—a multi pen name, multi-published author and Golden Heart (a prestigious contest for unpublished romance authors) winner—talked about rejection. She said she won the Golden Heart, found an agent and was offered a three-book deal by a big press. She thought she’d made it until she was…well…rejected after the third book released and had low sales. 

She then went on to sign another book deal for a series with a different large publisher and…you guessed it…was later rejected. Eventually, she self-published a series, which offered her a big advantage over the traditional publisher. No one can tell you no when you self-publish—you’re your own boss. You can’t be rejected unless you reject yourself and who in their right mind would do that? So, self-publishing worked out well for her.

About the time I heard this author’s talk, I was in the throes of dealing with a painful rejection. It was from an agent I had high hopes would fall in love with my work in progress. She said she didn’t see anything worthwhile in the work, and it would be a hard sell to publishers. 

I appreciated her honesty. Really. 

But at the same time, I had also been rejected by my current publisher for my second book in my series. She said my plot needed more work, and what I had in my head wasn’t coming across on the page. She said I was telling and not showing enough in my writing, and she just didn’t “feel” the characters. She said she wouldn’t offer a contract.

Wow.

Harsh words from someone I thought liked my writing. 

If I hadn’t already published two books with two different publishers, I would have probably been crushed at this point. But I reminded myself, if I did it before, I could do it again.

And therein lies the rub. Sometimes the world will give you a resounding “no.” Sometimes you have to block the noise. You have to look deep inside yourself and listen to your heart.

Last year, I picked myself up and finished a new manuscript. The story, SWEET STUFF, finaled and then won its category in the 2019 Stiletto contest.

Great news. 

I figured someone would offer for the book, right? Wrong. The judges liked the book, but apparently, not enough to offer for it. I gave myself a healthy dose of positive self-talk and started my agent search for SWEET STUFF last September.

And got rejected. And rejected. And rejected some more. 

I scratched my head. 

If a contest win and great reviews by critique partners and beta readers didn’t generate results, what would? Maybe I should give up?

I took a breath, ate large amounts of Malley’s chocolates (they’re big in Cleveland), and continued querying. Every time I got a rejection, I sent out two more queries. Every time someone said no, I told myself yes (after shedding a few more tears and eating more chocolate). 

And then one day, an agent I queried asked to read the full manuscript. 

Yay! 

But it was only one request and was followed by five rejections. Then another request came in to read the full followed by more rejections. Then another. And so it went. Soon it was five requests from agents wanting to read my manuscript.

This had to be a good sign, right?

But would any of them actually offer for the manuscript? Two of the agents sent me a nice email indicating they liked the manuscript, but ultimately, it wasn’t quite right for their lists.

What a bummer. I swallowed painfully and sent out more queries.

Soon another agent asked for the full. Would she be the one? Six months had now passed since my first query, and I’d gotten six requests with no offers. I doubled up my research. I loved Hallmark movies, and had a favorite Hallmark writer. I googled and read an interview where she credited her agent with getting her a movie deal. Maybe I should send my manuscript to this agent? It’d be a stretch, but what did I have to lose?

Late one night, I sent my query zipping across the Ethernet. A day and a half later, I received a request for the full. I responded with the manuscript the same day.

And waited.

A week or so later, I was eating lunch with my husband and a friend, when an email notification flashed on my mobile phone. I caught the words “arrange for a call.”

My heart jerked inside my chest. Was this “the call?” 

I texted my critique partner, who’d just landed her own agent, and she suspected it was. Now I was really excited. 

The next day I took “the call.” The agent, Elizabeth Winick Rubinstein with McIntosh & Otis, loved the book, read it in a weekend, wanted to represent my work.

I don’t remember all we talked about during the call, but I do know we discussed a few tweaks (minor) and other ideas I had for new work. We seemed to click. I signed the contract and mailed it off this week. 

And that is how I landed my literary agent.

If you’re a writer looking for an agent, wondering if you’ll ever get “the call,” keep trying. Don’t give up. Rejection is a part of this business. It’s true what they say: writing is subjective. I suspect I’ll be rejected again before too long.

Take it a day at a time, be persistent, have faith in yourself. And when you feel like giving up, which we all sometimes do, reach deep inside, dig for courage, and keep going. Your heart knows the truth, and the truth will carry you to where you need to be.

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