How Not To Get An Agent (And Still Get One Anyway) by S. E. M. Ishida

How Not To Get An Agent (And Still Get One Anyway) by S. E. M. Ishida

Some writers are born great. Others stumble over their words and roll downhill until they happen to land in the right place.

In July 2018, I attended the Realm Makers writer’s conference. It was my first time attending Realm Makers. Actually, it was my first time at any writer’s conference. I didn’t know what to expect or what would happen, and I was right.

Things didn’t go according to plan. Instead, they got a whole lot more interesting.

I had scheduled only one meeting with a publisher. I did what I could to prepare, and the meeting got off to a good start. Then came the business questions.

“How many copies of your first book have you sold?”

“I dunno.”

“What’s your platform like?”

“What’s a platform?”

“You should speak to Cyle Young. He’s an agent. Tell him I sent you.”

Despite some floundering, I handed my full manuscript to the publisher and went to schedule an appointment with the agent. As expected, all of his appointments were booked, but I was directed to his associate, Sarah Gorman.

The next day, I met with Sarah. This meeting also went well, and at the end we caught Cyle as he was trying to walk from one room to another. The traverse-the-carpet pitch is like the elevator pitch—not that I was ready for either.

If you also find yourself unprepared and facing an agent in the wild, and you have a copy of your own book at hand, now is the time to show it off. This behavior is similar to that of a frilled lizard unfurling itself to appear bigger. Hissing is optional. Even if you’re not a national bestseller, this might impress the agent.

When we arrived at the room for Cyle’s next meeting, he discovered that he did, in fact, have an open time slot in his schedule. Someone had met with him early.

Thus, a little while later, I found myself sitting across from Cyle in that same room, having done no research on agents or how to get one.

Now, if you’re trying to impress an industry professional you don’t know much about, at least read his nametag. You’ve probably heard that you should never, ever, even if you’re caught in a grimdark sci-fi dystopia, spell your editor’s or agent’s name wrong in that important first email or cover letter.

Yeah, well, I spelled his name wrong when I wrote it down in my notebook. He noticed.

Despite my mistakes, I had a great time at the conference, and soon enough, a contract appeared in my inbox. I didn’t sign it right away. I talked it over with people I trusted, God included. And during my deliberation, it felt almost as if God was saying that he had already provided my answer.

My original plan was to go as far in publishing as I could on my own before querying agents. Looking back, I don’t know if I would have ever queried. Instead, everything fell into place in spite of myself. I signed the contract.

This story isn’t about making your dreams come true at a writer’s conference, although one could argue that Realm Makers is a magical experience.

This story isn’t about me taking the next step in my writing career. If you get anything out of this story, remember that God is sovereign, even when we feel incompetent. Even when we are incompetent. When I’m tempted to worry, which is a lot, I need to remember that God is the author of my story, and he’s never unprepared. Not even for meetings with agents.

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S. E. M. Ishida is the author of Nick Newton Is Not a Genius and its sequel, Nick Newton: The Highest Bidder. Represented by her agent, she looks forward to writing and publishing even more stories for readers of all ages. You can follow her on her blog and on social media, which includes Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


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