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How I got my agent

I began querying my second completed novel with a good idea of the process - my first novel had got some interest and a few offers from small publishers, but had ended up tied up in an open submissions window - and I was under no illusions how hard getting an agent would be.

The novel had two strong point of views in it - John, a teenager from Belfast, and Henry, the cop who gets tied up in his life - and I decided to market it as cross-over YA/adult.

When I read on Twitter that Molly Ker Hawn, of the Bent Agency, had re-opened to queries I checked her guidelines, which asked that I include why I was the person to tell the story. That opened something untapped within me, about how I'd wanted to capture my native Ulster voices and use them in a mainstream novel, not focused on religion, politics and cliches, but rather on resilience and black humour. I drafted the query without my usual angst and sent it off. A couple of days later Molly requested a full and, after I did a dance, I sent it. 

Four weeks later I had my response - the book didn't read as YA but adult. I really liked Molly's approach - and well-considered feedback - and asked if she'd re-read it if I made it more centred in the YA storyline, and she kindly said she would. 

In the meantime, I subbed to other agents, but when three adult-focused agents who'd shown interest refused it as too YA I was left with a dilemma in terms of where to take the book. 

I went back to my beta-readers, and an editor who had reviewed it before submission, and discussed options to make it one age-group or the other. When I'd envisioned the book the theme had been about innocence, and if I made the protagonist adult that was lost, so I decided to focus on the YA themes.

I rewrote the book, removing some of the adult pov and strengthening the teenage protagonist and sent it back to Molly, very nervously. The read took a little longer this time and my hopes were raised when I heard it was getting a second read. 

The response came back as an Revise and Resubmit, with extensive notes. I felt I'd rushed the last rewrite a little and was delighted at another chance, but I wanted to get it right. I was lucky: when I shared feedback with the small group of betas who'd read the first version, and whose opinion I absolutely respect, one offered another full read through. After his feedback, I sent it back and waited. 

I knew Molly was attending the World Fantasy Convention in Brighton, as was I, and hoped we might meet up. Unfortunately my Twitter app died en route, and I turned down a friend's offer to access via his. Boy did I kick myself when I got home and found that Molly had DMed me to see if we could meet at WFC in person. 

A few days later, Molly contacted me and set up a call. I found myself, late on a Friday afternoon, sitting in my darkened kitchen waiting for the phone to ring. The kids were bribed with biscuits and the house was quiet as I listened to feedback that asked for a revision. My heart fell, sure it was another R and R. 

But no - I was offered representation. I stared at the notes I'd been taking, trying to take it in, and arranged to contact other agents holding the novel. I let my writing group, who'd been with me at WFC, know - they bemoaned the lack of a great celebratory opportunity! Six days later I had heard back from the other agents - who would have had to offer the Earth to change my mind - and was in the position to accept rep from Molly. I'm still occasionally pinching myself.  


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