How I got a literary agent - it wasn't easy

5 September 2017 / Leave a Comment

how got literary agent


So this super exciting thing happened. I got sent some paperwork and I hole punched it. It's now carefully stored in a black folder labelled 'Contracts'. Yes - I've finally got an offer of representation from a literary agent. I haven't got a publishing deal yet, but I'm celebrating already because getting an agent is really, really tough.


I'm also really proud because I absolutely love this YA book about a 16-year-old female Melbourne street artist. It's my favourite book child, which is kind of weird, because my main character Ivy feels like her brother is the favourite child and that really irks her!


I started writing Repeat After Me around October 2014. I received so much great feedback from teens on Wattpad about my first YA novel Silver that I felt empty after I'd posted the final chapter. So I wanted to start writing another novel for those readers - this became Repeat After Me. Again, it was awesome to be writing with a team of supporters who I knew were connecting with the story as I was posting it chapter by chapter online.


I spent a lot of time reading and watching YouTube videos about Melbourne street artists. I discovered artists such as Ghost Patrol, Miso and Kaff-eine. I dragged my kids around Melbourne laneways and got excited when I spotted a Tom Civil stick figure or a Two One pasteup. They started whingeing 'not more street art!'

Hosier Lane Melbourne street art


I began submitting Repeat After Me to agents around June of 2016 and I heard back from a Brisbane agent Margaret Kennedy who wanted exclusivity over it for the weekend. It was the most promising sign I'd ever had ... exclusivity sounded very exclusive.


She came back to me ... she liked it, BUT ... she had some ideas about how I could improve the novel and resubmit. I liked her suggestions about changing the ending so that Ivy stays truer to her street art roots and further developing the character of Ivy's mentor, but I chose to ignore one suggestion and explained why. 


She got a reader in for a second opinion. They both liked the new draft ... BUT ... Ivy's new installation artworks were too 'tacky' ... could I rewrite the ending?!


They were right. I'd gone off on an unlikely tangent with installation artworks I'd discovered in Presgrave Place by artists such as Kranky and Tinkysontag. I rewrote the ending again, trying to make the artworks more 'Ivy', but keeping the inspiration of my new favourite Melbourne laneway.

Presgrave Plc Kranky Melbourne street art


I was told the story was now good, BUT needed some final polishing. I needed to pull back on my 'trademark metaphors' and 'make every word work harder for having the privilege to be in your story'. I liked the way Margaret communicated with me and I liked that she appreciated my writing style. Yes, she was making me work hard, it was tough love, but I could see she was trying to make me make this story the best that I could.


I've never worked so hard on an edit before in my life. I read every sentence and thought 'is this the very best way I can express that?' I took out commas and put them back in. I fixed up sloppy metaphors. And then I sent it back to her with my fingers and toes crossed that I'd done enough.


So, after some 14 months of developmental work, it seems as though she now thinks it's ready to submit to publishers. And I feel very lucky. It's definitely a far better novel because of Margaret. I liked it already, but now I really love it. 

Hosier Lane Melbourne street art


Hi! I'm Rowena. I'm an author and blogger. 

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