How to Get a New York Literary Agent in only 17 Years

10 Easy Steps

On occasion, I am criticized by other writers for writing too fast. I guess I’m supposed to stretch out the process and brood more. Or interrupt my writing schedule with the occasional drinking binge or creative depression. That doesn’t sound like much fun, though, so I wrote Hair of the Corn Dog in just a few months. I further insulted those who insisted I “just can’t do that” (which was their way of saying that if I write that fast, the book will be a bound pile of crap) by getting a starred review. (Take that, haters.)

Now that my gloating is out of the way, I want to re-endear myself to the Long-Tortured Artist Club by sharing the 10 Easy Steps I used to get a New York literary agent in ONLY 17 YEARS. And you can, too!

Step 1: Years 1-5. Decide you want to be a writer. Research agents and make obsessive lists of who you plan to contact when you’re ready, even though you haven’t written anything and you’re not even sure what your genre is.



Step 2: Year 6. Identify your genre. Expand your lists and update the contact info for those who have switched agencies. Write a really bad book. Query agents and get the rejections you deserve. Query more agents and wait for responses that will never come.

Step 3: Year 7. Wait tables and scrub toilets (hopefully not during the same shift). Use your tips to buy the latest edition of the Writer’s Market. Realize that you can’t really afford to buy the latest edition of the Writer’s Market and try to return it. Read your manuscript and discover that it is horrible. Grapple with fear and self-doubt. Shelve the first book and write a slightly better book.


I can't believe I wrote this shit. This is horrible.

Step 4: Year 8. Get pregnant. This one is key. You need the threat of impending parenthood to make you realize you’ve been dicking around for the past decade and if you don’t get to work now YOU WILL NEVER BE A WRITER.

Step 5: Year 9. Use the fear from Step 4 to get your ass in gear. Accept the fact that you've spent the last nine years writing in the wrong genre. Shelve your slightly better book and write a not-horrible book in your new genre.

Step 6: Year 10. Query agents. Wait 6 months to get rejected. Get depressed and consider pursuing a career in law enforcement. Apply to the police department. Get rejected from the police department because you were honest on your application about that time you smoked pot which wasn’t that long ago. Cry and feel like a failure. Dust yourself off. Reapply yourself to writing.

Step 7: Years 11-14. Attend writing conferences. Meet agents and editors. Get excited about connections that will fizzle out and die like the slow death of all your hopes and dreams.

Step 8: Year 15. Decide to be less dramatic. Decide to self-publish your book. It’s been 15 years and you’re not getting any younger. Hire an editor who helps you turn your not-horrible book into a pretty good book. Figure out the publishing process along the way.

Step 9: Year 16. Recover from shock of success of first book. Write and publish a sequel.

Step 10: Year 17. Write and publish a third book. Get a starred review from Publishers Weekly. Gloat about starred review on Facebook and casually mention that you still don’t have a literary agent. Your writer friends will offer introductions to their agents, one of whom is interested in your proposal for a new series. Talk on the phone. Assess one another’s sanity levels. Receive offer of representation and accept.


Holy shit! I have a New York literary agent and it only took me 17 years!

If you want to be a writer and you’re just starting out, follow these 10 Easy Steps and you too can have a New York literary agent in just 17 short years. And then, when someone gives you crap about writing “too fast” and threatens to take away your membership in the Long-Tortured Artist Club, gently remind them that you’ve paid your dues.


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You can also email me at amanda@akturner.com.

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