How I got my first agent

Daniel Kemp
Published on: 19th March 2014
To kick things off, meet Daniel Kemp, who secured a literary agent with his first book 'Look Both Ways, Then Look Behind' - at the age of 62! If you think that's an achievement then get this: his second novel- The Desolate Garden, published in March 2012 was picked up within eight weeks of being on shelves by a London production company to be made into a $30 million movie. We'll dig further into Kemp's career at a later date. For now, let's hear more about how he got that agent.

"I sent a typed manuscript of that first story to about a hundred or so agents, receiving only a few replies all of which were negative," he tells me. "One night the telephone rang and it changed my life. On hearing an agent say that he was interested, I really did think I had made it." "How wrong can you be? That's when the hard work started, and it's still going on. The fact that The Desolate Garden has been optioned (I have now been paid twice for that privilege) is no guarantee of acceptance by readers or outlets. Sheer persistence and self-belief are the only tools that you, as a writer have. They must be used to the fullest extent."
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Notice that Kemp sent his story to 'a hundred or so' literary agents to get just one reply. That's the kind of hit ratio we're looking at, so a) send your work to as many inboxes as possible and b) send it to even more when you don't hear anything back. "You can operate without an agent," Kemp adds, "but they know the business far better than the average writer, so again it's that quality of being persistent and believing in you and the work that is created. First find a list, and then research what each agent specialises in. Send them whatever material they require, and then cross everything and wait."
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