Tuesday, 29 March 2011

How I Got My Agent: Guest Post by Charlotte Otter

Please welcome Charlotte Otter who also has an agent success story to share with us.

I started writing a novel in January 2008. I had a germ of an idea and a burning feeling that if I didn't start Right This Minute, I would never do it and die old and bitter and full of self-reproach. I was 39. It was my midlife crisis.

After a month of writing, I entered the opening page of my novel in Nathan Bransford's Suprisingly Essential First Page Challenge (www.nathanbransford.com). There were more than 600 entries and my page was chosen as one of the six finalists. The prize was a query critique from Nathan, but since I had only written a chapter at that point, I had no query to offer. I filed the prize away in the Things We Dream About drawer.

Then I went away to write. I spent the next two and half years writing, rewriting, fixing, erasing, going back. Listening to beta readers, ignoring them, listening to them again. Two years. Three drafts. Then I decided it was time to claim my prize and the lovely Nathan wrote a mail that made my heart skip several beats: 'Is this ready to be considered? If so, I'd be happy to take a look at the first 30 pages.'

I quickly made his suggested changes and sent him my new query and the first 30 pages. Nathan passed. It was a horrible moment. I asked a dear friend, who is a literary talent scout and who has impeccable taste, to read my novel. Her response was a punch to the solar plexus: too many rookie errors, too much tell and not enough show and please change the point of view from first to third person immediately.

I had queried too soon. The biggest rookie error of all.

After breathing in and out deeply, I started addressing her suggestions. I changed the novel from first to third person and it came alive. I started fantasising about which agents I would approach, making lists from Agentquery and The Artist's and Writer's Yearbook. However, a voice in my head said Use Your Contacts First. I used up my one contact with Nathan. I only had one left: Michaela Röll at Eggers-Landwehr, a Berlin literary agency, who is the friend of a friend. That friend said, 'Give it a go. You never know.'

In July 2010, I got an email from Michaela, which I have kept and may have to frame. It was full of lovely words about the book and an offer of representation. In August, I signed. There is still a long road ahead for Balthasar's Gift and me. A publisher has made some comments as have two literary agents in London who work as Michaela's sub-agents in the British market. I am now addressing their concerns, still writing, still revising, still fixing.

Still hoping that my dream will come true.

Charlotte Otter is a South African writer living in Germany. Balthasar's Gift, is a crime novel set in her homeland. She blogs at Charlotte's Web about reading, writing and living in Germany (http://www.charlotteotter.wordpress.com/) and tweets @charlwrites.


  1. wow, congrats- I love stories like these that really express how much time, work and effort goes into finding an agent in most cases. And how simple things can be when the time is finally right. GOod luck to you!

  2. Hi Katie. I glad you're finding these stories interesting. I do so hope that I'll be able to invite you along with a success story of your own before very long. Best of luck.


  3. I just love these stories! Congratulations to Charlotte. And thanks, Kate, for spotlighting her.

  4. It just shows that if you are willing to work hard and to listen to constructive criticism you can succeed. Well done Charlotte!

  5. Thanks, Kate, for the opportunity to share my story here and thank you to your commenters. One day I hope to come back and share my How I Got Published story!


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