Traditional Publishing

How I got a literary agent - An interview with Mary Kilgore – Saturday November 26, 2005

Mary Kilgore recently acquired an agent using's database of literary agencies. We asked her about her writing, and how she found success.

fw: Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us, Mary, and congratulations on placing your book with an agent. What's your book called, and what is it about?

M: Forty Percent Gray is a mystery thriller about repressed memory. Jamie Moore returns to her hometown twenty years after the stabbing death of her mother. Terrifying flashbacks about the murder send her to a therapist who establishes that four-year-old Jamie locked the memory away in her unconscius mind where it remained dormant until now, when conditions forced its reawakening.

fw: Where did you get your idea / inspiration from?

M: Several years ago I took a new job in Rochester, New York, heading up a mental health program for young children. It was the first time I had worked with children that young so I was particularly moved by the murder of a neighbor woman. Her four-year-old child was locked in the house with her until the father returned home from work that evening. I often wondered about that child...what she saw, what she heard, what she felt... Years later I met the first Officer on the scene that morning and my interest in writing the story solidified.

fw: Once you'd found your inspiration, how did you go about turning it into a story?

M: I went to the local library and read all newspaper articles pertaining to the murder, visited the neighborhood where the murder took place, and talked with the police officer who was first on the scene.

fw: Did you have any prior experience of writing to fall back on?

M: This was my first writing attempt. After finishing it, I stuck it away for several years. After moving to Florida in August 2004, I re-edited it and began searching for an agent. I also re-edited another thriller I wrote after Forty Percent Gray and began searching for an agent for that one. Neither book has yet been published.

fw: Was looking for an agent the first path you tried towards publication?

M: I am not interested in self publishing so finding an agent seemed the right way to go for me.

fw: Do you think that fact that you hadn't been previously published made it harder to secure a literary agent?

M: Being previously published is very important when trying to secure a literary agent. Having a track record is always a factor, especially with the tight market in today's world.

fw: So without that track record, how did you go about securing your agent?

M: I bought all the latest market publishing books and queried dozens of agents and publishing houses, sent off various chapters, etc. It became very expensive.

fw: I can imagine! How did signing up to change the way you worked?

M: I began using email for my queries and provided the addresses, plus info about an agent's willingness to consider first time authors.

fw: Did you always send the same query, or did you tailor your query to each agent?

M: I sent off the same general query emails with a description of my manuscript once I knew the agent's interest in my genre.

fw: Did you get a lot of rejections? Were they always courteous and polite?

M: Dozens. Rejections were usually polite, often just a few words. I got a few off the wall comments, some rather humorous. After receiving the first batch of rejections, my expectations became more realistic.

fw: What do you think was the reason you succeeded in securing the agent you did?

M: My agent lives in Florida and is new to the agent business. I have recently moved to Florida. I think that was a factor for both of us.

fw: So what are you doing now? Are you working on something new, or are you taking a break from your writing?

M: I have the first three pages finished on a new novel!

fw: Good luck with it! Thanks for your time.

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