The Secret To Getting An Agent & Getting Your Work Published

Posted by on Jun 9, 2014 in Publishing, Writing | 8 comments

The Secret To Getting An Agent & Getting Your Work Published

For those of you who don’t know, I spent most of 2011 and 2012 trying to get my two novels traditionally published.

I entered contests and I submitted to a plethora of agents and publishers…only to receive a rejection.

You can probably picture how I was feeling.


And if you can’t, this GIF from Supernatural sums it up nicely.

So I took a year off.

I spent some of 2012 and all of 2013 learning everything I could about publishing. I interned for Entangled Publishing, I worked as an intern then a staff member of Swoon Romance, occasionally assisted the acquisitions department of Month 9 Books, I wrote like a fiend, read like a lunatic, I researched agents, I rolled out marketing and editing services with Pen & Muse, I found critique partners, I attended conferences, and I learned everything I could about traditional and indie publishing.

I learned a whole lot about what works, what doesn’t work, what agents and publishers like and what they don’t like. I’m not saying taking a year off is the right thing to do for everyone, but it was perfect for me.


Because I can honestly say that now I know SO much more than before. Before, I was like a mechanic trying to fix a car without ever seeing one before. I was waiting for success to come knocking at my door, all the while getting frustrated that I wasn’t already writing full-time.

But here’s the truth. Success doesn’t ever come knocking at your door.

Success is a combination of hard work, dedication, and sometimes a little luck.

After being away from my two ready-to-publish manuscripts for over a year, I opened them recently. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry when I read them. They were awful. They were something that I would have rejected during my time working for those publishers. They read like a rough first draft. They had typos, some of the characters are flat, and one lacks a plot arc.

But I was in such a hurry to be a published author that I ignored what was right in front of me. I wanted instant results. But who is going to buy a car from you if it’s missing wheels and an engine? (I’m not sure what’s with my car examples but just go with them.) In fact, it’s likely that no one will buy the car until it’s ready. Until all pieces are assembled. And it works well. And it looks nice. Right?

So what the hell was I thinking when I was trying to sell a manuscript that was missing the proper parts?

As an intern and staff member of different publishing houses, I was able to see that so many authors are like how I was…submitting their work before it was ready. And they were rejected. Just like mine were.

So here’s the secret to getting an agent and getting your book published…

Are you ready for it?

Here it is:

Finish your book. Completely. Edit it. Re-read it. Have someone else (that will give you honest feedback) read it and tell you what works and what doesn’t work. Edit it. Re-read it. Read it out loud. Make sure it’s typo free. Make your book sparkle like Edward in the sunshine. Resist submitting your book to a publisher or an agent before it’s ready. Once your work is done, and you’ve edited it, and other people have confirmed that it’s as great as you think it is (or at least that it’s mistake free), and it’s typo free, and it’s formatted correctly…only then, is it time.

Once your book is completed and polished, then submit it to your carefully researched agents or publishing houses.

Because when it is polished and perfect, it will sparkle like a diamond in the slush pile. And it will be selected by agents or a publisher. Even if it doesn’t happen at the first place you submit to, it will happen. If you make sure your manuscript rocks, it will be selected by someone somewhere.

That, my friends, is how you get your book published and/or agented.

And yes, in case you’re wondering, I am getting ready to start up the submissions process again soon… as soon as my work is up to what I deem are acceptable standards. And yes, I will keep you updated.

Keep calm and write on,

Jolene Haley, Jolene Haley, @JoleneHaley



  1. Great info, Jolene. I’ve come back to my first novel and it’s the same as you described.

  2. I love this post! Really great lesson to learn. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Thank you for being honest. I’ve been editing for a year a draft that took me six months to write, and I’m just half way to finish it. Anyway, diamonds, as you said, take lots of time to be created. Thank you again, and good luck with your project.

  4. Been there, done it, given out the same advice myself. I spend longer on the rewrites than on the basic draft, always. Fifteen times I have submitted to agents, and five times I have had the letter saying, yes, we love the synopsis and sample chapters, please send the full manuscript….. Five times I have done so, and had the agent saying, yes, still like it, but could you change this character, and take out this character, write it again but the other way round, and add in a bit of this which I really like to read about, and write it from a different POV, and make it more inspirational, and remove the whole metaphorical point of it so that it’s a completely different book???? That’s why I’m sticking with self-publishing. My readers like what I write, mostly, so I’ll stick with them!!! :^D

  5. Great post! You nailed it. If you ever need one of those honest critique partners, you know where to find me.

  6. Love Dean! Anyway… YES! Great post. Thanks for sharing. And good luck to you as you venture forth into the land of querying… again.

  7. Loved the post. It’s an especially pertinent reminder for me, since I’ve just finished writing my next manuscript and have been itching to get it out to agents already. BUT I need to spend time polishing the manuscript. There is plenty of time for publication of the story later; right now I need to focus on the polishing (:

  8. One of the best posts I’ve read on publishing. I can relate to every sentence.
    When I first wrote my novel, like most new writers I thought, yeah, this is the next great American Novel that will be published in no time at all and will become the greatest movie of all time.
    I immediately searched for an agent and found one the first time I applied. Compliments abounded and requests for agents fees to represent me and assist with editing the story, poured in. In my excitement and gullibility, I sent a huge payment and more chapters of my MS.
    Long story short, as they say,
    Sevreal months and $1500.00 later, I discovered my agency was a fake, a scammer.
    Who was to blame??? Me! I did not do my homework. I did not make decisions as a professional should. I bought into my gullibility and lost not only money but time and trust.
    once I came back to earth and re-read my script, I felt exactly how you described your experience, only twice as embarrassed. Once humbled, I began a re-write and editing. I edited first from beginning to end then again from end to beginning. I still found so many mistakes I could not believe it. After several more edits, I sent my script out to a professional editor, and finally finished the editing. (BTW, self editing until you feel it is correct helps greatly with the cost of a professional editor.) I still have some work to do with formatting, book cover, etc. However my manuscript will not go out until it looks like high grade diamonds and stringent research for publishing opportunities is completed.


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