How I Found My Agent by Deb Tish

Like many writers, I dreamed about getting the phone call from an agent who wanted to represent me. But I’d never pictured it quite the way it happened…

My family and I had driven our old Volvo station wagon down to Ellicottville, NY, for a long weekend of skiing with friends. The tires were no match for the end of season blizzard that hit that day, and after skiing, the car got stuck going up the steep hill to our friends’ chalet. So there we were in the car, everyone was tired, everyone was hungry, everyone was cranky. As soon as the wheels started spinning in the deep snow, and the car began to drift sideways back down the hill, and the kids began to wail that we were going were going to die, my cell phone beeped that I had a message.

My phone had just enough juice and a slight enough signal for me to hear a male voice say, “…agent from Writers House…” then the phone died. It had finally happened. I’d finally gotten THE phone call at about 10 minutes to 5 on a Friday night and we were stuck in the snow.

I honestly don’t remember how we got the car moving up that hill. Maybe I gained the strength of ten grinches plus two, but all I really remember is that I was NOT going to wait until Monday to speak to this man. We burst into the chalet and I hunted for my phone charger while our hosts offered up après ski baked brie and drinks. I grabbed a martini on the way upstairs to the only quiet room in the house, but passed on the brie—when your dreams come and hunt you down in a snowbank, you don’t stop for cheese.

Finally I got through to the agent. He told me what he loved about the ms and he told me what he didn’t love. Then—in a swift deviation to how my dream was supposed to go down, he declined representation. He said if I revised, he’d be happy to look at it again, but at that moment, “no” was ringing too loud in my ears for me to hear it.

Downstairs, everyone was waiting to wish me congratulations. They offered up words of consolation and the conversation moved on to other topics. Someone must have noticed I was quiet and asked me who I’d submit to next. Without hesitation, I said I’d submit back to him. Because he was absolutely right.

I put away my skiis and spent the next three days sitting in a big chair at the ski hill drinking hot chocolate and rewriting my manuscript from memory on the backs of slalom flyers and race announcements. I got home and sent it off, and after a few more weeks and tweaks, the agent from the snowy road said he’d be happy to represent me.

What drew me to my agent in the first place was one little line from his webpage on Publisher’s Marketplace. He’d said, “If you can make me laugh out loud or miss my subway stop, I’d love to hear from you.” I knew right then and there that he was my kind of person and he has yet to prove me wrong. He always surprises me with the sharpness of his eye and he always pushes for more from me. He’s brutally honest, he’s kind and patient.

His name is Dan Lazar and I’m one lucky writer.


7 Replies to “How I Found My Agent by Deb Tish”

  1. Thank goodness for your Seuss-ian strength! The wonderful Mr. Lazar also challenged me to make my book a better one before taking me on as a client — and he’s kept it up. Three cheers for Dan! And I’m sure Town House will make many, many people miss their subway stop.

  2. I love the drama of this–the snow bank, the race the clock excitement,
    the “no” that morphed into a wonderful life-changing yes through your efforts! I really could imagine what it must have been like being there with friends, and able to think of nothing, absolutely nothing, but the novel you were already beginning to revise in your head. Great story!

  3. In my early compilation of an agent list, I also noted that comment by Dan Lazar and thought he made a lot of sense. Now it’s exciting to know that I’ll soon be engrossed in reading two of his clients. How *cool!*

  4. Haha! Tish, this is a great story 😀 And, as Larramie says, it’s a great inspiration. It’s hard, but listening, gut-checking, and working at it really can pay off. Good for you, and great post!

  5. Excellent story. I admire your perseverance in changing the manuscript. This is what a writer must do to succeed. Count me an unpublished writer, who gained hope from your experience!

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