by Greta Kelly

originally posted to author’s website, April 22, 2020

When I was in the query-trenches, articles about how writers got their agents were always my favorites to read. It seemed like if I just read one more article or watched one more interview, I’d be able to capture that lightning in a bottle and use it to attract an agent of my own. And, in a way, I was right.

All those articles and interviews taught me that I needed a killer query letter. I know this seems as basic as a pumpkin-spice latte, but believe me when I say, that hundreds of writers blow their chances by jumping the gun and hitting send on a query letter that simply isn’t ready.

We spend years, YEARS, incubating our book-babies. So why would we toss them out the door into the cruel, cold world without socks or shoes? I get that excitement can get the better of you, but I’m serious when I say that you should work just as hard at your query letter as you did at your novel. They are much harder than they look. To be honest, I think I had as many revisions of my query letter as I did my novel—and perhaps that’s a good rule of thumb.

But this post isn’t about writing a query letter, though I will do one of those someday. This is a post about how I got my agent, and it’s in the last way I would have expected: at a conference.

Again, not earth-shattering. Many people meet their agents though in-person pitches at conferences. For the extroverts among us, pitching an agent in person might not seem like a big deal. But for a girl who doesn’t like to go to the mall because there are too many people, going a conference was HUGE.

But then I heard about The Work Conference. It is a small, boutique conference held annually in NYC and run by the brilliant Rebecca Heyman of Rebecca Faith Editorial. (Seriously, Rebecca is a prose-eviscerating angel. If anyone is looking for an independent editor to whip their WIP’s into shape, I cannot recommend her more).

What makes The Work Conference so different, is that it’s small. Only twenty or thirty writers attend, and Rebecca reads all the submissions for quality. Another major perk of this three-day conference/retreat is that the two agents I met with received both my query letter as well as the first ten pages of my WIP before the conference began. So there was no need to frantically spew a memorized elevator pitch.

The agents already knew what my book was about. They came to the conference with notes in hand and suggestions about how to make both the query and the opening pages more compelling.

Which is exactly how my first conversation with the wonderful Jennifer Udden went. She was excited about my submission before I even sat down, and we fell into an easy conversation (well, easy-ish, I was still nervous AF) about the book. We discussed how the story continued from those first pages, what my inspiration was, where I saw the series going from there, and what I was working on next. And Jen was really interested in all of it.

So when she requested the full manuscript, I was walking on air. Talk about an absolute dream come true!

And then, a month or two later, I got an email from her that read: “Just finished reading and Oh. my. god. THAT ENDING!” 

I think my heart actually stopped dead in my chest. Not only did she love the book, but she wanted to set up a call to discuss representation.

By the end of the conversation, I was 99.9% sure that Jen was the agent for me, but I did my due diligence and asked for 7-10 days to notify the other agents that I queried. Most stepped aside, although another wonderful agent offered, but I was already sold on Jen. I signed with her soon after and the rest, as they say, is history.

I guess the point of this rambling post, is to say that you shouldn’t ever limit yourself. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d have the courage to go to a conference across the country to meet with industry professionals. I thought I would be digging in query trenches for months—years if need be. Instead, I put on my big-girl pants and went out on a limb and landed a wonderful agent.

The road to publishing is a hard one, so just make sure you take every chance you get, because you’ll never know what will lead you to your dreams.


Greta K. Kelly is (probably) not a witch, death or otherwise, but she can still be summoned with offerings of too-beautiful-to-use journals and Butterfingers candy. She currently lives in Wisconsin with her husband EJ, daughters Lorelei and Nadia who are doing their level-best to take over the world.

THE FROZEN CROWN is Greta’s first novel, and it’s sequel THE SEVENTH QUEEN is coming out on November 2nd, 2021.

Greta Kelly is available to visit with book clubs via NovelNetwork.