Agents Conference Success Story: Elizabeth Black

The 2012 WLT Agents Conference is now open for registration! Click here to learn more. And in the meantime, check out this conference success story!

By Elizabeth Black

On June 2, my agent called with the news every first-time author longs to hear.  Mollie had sold my novel, The Drowning House, to Nan A. Talese/Doubleday.  For excitement, the experience was right up there with the birth of my two daughters.  My life as a writer has had its twists and turns.  But the road to publication led straight from the 2009 Agents and Editors Conference.

I arrived in Austin knowing nothing about the process of selling a novel.  I’d never even queried an agent.  Fortunately, I’d signed up for the Friday pitch session.  Agent Scott Hoffman provided the information we all needed.  The question was, could I do it?  Could I describe The Drowning House in a way that would interest an agent in less than two minutes?

That night, I struggled to write my pitch.  Midnight found me in the shower trying to memorize what I’d written so I could deliver it naturally the next day during my 15-minute interview with Mollie Glick of Foundry Literary+ Media.  Scott had advised us to prepare the pitch in two parts, so that if an agent expressed interest, we could add to what we’d already said.  But when Mollie listened, then nodded and told me to go on, my mind went blank.  I had to pull out my notes and read.

Mollie asked me to email her my first 50 pages together with a note reminding her where we’d met.  During the conference, three other agents eventually asked to see pages.  Over the next few months, one never responded, another (graciously) declined to read further.  Two asked for the whole manuscript.  Shortly after that Mollie said she’d like to represent me.

Mollie is herself a former editor, and when she says she’s hands-on, she means it.  We spent almost two years making revisions to The Drowning House, beginning with some  larger changes (like eliminating a plot line to allow other key elements to emerge) and proceeding through two line edits.  I’m a single mother with a full-time job, and my older daughter was married last fall, so it was a busy time for me.  And of course, Mollie had many other projects in the works.  Still, she always responded to my emails, and I always knew where I stood with her.

This spring, she told me she thought we were ready to go.  The bidding happened very quickly.  Several editors expressed interest, but when Nan made her offer, we agreed that she was our ideal editor for the book.  Here’s what appeared in Publishers Weekly:

Debut

Elizabeth Black’s THE DROWNING HOUSE, the story of a young woman born and reared on the island of Galveston, Texas who returns to the island for the first time after a personal tragedy and discovers the true story behind the charismatic family who owns the grand mansion across the street from where she was raised, and the legend of Stella Canaday, a young girl said to have drowned during the Great Hurricane, hung by her long hair from the chandelier in the drawing room, to Nan Talese and Ronit Feldman at Nan A. Talese, in a pre-empt, by Mollie Glick at Foundry Literary + Media (NA).

I hadn’t thought any further ahead than that moment.  But of course, it was only another beginning.

(The Drowning House now has its own Facebook page where you can see photos of Galveston that reflect aspects of the novel).

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