A couple weeks ago, I featured some pitches from authors who are now agented. One of those authors is the lovely Lauren Brown, who has kindly agreed to an author interview for my blog. I found her pitch while searching through past pitch events and reached out to her about including it as an example in my post about how to craft a good pitch. (You can read more about that here.) Her pitch was liked by thirteen agents and six editors/publishers, and although she didn’t sign with any of those agents, it definitely helped get the agent she did sign with: Alexandra Machinist at ICM Partners. When she first pitched it in June of 2021, it started a whirlwind that led to her getting an offer of rep and signing only a month later!
Lauren works in film and television post-production and writes psychological thrillers. She is currently working with her agent on revisions for her debut novel. When she’s not writing, she enjoys traveling, swimming, and reading on the Santa Monica beach.
So let’s get started! Here is a brief summary of how Lauren went from pitching to getting agented:
First, I want to say that writing a MS and finding an agent is a long process, and for anyone who is in the query stage, do not give up! I feel lucky to have found a wonderful agent through cold querying, and you can too. I have no connections to the publishing world. And although I’m still very much on the journey and am not yet published, I want other writers to know that it is really possible to find an agent this way!
This was the third manuscript I had written. I had queried the second MS with only a handful of agents and received a couple requests, which ended up being rejections. I knew I had a better story in me, one that was more personal, so I started on the third one, my current MS, a psychological thriller set at Princeton—which brought me to my agent.
PitMad definitely played a role in my querying journey. At the time, I hadn’t yet queried this MS, but thought it was a good idea to try a pitch fest. I had written my initial query pitch before starting to write the MS because it helped me with the outline stage and knowing what my MC is after—what drives them and the story. I’m a plotter, who likes to re-plot after every 10,000 words or so! So a loose plotter!
I watched Moms Writers Club, read Query Shark, Alexa Donne, and listened to The Shit No One Tells You About Writing podcast. I also read On Writing, Save The Cat, and others.
I received about ten “likes” from agents on that PitMad tweet and some, but not all, turned into full requests. I had also signed up for Thriller Fest, where I did two live pitches, and those also turned into fulls.
When I sent out my first batch of queries to agents, Alexandra was one of them. Some of those initial queries turned into full requests and then into offers of representation.
It was only after I had gotten a couple of offers and notified the handful of agents that had my fulls and a few that I had initially queried that more requests came in. It all happened very quickly at that point! In the end, I had 25 full requests, four offers, and two weeks to decide. At that point you talk on the phone with the offering agents. For other agents who still have the full but haven’t responded, and might need more time, the courtesy is to politely let them know that you plan to make a decision in two weeks, (I believe). Which is not much time!
I feel extremely grateful to be working with Alexandra Machinist, whose advice and guidance I am lucky to have. The next steps will be working on revisions and getting the MS in shape for submission!
As a recap, here is Lauren’s pitch that I broke down in my pitch post. (The inciting incident should point to “returns to Princeton”).
Kat: I noticed from one of your recent tweets that you started querying around the time of your first PitMad, which was only just this past June. You signed with your agent in July. That sounds like quite a whirlwind! What was that process like for you mentally/emotionally? How did you celebrate?
Lauren: At the time I was working full time in post-production on a TV show. I started working on the book in February and was writing in the morning before work 7A-9A, at night 8P-10P and on weekends for about 8 hours each day. I was exhausted, haha! But so happy at the same time. I was doing what I loved. My boyfriend and I went out for dinner to celebrate, but at the same time I felt (and still feel) that this is my chance to keep working on it. So since then I’ve been revising/editing pretty much every day.
K: How many queries had you sent out in total, and how many of those were rejections? Did you get any rejections on your fulls?
L: Yes I got rejections on fulls as well. I believe I sent around 40 queries total. I’ll have to look that number up on my spreadsheet and get back to you.
K: How long did it take you from the first spark of the idea to having a polished MS ready for querying?
L: The first spark of the idea came years ago when I was getting my MFA from USC (2014). I had this great writing professor, Mark Harris, who really taught us to build out an idea, and taught structure and plot really well. This was for screenwriting. The idea changed quite a bit and was fully rewritten but the character being an outsider at an elite university. That idea stuck.
K: What do you believe is the single biggest thing that got you to where you are now as a writer?
L: That’s a great question! Reading is the number one thing. I love to learn and am always learning. Reading non-fiction as well as fiction. The New Yorker articles and profiles often have fascinating character details. And in daily life, really listening to people and hearing about their life story and what they’re going through. These are all ways to find stories and details. Having social issues that I feel strongly about—social justice, women’s rights, modeled by my parents—these things impact my writing. Life, of course. And lastly, readers! Family and friends who read all my early drafts and gave me notes. I am so grateful they put up with me.
K: So you write thrillers. What made you decide to write in that genre?
L: I have always loved to read thrillers. I grew up reading Stephen King, then Agatha Christie, Daphne du Maurier. I also love Donna Tartt, Celeste Ng, and Zadie Smith’s writing.
K: Can you tell us a bit about the premise of your novel?
L: It might be too early for that! It is a murder mystery set at Princeton.
K: What do you find different about the writing process now that you’re agented?
L: Having an agent on my side has been wonderful. Her notes have really pushed my writing in the right direction. Made it much stronger.
K: When can we expect your debut to be launched?
L: Oh I have no idea! I’m still in head-down-fingers-on-the-keyboard work mode. Fingers crossed.
K: What have you found to be the most difficult part of this whole process, and how have you overcome it?
L: Writing can be exhausting. But I just love it. I feel lucky to be doing what I love. I also want to see more diverse protagonists in the thriller genre. That’s something that is important to me.
Thank you so much Lauren for sharing your experiences with me and other writers! This has been a pleasure, and I wish you all the luck with the next stage of your journey toward publication! Readers, keep your eyes peeled for Lauren’s work in the future!