Posted by: Diane Curran | September 29, 2009

Unsigned to Signed: Guest Post by Steph Bowe


Almost any girl can have a Sweet Sixteenth or a 21st Birthday Party, but  how many girls get to celebrate signing with a literary agent?

So we’ve declared it Steph Bowe party week at We Love YA,

and today we welcome the guest of honour herself:

Steph Bowe.

Unsigned to signed: How I got an agent

I recently signed with a literary agent (Ginger Clark of Curtis Brown). I’m still a bit astounded by this myself.

A little while back, an author called Sara J. Henry found my blog and offered to critique my novel. A couple of days later, she emailed it back with suggestions to revise. Then she suggested I try querying some literary agents in the US. I ran this by my mum (I’m fifteen, remember? I run everything by my mum). She gave it the okay. I speedily revised my manuscript and queried three agents Sara suggested.

I didn’t expect anything to come of this. I’d submitted previous novels I’d written to Australia publishers in the past and received rejections, so I was used to it (I realise now those novels were nowhere near publishable quality. It’s a bit embarrassing, but editors were kind considering my age – 13 & 14 at the time).

A week after receiving my full manuscript, two agents offered representation.

I died. Well, not really, since I’m writing this right now. I couldn’t believe how obscenely lucky I’d been. I fidgeted with nerves and scheduled a time to speak to both agents.

Also at this time, the Secret Agent contest was on at the Miss Snark’s First Victim blog. It involves sending in the first 250 words of your novel, where it’s critiqued by other entrants, and the Secret Agent requests the full or partial manuscripts of selected winners.

The Secret Agent was Ginger Clark. She requested my partial, then my full, then offered representation.

After speaking to each of the agents, asking a lot of questions and not sleeping very much, I decided to sign with Ginger. This was an incredibly difficult decision but I’m definitely looking forward to working with Ginger and hopefully finding a publisher for my novel!

If you’re an aspiring author, and you’re wondering: “Will I magically become a glamorous, poised author the moment I sign a contract with an agent?” The answer is: No, unfortunately. (I’ll let you know if this happens when I eventually am published. Hopefully the answer to that will be: Yes! You will be a glamorous, poised author! You will sparkle in sunlight!) It’s like when you turn a year older – when you’re young you expect that when you turn seven or ten or twelve or fifteen you’ll become magically mature and grown-up. Then you realise you’re exactly the same person you were the day before. It’s still a good feeling (I have a literary agent! I’m fifteen!) but nothing has changed all that much.

If you’re wondering how I’ve managed to accomplish this at fifteen, all I can say is: Writing is my entire life. I’ve got the benefit of not having children to look after or a job to work at like older aspiring writers do. I’m completing school by correspondence and that doesn’t chew up too much of my time. Time other teenagers would spend on watching TV or on Myspace I spend writing. Hopefully I won’t burn out by the time I’m twenty! (I do spend time with my family and friends to stay sane!)

At the moment, I’m trying to refine my voodoo magic skills enough to influence an editor to want to publish my novel (I’m also working on making my novel the best I can possibly make it, but this is, obviously, secondary) and crossing my fingers.

If the message behind this isn’t clear, here it is: You can do it! You can get an agent! It’s not a Catch-22, it’s actually possible. If you’ve been trying for a long time, and you haven’t found an agent yet, it wasn’t the right time or the right agent. I promise you’ll achieve your goals, and everything will work out great. Getting a literary agent won’t magically give you complete faith in your writing, or even make you the next Stephenie Meyer (Which isn’t what you should want, anyway. You want to be the first you) but it is a big accomplishment and a huge step in the right direction.

Wish me luck! And good luck with your endeavours too!

Even though it’s Steph’s party, Steph is the one who’s brought along the presents:

Steph has some books to give away to a lucky commentator  (postal addresses in Australia are eligible for this giveaway):

Pink by Lili Wilkinson (ARC)
Jarvis 24 by David Metzenthen
My Candlelight Novel by Joanne Horniman

So what are you waiting for? Leave a comment!


  1. OK, I can’t win any a prize, as I live in the US, although I guess I could have them sent to my friends in Sydney! Nah …

    But a huge congratulations to Steph. This week on my blog,, I’ll be posting a timeline of how this all came about so incredibly quickly. I’ll also be guest posting on Steph’s blog and I believe here as well. So if you have questions for me, send away to and I’ll try to include them.

    And yes, you can get an agent! Revise like crazy, recruit beta readers, revise again and then do it a few more times, write a query letter, and off you go.

  2. Wow! I’m so impressed. Now I wish I’d spent my teenage years writing instead of chasing after boys!
    Congratulations Steph.

    I’m excited to have found you guys after I decided I needed to find some Aussie blogs to follow. I love my American blog friends but they just don’t get vegimite!

  3. That is so awesome, I loved hearing about your journey to scoring an agent and your advice to others. You, Steph Bowe, have a very promising future ahead of you!

    I’d also love to be entered in for the giveaway too, great books! And LOL… I agree with Jade who commented above. Americans just don’t understand the awesomeness of Vegemite 😉

  4. Congratulations Steph!
    You are a great example of what can be achieved. I’m looking forward to reading your book when it’s snapped up and hits the shelves!

  5. Congratulations, Steph! What a huge achievement. I wish you loads of GOOD LUCK! I have no doubt teaming up with Ginger will lead to wonderful things in the publishing realm.

  6. Actually Jade – I don’t get vegemite even though I’m an Aussie.

    Steph, am I allowed to say I want to be the next Steph Bowe? Though I’m probably about 25 years too late. I guess I’ll be the first Diane Curran then! Very good advice.

    Let me know how your voodoo magic goes- mine has been a little bit dodgy lately.

  7. Congratulations Steph, and good luck! It’s a great accomplishment, and a great source of inspiration for the rest of us!

  8. You’re 15??????? Steph, you are a complete superstar! Mega Congratulations!!!!!

  9. […] So that’s it for our Steph Bowe week, and I’m sure she’ll be back soon to announce a winner of her book giveaway – you still have time to enter here. […]

  10. […] Inky Awards It’s taken me a while, but here’s the winner of the competition on my guest post, selected by […]

  11. I have a less than stellar credit rating thanks to that. ,

  12. I LOVED reading this. I am also a young aspiring author (19) and I’ve recently been submitting. Got a couple requests – but I’ve been fishing around the web for inspirational blogs like these to get me thinking positively before I go ahead and submit. I only hope I have the same luck, and if I don’t at this time, I will definitely keep going.
    Can’t wait to read that your story reached publication! I’m sure you will reach much success. And thanks again for the inspiration!

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