How I Got My Agent

The novel that got me my agent is not my first written or queried novel—by far.

I am a perseverance story. A turtle story. A “go touch some grass” story. I am jaded. Realistic. Cynical, maybe. I prefer the hard truth over the sugarcoated one. I have faced a decade of rejection. I want to start with this so you know what to expect. If you’re looking for wonder and positivity in your journey towards finding your agent, then you won’t find that here. That’s not my story. And that’s okay. There are stories out there, like that, and they’re great. They’re just not my story.

I forced myself to break many personal boundaries to get to where I am now, and I’m not sure all of it was perhaps worth the cost of my anxiety and stress. Not in the end, anyway. And that’s one of the many ways that this game is rigged. You can’t know what works for you, and when it works, and so you have to try everything to optimize your chances.

I always preach self-awareness as being the best tool a writer can have, and I stand by that even now. Self-awareness of your creative process, of your weaknesses, of your strengths—that’s all gonna help you in the end. It’ll help you improve, sure, but it’ll also help you find peace and acceptance with yourself and your projects. It did for me. 80% of the time, anyway; I’m no saint.

As an international ESL-writer (English second language), my struggle was both learning the craft of writing and storytelling in English—but also learning how to navigate a foreign industry. From afar, no less. From 100% online. And with a severely limited physical support network here at home in Denmark.

For reference, Denmark doesn’t have anything that equates to a literary agent as a profession. Our market is not big enough or competitive enough for that. It’s author to publisher, always, and we have basically only 1-2 big publishers. And they all lean towards literary fiction, not towards the genre fiction that I write.

If you’re an international writer, you’ll get all that I’m saying here.

I’m not sure others necessarily will, but you will.


2012 book: 0 requests

2016 book: 0 requests

2018 book: 1 full request

2019 book: 3 full requests, all rejected

2020 book: 0 requests

2021-22 book: 7 requests w/1 offer (7,8% request rate)

Chronological(ish) order of events:


I technically sent my first query when I was 21. I am now 32. My first query was ten years ago. It was before email queries dominated the industry as much as they do now. I sent my query and pages in an SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) from Denmark—to Neil Gaiman’s agent in the US, because I’m nothing if not self-deluded—and genuinely expected a reply. As you can imagine, I got no reply. In hindsight, that was good. Because that book sucked. Majorly. And it was also culturally insensitive. I’ve learned since then, thankfully.


Until 2015, I took a break. From querying. Not from writing. I think I realized at this point that I wasn’t good enough to be querying. I had just shifted from writing primarily fanfiction to original stuff, and I think I realized my original fiction needed more work to be traditionally published. Particularly, I needed to learn story structure. I needed to strengthen my storytelling skills until they were as strong as my writing skills. I read a lot of craft books in that time. I approached it like I did my academic degree. That is, with a lot of notetaking and cross-referencing of techniques, styles, advice etc. All pertaining to story structure, naturally, because I had identified that as my weakness.

Leading up to 2018, I was also shifting from writing YA to writing Adult, so this set me back further in my querying journey since that involved studying a different age category. That meant catching up on the adult fiction market in terms of reading books and in terms of researching agents. This shift was extremely time-consuming, to be honest, but also extremely helpful.


Around 2018, I was working hard on building relationships with beta readers and critique partners. Ones that I could trust, mind you, and with an emphasis on long-term. Before then, I had been ghosted by plenty of beta-readers, and I was done taking the easy way out. I began swapping material with other writers, a process that taught me so much about my own writing. Focusing on helping others was one of the best decisions I’ve ever done because I was also helping myself. In a roundabout way, you know? That’s how all creative artistry works, I’ve since realized.

Around 2020, I began to get serious about pitch events (pitmad, sffpit, moodpitch, pitdark). I began to study how to write twitter pitches (and, indeed, my agent offer came from a pitch event), and I began to experience successful ones. I was finally cracking that particular code.

I also applied for mentorship programs (pitchwars, AMM, revpit, writementor, roguementor) from 2018 and onward. I eventually got picked by roguementor in 2021, with the book that also got me my agent. It was one of two requests that I ever got from any mentorship programs, in total, with four books.

In hindsight, this is when I began to take incremental steps forward. My studying of the craft, the market, and the industry was starting to enhance my products and projects. I was also more comfortable writing Adult than YA; it allowed me to focus more on prose, which apparently is a strength of mine.

Covid also helped a lot, honestly, because it moved a lot of resources online. As an international writer, I benefited majorly from this. I began to challenge myself at this point, thinking I needed to take advantage of all the online opportunities that used to be offline, and which probably would go offline again soon enough.


This is when Covid hit. A lot of industry resources were suddenly made available and accessible to me as an international writer. Specifically, conferences were suddenly all online. I began to attend conferences that offered live pitching to agents. This prospect terrified me. Agents in general terrified me.

But I hate fearing something.

And I hate being desperate.

I do my best to channel my fear and desperation into sheer pigheaded stubbornness.

This means I attended several online live pitching events in 2020-21, despite my fear of them. As a recurring and accessible event that didn’t demand too much time or effort, Writing Workshops was a solid choice. I also had the luxury of being able to spend money on this. I’m not rich—in fact, I’m often unemployed—but I live in a welfare state, and I am never without some form of paycheck. That’s why it’s worth paying higher taxes, folks.

Around this time, I hired my first professional editor to help me with the opening chapters of my manuscript alongside my trustworthy beta-readers. I learned so much from this process, even if it didn’t land me an agent.

Later, in early 2022, I hired my first professional editor to help me with a developmental edit of my full manuscript. This is the book that eventually landed me my agent. My Snow Queen retelling. I learned even more this time around. Particularly, that I didn’t even need a developmental edit, which was a huge boost in my confidence.

In early 2022, I got picked/paid for the Futurescapes 2022 Workshop with this same book. This was a more selective and time-consuming event than any other online event I had attended. It had both a workshop element that consisted of Zoom feedback from several well-established agents, and it also had a ton of masterclasses on writing by well-established authors in the SFF genre. I learned so much from this entire event. This was the point when I finally realized that agents are just people who love books—like me.

In 2022, I actually stopped writing novels to focus on short fiction. I had identified my next weakness. I wanted to get better on a scene-level. I wanted to get better at pacing my scenes. At maintaining tension on a micro-level. And I decided that short fiction, given its limited scope, would help me get better at that so that my novels would also get better. And it did help me, in fact, to the point that I now have several short stories published in magazine and anthologies.

I was still doing pitch events for my novels around this time, and I had never stopped doing them. All throughout 2022, I could sense that something was shifting. The agent interest was higher than ever whenever I pitched my Snow Queen retelling. SFFpit was the event that eventually landed me my agent, in the fall of 2022, and I will forever be grateful for that.

Ending Note

I got lucky.

Sometimes that luck is fast, and sometimes that luck is slow, but it’s always there.

I optimized my chances and opportunities to the best of my ability. I broke personal boundaries (live pitching is terrifying). I self-studied craft. I beta-ed books for my friends. I hired professional help. I prepared myself as much as I could—and when luck hit me, I was ready for it.

Because it’s not just about skill.

It’s not just about working hard.

The final stretch is about luck.

Can you have fantasy without magic?

In my 20 years of reading and writing fantasy, I’ve never thought much about the part that magic plays in fantasy—until recent years. It started with one book for me. A book that, paradoxically, isn’t new in the slightest, but was written in 1926.

That book is LUD-IN-THE-MIST, by Hope Mirrlees.

I picked it up in a bookstore at random. Or, I say at random, but I really picked it up because the cover was pretty and it had a Neil Gaiman blurb calling it “the single most beautiful and unjustifiably forgotten novel of the twentieth century.”

Like, how do you resist that?

Anyway, I read the book, loved it—and somehow, for some reason, realized that the magic within the book is solely contained to the land. The dirt. The soil. Meanwhile, the characters are all regular people, affected by this magical land, but they never contain any magic themselves. Neither are there any magical creatures (that are shown, not purely told).

Reading that book had a monumental impact on my own worldbuilding.

It affected every book that I wrote after it, honestly, with me moving all magic from my characters into the soil upon which they walk. Before this, worldbuilding was my weakness. But now? Once I realized I didn’t have to make magical people, but I could have magical soil instead? It changed everything for me. Magical people had always felt overdone to me, meaning I struggled finding a fresh spin on it that could keep me invested enough to write a whole book. But a magical land? Now, that was something different. For me, obviously. I can only speak for me.

This, in turn, made me think about the “classifications” or “locales” of magic in the fantasy genre.

As I see it, we can roughly bulk the magical presence into three categories:

  1. Magical people
  2. Magical creatures
  3. Magical land

I view these categories as a powerplay between outlets of magic (not to be confused with the fantastical/otherworldly, which can also exist in sci-fi etc.), and I’ll try to explain it below.

The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart

To give examples, recent fantasies that includes magical people as its primary outlet (aka, people controlling magic that is either their own or magic that is the land) could be DOWN COMES THE NIGHT by Saft, LAKESEDGE by Clipstone, JASMINE THRONE by Suri, WITHIN THESE WICKED WALLS by Blackwood, the ONCE AND FUTURE WITCHES by Harrow, WITCHMARK by C.L. Polk, THE UNBROKEN by Clark, and THE BONE-SHARD DAUGHTER by Stewart.

This seemingly remains the most popular way of including magic. The important point here is that while the land and the creatures might also be magical in this narrative, they are often somehow controlled by the magical people around them. Tamed, you might say. And that’s different from my other two categories of magic that lists creatures and land as having independent magic that people cannot contain and control.

The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K.S. Villoso

Then there’s the magical creatures. Sentient, independent magical beings. Recent fantasies that feature magical creatures as a primary outlet could be BLACK SUN by Roanhorse and WOLF OF OREN-YARO/THE IKESSAR FALCON/DRAGON OF JIN-SAYENG by Villoso. I’d also include Chakraborty’s DAEVABAD trilogy here as well, and maybe even Moreno-Garcia’s GODS OF JADE AND SHADOW. And Stiefwater’s THE SCORPIO RACES, of course.

You could also bring in Martin’s A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE here, although that’s not a recent release. Likewise, you could bring in Novik’s TEMERAIRE series, but it’s also not recent. It does seem to me that magical creatures aren’t as favored in traditional publishing as they used to be.

Drowned Country (The Greenhollow Duology, #2) by Emily Tesh

Then there’s the magical land. As with LUD-IN-THE MIST, the book that founded the entire basis for this article and my general view on magic in fantasy. Now, when there’s a magical land, there’s also often magical people. Novik’s UPROOTED comes to mind. And Solomon’s SORROWLAND. And Meyer’s INTO THE HEARTLESS WOOD. But there are also books where the magical land is the primary outlet. Tesh’s SILVER IN THE WOOD/DROWNED COUNTRY both fit that mark. As does THE YEAR OF THE WITCHING by Henderson, Sutherland’s HOUSE OF HOLLOW, Huang’s BURNING ROSES, and Ernshaw’s WINTERWOOD. You might say that in these books the magic of the land controls the magic of the people. And the land is often somehow hostile (in recent times). The antagonist to the protagonist. The reverse of the first category were the people controlled the magic of the land.

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

Then there are fantasies with very little magic in them, whether it be people or creatures or land.  SHE WHO BECAME THE SUN by Chan fits that mark for me. For books like SWBTS, it’s the secondary world that makes it fantasy while the magic is mostly absent. For other books, where magic is entirely absent, we’re talking non-magical fantasy which is a subgenre of its own.

A lot of this also depends on the POV of a book. 1st person POV lends itself well to (the inner struggles/goals of) magical people, I daresay, whereas 3rd person POV might lend itself better to magical creatures or magical land.

And then there’s also the age categories to keep in mind. Perhaps MG lends itself better to magical people because that’s what a younger audience needs most? A smaller-scale focus on family, friendship, etc.? And perhaps Adult fits magical land better because politics and military can play a bigger part (as in the case of SWBTS)?

And this is what I want to end with, I think.

The fact that, yes, we absolutely can have fantasy without magic, and these books often take the shape in secondary worlds that are fantastical rather than magical—but it’s perhaps more pertinent to look at the shape of the magic presented rather than the absence/presence of it.

Because, really, isn’t that what fantasy is about? Our attempt to define what magic can/can’t be? Our attempt to define the fantastical? With the caveat that the fantastical doesn’t have to be magical, but then this bodes the question, when is something fantasy (as a genre) and when is it science-fiction, for example? And when is it science fantasy? Or simply speculative?

Again, in my view, it’s all about the powerplay of the magical/fantastical.

And, more importantly, it’s also a matter of individual versus collective definitions of “magic” as a concept, which also necessitates that we consider reader expectation on top of that, meaning we’ll have to look into majority versus minority definitions of “magic” as a concept, and then also see where those definitions percolateit’s a lot, amirite?

I asked if you can have fantasy without magic, and yes, you absolutely can, but I also think it hinges a lot on personal/reader/industry definition and expectation of “magic” as a concept.

And that, folks, will be my ending note.

Thanks for listening!

My Preorder List of ’22 SFF (and more) Releases

Each December, every year, I make a preorder list of books for the upcoming year. I make sure to include debuts, on principle, and I try to focus on releases within that same year as opposed to books released years ago. My list ranges from MG to Adult, but is primarily focused on SFF since that’s the market I hope to one day be a part of. And, before you ask, the list will no doubt change throughout ’22, but I’ll never delete any books. I’ll only add. There’s that principle again, I guess.

So, without further ado, behold my ‘22 preorder list, complete with blurbs and my reasons for wanting to read these fantastic books.

Settle in, this is gonna be a long one—31 books long, to be precise.


In this Indian-inspired debut fantasy, royal siblings must work together against their will, planning to stab each other in the back during their combined quest for a mysterious object of legend that’ll unlock a new magic in the world in order to prevent an invasion—and I’m sold. That’s it. I need no more.



Daughter of the Moon Goddess (The Celestial Kingdom Duology, #1)

In this debut adult fantasy, inspired by the legend of Chang’e, the Chinese moon goddess, a young woman grows up on the moon, exiled alongside her mother for stealing an elixir of immortality, after which she must disguise her identity in her quest to free her mother from the most powerful immortal in the realm—yes, please, I’ll take this. No questions asked.



The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea

It’s a YA fantasy about a girl who sacrifices herself for her brother (and his beloved) by jumping into the watery depths of the Spirit Realm where she must find a way to appease the malevolent Sea God who demands a bride every year—except she discovers him caught in an enchanted sleep, and the longer that she stays in the spirit realm, attempting to wake him and appease him, the closer she herself comes to death.

I mean, what’s not to like here? And the stakes? Someone hold my hand, please.

A River Enchanted (Elements of Cadence, #1)

Not gonna lie, I was sold on this book without even reading the pitch, and purely because one of the comp titles is The Witch’s Heart (2021) by Genevieve Gornichec. A River Enchanted is an adult fantasy about a bard who returns home to assist in finding girls who’ve gone lost, taken by the spirits of his homeland, and he must use his music to do so, with an heiress convincing him to do so, yet the spirits turn more sinister by the day, and there’s just a lot to love here, okay, okay, okay?


Second Star to the Left

It’s an adult romantic fantasy with a Tinker Bell who’s banished from her homeland for selling the hottest drug in Neverland—pixie dust—after which she wants absolution, which takes the shape of seducing a pirate and stealing precious gems from under his hook—and I’m sold. End of story. Don’t need to know more.



Rise of the Mages

In this adult fantasy debut, we’ve got a protagonist who wants nothing more than becoming a weapons master—and I’m sold. Come on. Aren’t you sold, too? Maybe it helps if I also mention that the protagonist’s final exam to become a weapons master includes a bloody insurrection, staged by corrupt nobles and priests, that enslaves his brother? And to rescue his brother, the protagonist must embrace not only his abilities as a warrior, but also his place as last of the ancient Mage Kings?


Fire Becomes Her


In this YA Jazz Age fantasy where magic buys votes, a politically savvy teen must weigh her desire to climb the social ladder against her heart—do you need to know more? I don’t.




I’m not gonna say a whole lot here, since I don’t yet know a whole lot, except that this anthology is based off SJ Whitby’s Cute Mutants Series, and if you haven’t read that yet, you’ve failed yourself.




A Far Wilder Magic

In this YA fantasy, the protagonist is a sharpshooter who needs the help of an alchemist (enter certified soft boi, Wes) in chasing down the last living mythical creature that has spurred the Halfmoon Hunt where the winner will earn fame, riches, and an ancient magical secret. Like, come on? Gimme?



So This Is Ever After

A subversive, LGBTQ+ YA take on the Arthurian legend where the chosen one wins the kingdom and has to get married to keep it—and to stay alive—after clumsily beheading the evil king with a dull sword and is now at a loss for what to do. I’m sold. I want this down my gullet, right now.



The Circus Infinite

A LGBTQ+ adult sci-fi in which the protagonist is on the run from people wanting to study his gravity powers, which takes him to a pleasure moon full of mixed-species fugitives, and here he must survive when the crime boss of a resort-casino notices him working a circus job and realizes there’s a bounty on his head, and—good god, do I want to hold this book in my grubby little hands.



Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter

As one of the reviews for this book so aptly says: “A feminist adventure story set against the backdrop of the dangerous pearl-diving industry in 19th-century Western Australia, about a young English woman who sets off to uncover the truth about the disappearance of her eccentric father.” 

I mean, come on? Who doesn’t need this? Nobody!




In this feminist adult fantasy debut, the protagonist is desperate for independence, so she turns to texts she once read with her mother in which she discovers a magic that is hers alone and which transforms her into a warrior, diplomat, and most favored (if also vilified) queen—except there are consequences. There are always consequences, indeed, and I am desperate to know what they are, please?


Fevered Star (Between Earth and Sky, #2)

This is the sequel to Roanhorse’s Black Sun (2020)—and that’s all I need to know for me to preorder this one. If you haven’t read Black Sun, you’re missing out on one of the more recent masterpieces in adult fantasy. And I genuinely mean that. Sadly, it seems lesser known than some more popular releases, and I’d love to change that.




The Stardust Thief

In this adult fantasy debut…

A merchant, a jinn, a prince, and a thief walk into the desert.
“For treasure,” says the merchant.
“For redemption,” says the jinn
“For adventure!” says the prince.
“For revenge,” says the thief.
For better or worse, they get exactly what they wish for.

That’s it. That’s the pitch, courtesy of the author itself, and what more can I say?

Under Fortunate Stars

In this adult sci-fi, we follow a smuggler whose freighter breaks down in a strange rift in deep space where it encounters a supposed research vessel from the future. I don’t need to know more than that mystery and setting alone; do you?




Book of Night

Holly Black’s first venture into adult fantasy? Yes, please. I don’t even care what this book is about. I just want it. That said, if you like con artists, shadow magic with lethal consequences, and sharp prose, then this book is for you.




Wind Daughter (Echo North, #2)

This YA fantasy novel (companion to Echo North, 2019) is about a storyteller and his daughter. The twist? The storyteller was once the formidable North Wind, but he lost his power by trading it away in exchange for mortality because he loved his daughter’s mother too much to live without her. This book is the story of the daughter, Satu, as she embarks on a perilous journey to reclaim her father’s magic—but she isn’t the only one searching for it.  

Can you scream stakes and worldbuilding? If not, then I can scream it for you.



A Mirror Mended (Fractured Fables, #2)

In this sequel to the YA fantasy novella A Spindle Splintered (2020), the protagonist is a professional fairytale fixer who’s done fixing damsels in distress. Until, of course, the last person shows up who simply must be fixed, and it turns out the person isn’t a princess, but an evil queen—and I won’t go quietly into the night waiting for this book, I’m telling you…



The Final Strife

In this African and Arabian-inspired adult fantasy, three women band together against a cruel Empire that divides people by blood—red, blue, and clear—and as the Empire begins a set of trials of combat and skill designed to find its new leaders, the stage is set for blood to flow, power to shift, cities to burn, and for me to scream bloody murder until I get to hold this book in my hands.



The Sleepless

In this adult contemporary sci-fi, the setting is a New York City where a minority of the population has lost the need for sleep, and a journalist fights to uncover the truth behind his boss’s murder while his own Sleeplessness spirals out of control.

I mean, the setting and the stakes alone had me gasping for this book immediately; what about you?




  1. THE BOOK OF GOTHEL by Mary McMyne
The Book of Gothel

In this debut adult fantasy, we get the story of the witch who put Rapunzel in the tower, Haelewise, starting from when she was the strange, shunned child of an overprotective mother who dies and leaves her unmoored—until she finds the tower of Gothel and those who live there.

I mean, if you don’t wanna hear more about this story, I’m not sure what you wanna hear more about, you know?


Silk Fire

As taken directly from the source, because wow, did this pitch have me hooked immediately: “Set in a planet-sized matriarchal city where magic and technology freely bleed together, a male courtesan’s quest for vengeance against his aristocrat father draws him into an ancient struggle between dragons, necromancers, and his home district’s violent history.”



Flames Of Mira (The Rift Walker, #1)

This epic adult fantasy has everything you could want, basically: elementals forged in boiling volcanoes and subterranean passages, a protagonist forced to work in secret as an enforcer for a corrupt magnate when he’s cursed with a flesh binding that’ll have magic killing him at the first sign of disobedience—and do you need to know more? Maybe you want to know that the magnate dies, leaving the protagonist to rediscover the person he once was and escape his flesh binding before the land falls apart around him?



The Book Eaters

Things you can find in this contemporary fantasy debut, as best said by the author herself:

“Literal book eating; violent road trip thru Northern Britain; a kickass mother-son duo; cults, conspiracies, & hidden societies; bone-deep platonic friendships (and ace rep); modern gothic vibes; 90s video game nostalgia”


The Bruising of Qilwa

This adult fantasy novella has a refugee practitioner of blood magic discovering a strange disease that causes political rifts in their new homeland, leading to lethal accusations of ineptly-performed blood magic —and I’m done, that’s it, I want to inhale this book right now.





The Witch and the Tsar

This debut adult fantasy deals with the maligned and immortal witch of legend known as Baba Yaga as she risks all to save Russia and her people from Tsar Ivan the Terrible. When her old friend Anastasia—now the wife of the Tsar, and suffering from a mysterious illness—arrives in her forest desperate for her protection, Yaga realizes the fate of all of Russia is tied to Anastasia’s, and so Yaga must step out of the shadows to protect the land she loves. But what Yaga can’t know is that Ivan is being manipulated by powers far older and more fearsome than anyone can imagine.

I mean, the sheer stakes in this, both small-scale and large-scale, and the deep-seeded motivation of friendship against the backdrop of 16th century Russia; what more can you ask for?

Nona the Ninth (The Locked Tomb, #3)

I don’t need to say much here, do I? Except that I am overjoyed we’ll be getting four books, rather than three, and who’s with me?








In this xianxia-inspired contemporary debut fantasy, we meet a magical temporary agency calligrapher who becomes involved with a client and must embrace her powers in order to battle a deadly feud. Check, please? I’m ready to buy, right now?

This fantasy duology is pitched as King Arthur meets Peaky Blinders with vampires—and let’s just stop there, because that’s enough for me to buy it. What about you?

Sir Callie and the Champions of Helston (Sir Callie #1)

In this LGBTQ+ MG debut, 12-year-old nonbinary Callie’s ex-hero dad is summoned to the royal capitol of Helston to train a hopeless prince as an epic war looms, while Callie lunges for the opportunity to become an official knight in training. Helston is full of powerful people who believe knighthood is for boys and magic is for girls, and Callie and Co. will have to fight both the dangers beyond the kingdom and the bigotry from within. 

Like come on? If this doesn’t scream MG Tamora Pierce, then what does? I’m in!


And that’s it. That’s my preorder list for 2022 as of today’s date. Liable to change, of course, as we actually enter 2022, but so far this is it. 31 books. Since I managed to read 50 books during 2021, I imagine this is doable. With the caveat that I’ll no doubt add more. Speaking of…

Did I miss any books?

Then do tell me in the comments below!