Author: Helen Cox

Helen Cox is a UK author. She made her on-screen debut in The Krankies in 1990. Given the choice, her Mastermind topic would be Grease 2 and when someone asks her if she is a god she says 'yes.' Oh, you want to know about her books? Best click some of the links below.

Finding My Guardian Agent


A year ago, if you’d asked me for a list of sentences I never thought I’d type this one would have been somewhere near the top of it:

Good morning,
Natasha Harding from HarperCollins suggested I contact you regarding representation as I have received an offer of publication for my first novel.

I remember staring at the words in disbelief. They’d spun out into the email as naturally as webbing might from Peter Parker’s fingers, but still I rubbed my eyes and blinked at them.

Was I really writing this email?

Was somebody in Publishing really recommending me to an Agent?

Initially, I was very nervous about the prospect of bringing an agent into the mix. The only thing I’d previously received from any agent I’d approached was a rejection email. Would this new person in my life appreciate how hard I’d worked or how much my writing meant to me?

Two factors prompted me to pursue representation even though I already had an offer of publication. Firstly, my editor, Natasha Harding, spent time short-listing agents that she thought would be a good fit for my work, so I could assume my story would be of at least some interest to them. Secondly, an author friend of mine, Nicola Doherty, was kind enough to advise me on the nature of publishing, suggesting it was wise to think beyond this book and look towards my long-term journey as an author.

I secured an offer of publication for my first novel: Milkshakes and Heartbreaks at the Starlight Diner just before Christmas 2015 and sent out three emails to the three recommended agents. The first agent read it quick enough to arrange a pre-Christmas meeting with me but I was typically unprepared for such a major life event.

Little tip.

When an agent asks: ‘What do you see yourself writing five years from now?’ I can say, with some confidence, that a desirable response is not: ‘Errrrrrr.’ Coupled with a look of extreme helplessness.

Surprisingly, I came away from that first meeting without an offer of representation.

I distracted myself by posting some Christmas cards; listening to the Queen’s speech and, alongside all the other residents of York, standing outside the Minster at midnight on New Year’s Eve, counting down to 2016.

January arrived and so did an email from the second agent. They were grateful for the recommendation but it wasn’t for them.

Two strikes in I began to wonder if I was going to strike out completely. Striking out completely was, after all, something I had a lot of practice at.

Another week passed and an email came through from the third agent, Hannah Ferguson from Hardman & Swainson. She loved my book but was going on maternity leave. She did however, promise to pass it on to her colleague, Joanna Swainson. I didn’t dare dream I’d be lucky enough to win over two separate agents in the same agency but Joanna also came back with praise.

Consequently, I travelled from York to West London for a meeting. The one thing I was thinking all the way through said meeting was: ‘Even if Joanna doesn’t offer me representation, she’s such a lovely woman I’m so glad I’ve met her.’ By the end of the meeting however, Joanna did offer me representation and I accepted without hesitation.

Even now I can’t believe I’m lucky enough to be represented by somebody who cares as much as Joanna does about the rights of authors; a person who believes in the stories I’m writing and, most importantly if you’re going to come anywhere near me, a person who has a sense of humour that’s almost as dry as mine is.

Although my quest to find an agent was more twisty-turny than I’d ever imagined it could be, it was all worth it in the end. Joanna is definitely THE agent for me and I’m so thankful to her for all she’s done to advise and encourage me in my craft. Because she’s always looking out for me, round our house I call her my Guardian Agent. It’s like being a Guardian Angel only better. But sshhh. She doesn’t know about this endearing nickname I’ve given her. It’s just between me and you.


2 comments on “Finding My Guardian Agent

  1. meredithgschorr
    August 24, 2016

    What an interesting journey to receive the offer for publication before the agent! Either way, it sounds like you’re very happy with both the publisher and the agent, so go you!


    • Helen
      August 25, 2016

      Interesting is one way of phrasing it Meredith lol. I always do everything backwards! But it turned out alright in the end.


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This entry was posted on August 24, 2016 by in Author Blog and tagged , , , , , , .
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