So I finished the “re-write” of my novel earlier this week and found myself on the crest of a wave of excitement and anticipation. It wasn’t bad. Not bad at all. Feedback from the few who have received advance copies has been good and my wife who, believe me, would tell me in no uncertain terms if it was crap, has given it a big thumbs up.
I’m ready, I thought.
For the next step.
Acquiring an agent.
I did an initial search on-line. And straightaway found the wave dropping away from me like the start of a tsunami and disappearing down the nearest drain.
Without exception their web sites are cold, clinical, unwelcoming places full of corporate speak and self advertising. Finding one single link to the submissions page is a labour of Hercules. They keep that particular doorway well hidden. Almost as if they don’t really want people to find it.
Plus finding an agent who (a) is accepting unsolicited work and (b) taking work of the genre that best fits what I have written is another labour entirely. I managed to bookmark a few but they have another list of hoops for the potential author to leap through. Everything must be just so or they won’t even look at your work.
One even demanded a CV.
A CV?! This is my first novel! Aside from a bit of poetry and a short story I’ve not been published before!
I tried the old trick of picking a few successful authors and searching for their agents. What a waste of time that was. J.K. Rowling’s agent is not taking any new work at the moment. They’re inundated. Possibly because of the success of J.K. Will Self’s agent had a very cold pop-up window which virtually said thank you but no thank you if we haven’t already heard of you. Other writers who decorate the spines on my bookshelf are either American or Japanese. I’ve nothing against acquiring an overseas agent but they do tend to take a higher percentage of any earnings – 20% and above. Rather steep.
The end result of all this wall-banging was that it totally shrivelled up by burgeoning little author’s ego and sapped me of all confidence. It made me lose my bottle and I went back to checking my emails instead.
I’ve come back round since then. Karen has bought me a couple of advice books for writers and the Writer’s Yearbook is always a hardy reference manual on my bookshelf. I shall read the relevant sections, gird my loins and pitch myself into the Rejection Game once more. I’d got hardened to it when I was writing poetry. I daresay I shall harden up again.
Bottle is all well and good. But bulletproof glass is the thing required...
I went through all this about five years ago when I was shopping my first novel around. It's the death of the soul. Good luck with that.
On the one hand, you may be tempted to avoid the big, flashy agents because they're big and flashy. However, the first agent to show an interest in my ms was one of the biggest. (The interest didn't last.)
On the other hand, the smaller agents often take much longer to get back to you (because they're often just one person in an office somewhere) and though they may well give you a positive response... they'll often then tell you how they can't afford to take on any new clients at this time.
Add to that the fact that the market has been shrunk and battered over the last 5 years too... god, I wish you luck, Steve. In all sincerity. Rejection letters are the most soul-destroying things ever, but don't let them get you down.
Let us know how you go on... I'll be jumping into this game myself again in a year or so, I probably need reminding just how painful it can be.
Rol: thank you, I can hear the memory of attrition bleeding through your words. God knows it was bad enough when I was hawking my poetry around but I had so many and they only took weeks to write... I didn't mind and got enough odd yes's to cancel out the misery of a billions no's. With my novel, however, it's a different ballgame - it's taken nearly 3 years to write, a large investment of time and effort... I'd be mortified if it was all for nothing. Thanks for your good wishes - I shall keep you posted.
Oh, you might want to keep an eye on this blog too - for comfort:
Rol: oh that makes me feel a helluva lot better. ;-)
I had no idea what the process was and seems daunting but Don't give up, persevere with that novel because it deserves an audience. I wish you all the best, there are a lot of literary agents out there so probably painstaking and time consuming but just keep going.
A long shot but is there for instance a local newspaper publishing group - sometimes these also publish books and will take on publishing works by local authors?
Have a good weekend Steve
Löst Jimmy: thank you for the injection of positivity and hope - it's all too easy to give up before the race is even run. I'm proud of myself for even finishing a novel - I know most don't. To have come this far and not to continue seems rather daft!
Mrs TS wrote a book for our daughter to help with her Asperger's. She got nowhere. I'm trying to persuade her to try http://www.lulu.com/
Tenon_Saw: I've heard of this and I'd be tempted to do a few copies for myself, friends and family but - call me a glutton for punishment - if I'm honest, I want the real deal.
What genre is your novel? I suppose foreign sales could potentially be bigger to offset the 20% commission. Do you have an excerpt up anywhere on the web? Anyway, I don't have much to offer in the way of advice, but good luck with it.
What is your genre? Maybe we could opine more effectively if we knew where you are trying to go. Spit it out man!
ArtSparker, English Rider: magic-realism / psychological horror would be the best description.
I wish I was talented enought to be where you are now - a whole novel completed and ready for an agent to discover and take on to great heights.
I remember, from my brief attempt many many years ago to see if I could sing professionally, I looked for an agent and the whole experience completely shattered my confidence. But now, I watch my daughter as she looks for an agent (admittedly with the help of a school) and she has a completely different attitude - "their loss - they'll be sorry!". It sounds like arrogance but actually it's self-belief and I have to say I'm a bit in awe.
So, I suggest, that you get yourself to your local zoo, pick up some rhinoceros hide and practise that motto for when you need it - "their loss mate, their loss".
Selina: you're right I'm sure, a healthy dollop of self-belief bordering on arrogance is the best medicine to combat all the inevitable knockbacks... unfortunately it's never been something I've had in huge supply!
Mr FF got me the Writer's Yearbook as his 'going to Paris and leaving you alone' present - to encourage me. But you've seen it - it is just daunting.
The best of luck and I don't know how any new writer does it these days - let alone get to the stage of nirvana when their beloved manuscript is up for auction and all the houses are clamouring for it.
FF: it's not so much an uphill struggle as trying to climb a mountain in nothing but your pyjamas...!
Oh goodness. It all sounds so unnecessarily complicated too. I don't think I have a thick enough skin to do that - I'd be crying myself to sleep at night.
I do submit a lot of stuff for work purposes and some of that is rejected (The Lancet rejects everything I send it - bastards!) or subject to major rewrites but there is nothing of my heart and soul in work projects and like your poetry they only take weeks not years to produce. But nonetheless it still sends me crashing when I get a piece rejected.
So I have no idea how you are going to cope. And I have no advice. Well, other than don't submit your novel to The Lancet!
Good luck with it all. I can't wait to get my signed copy.
Gina: The Writer's Yearbook is fast becoming my Bible... plus Karen, bless her, is prepared to do some of the dry donkey work of sending the novel out. On the bright side there a helluva lot of agents to choose from... always another one around the corner. Let's hope we're both not in our nineties by the time you get your signed copy...!
Don't give up. The hardest part is over, you've written the damn thing so just keep plodding away. It will pay off in time. There's got to be a way and you will find it.
I have spoken.
Let it be so.
Clippy Mat: yes ma'am!
I would go to my local independent book store and lie. Ask for your own book. When they can't find it in the data-base, describe the genre and ask for their best guess at who would publish such a thing because you really, really need to track it down. If they have Author events, book signings and readings then they have direct contact names with publishers and their ilk.
I would also consider back door approaches like picking up the phone and calling Dreamworks animation department. They are always open to new ideas and very human. Everyone is young (at least in spirit) and artsy and they all walk the halls chatting about Shrek etc. They might also give you a suggestion of a name to call. Subsequently, your next call could start with "So and So at Dreamworks suggested I connect with you about my book" Foot inserted firmly into doorway.
Life's a Bluff and don't you forget it. Good Luck.
By the way the higher percentage commission the more incentive the agent has to sell your book. 100% of zero is still zero. We share 50/50 with galleries that sell my husband's paintings.
good luck, mate! Maybe you could see who publishes in other english-speaking countries like NZ??? I dunno.
When you do your world/whirled tour you can stay at our place...
English Rider: I can see you've given this some thought! Interesting and "outside the box" suggestions - I shall give them some serious thought.
Amanda: I'm still in the rabbit hutch, right? ;-)
Steve, it's just one foot in front of the other, really, with the agent deal I have come to believe. I follow a blog at http://blog.nathanbransford.com/ and as a literary agent he shares and gives a great insight and advice into the business. It's worth checking it out. He might have some recommendations even?
All the best for FINISHING the novel, kudos to you, it's all I can say.
The Undertaker: thank you for a very useful link - any insider knowledge is gratefully received!
The WY is a huge step in the right direction, you'll get there Steve and you are way tougher than you think you are.
I think the 'your loss' advice was spot on. Good luck.
MissBehaving: thank you, I think I'm going to need it - good luck seems to be the essential ingredient!
I bought Writer's Market and used that to filter when looking through the web.
I've managed to find agents who I think may be approachable but I won't take the plunge until after the people reading it have finished and after a final rewrite after I've left it to mature for a while.
When we write we enter our fantasy world.
When we think about marketing it reality has to be faced.
Bound to be frightening.
AWB: you're right. Writing the novel was hard but I was cocooned in a little fantasy world. Now I have to bring those 250 odd pages into a harsh reality and make them "work" for me in a different way.
What is your book about, Steve? Would like to know. - Jeanne
Femminismo: the genre is Magic-realism / psychological horror and is about someone who is given a book that can seemingly alter reality... or is this person merely insane...?
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