Tag Archives: Finding an agent

Hybrid. Not just for cars.

This post, on Chuck Wendig’s blog, got me thinking today. (BTW I can thoroughly recommend Chuck Wendig’s blog, unless you’re sensitive to swearing but then, if you’re sensitive to swearing I doubt you’ll be here either).

He was talking about hybrid authors. That is, those of us who self publish their work and also have a trad deal. Apparently, these folk earn more.

You know what. I’m not surprised at that.

Frankly, I would kill for a trad deal, so I could do both. Unfortunately it’s never going to happen. I used to have a reasonably high end business job, and I know how business works. I’m a really crap proposition. It won’t always be that way, but right now it is. A stay at home mum who takes two years to write each book. Even if I managed to pen a query letter covered with just the right amount of fairy dust and unicorn pooh to score that magic read (yes even with an ‘in’ I failed to the point where they sent me a letter back with comments that showed, quite clearly that one of the readers hadn’t even read the book). Even if an agent or a publisher, absolutely loved my stuff, there would be somebody who could churn out a book every 6 months, whose work they loved just as much, who’d get the deal. Geesh! I mean seriously, I wouldn’t touch me with a barge pole, so I don’t expect them to.

If I want trad, I’ve got to have a ‘proven track record’ – ugh I loathe and detest that phrase – and to get one of those, I’ve got to make it the hard way; as a self published author.

However, at least with self publishing, I do have the option to get my books out there and, possibly, succeed. It will be much harder – although not as hard as getting someone to read my query letter – and if I do succeed it will happen in slow motion. But the opportunity IS there.

This is what I love about self publishing.

What I hate is that anyone would bung their first attempt at a novel out there unedited, unrested, without thought. It absolutely amazes me – and gets me into a bit of a frothy mouthed rage, to be honest – because they’ve turned the only route to market for many of us into a slush pile that no-one will touch.

Thanks you bunch of complete and utter bastards.

The K’Barthan Trilogy (actually it’s four books so I’ll have to call it something else, ideas on a post card please) took me 25 years to write.  That’s if I count them from the first attempt. Although I admit I’ve done the donkey work in the last few, between 2008 and now. A lot of people, who would probably enjoy it will never will never find out about it, and others will never touch it because I’ve committed the terrible sin of publishing it myself.

Whatever people say, the prejudice has not gone away, with good reason (cf the complete and utter bastards mentioned above).

That is pretty galling.

Which brings me neatly onto hybrids and why I think they do better.

They’ve sidestepped the prejudice.

Those who ‘don’t read self published books’ will read the self published work of a traditional published author. They’ll pick up that author’s work in the first place. Those book shops who ‘don’t stock self published books’ will stock the self published work of someone with a trad record. It really is all about the brand. It’s the same road; getting to the point where there are enough people out there who trust you to write a good book, who will be confident giving them to their friends to read.

Hybrid is win-win. Hybrid authors have the endorsement of the establishment, they have fans from the normal off line world and they bring them with them. Those fans give the author the momentum to get their books up the listing past the glass ceiling of other authors, amazon book police and jaded, indie author loathing forumites, into the light where the ‘normals’ who are just looking for a book to read, see them. Their trad pub background gives them the golden key onto the review sites and into magazines that ‘won’t accept self published work’ but will from someone with a trad pub background. It’s definitely where I want to be.

In short, the way I see it is this.

If you’re a hybrid, you get to keep the cash and sell without the prejudice.
If you’re trad published you get to sell without the prejudice but there’s less cash to keep.
If you self publish you get to keep the cash but you earn less because until you’re seriously established, everyone you approach will assume that your work is sub standard, poorly edited crap.

It’s a conundrum. Hmm… would knowing what I look like help?

Well, you asked...
See how trustworthy I am.
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Dammit…

I liked these people, MCA… but despite being listed on querytracker.net as looking for my genre, the agent mentioned in the listing is not actually looking for sci-fi or fantasy.

So… querytracker.net gets a big thumbs down from me… one to avoid unless you’re in the US I suspect.

Looking for a new agency to submit to but not doing too well… many, when asked, express an aversion to fantasy… maybe I should pitch it as a comedy and forget to add the word ‘fantasy’, that’s a bit cheeky though.  Better to be straight.  And although it’s crap that there are so few agents dealing with my genre in some respects, on the up side, the fewer there are, the sooner I’ll know if I’m stuffed.

I really would love to find an agent though.  You know, a real one.  Someone who could help me hone my work, somebody who could open my eyes and turn me from a reasonable writer into a really good one… But at the same time, I’m kind of intimidated… the more agency websites I research, the more Oxbridge  English graduates, with MAs I find… I can’t see these literary rocket scientists going for an eccentric middle-aged, middle-class Mum with a bad Art History degree and a huge pussy* cat.  Hmm… it’s going to be a long search.

Never mind.  My submission to Snow books is good to go… what a pity my book isn’t (guffaw).  No, I’m not that disorganised, I just need to finish the last chunk of editing which is marked up already.  Then I can send it.

Perhaps it’s time to write another free e-short.  I have had 39 downloads in a month… not going to set the world on fire but not bad and I suspect it won’t get much better unless I keep up some momentum… wondering if I can manage one a month… or perhaps I should do a reading and sell it as an aural book.  That would be a scream.  I am a massive ham!

On that subject… the speaky thing, I mean not being a monster ham; since there’s a lot of speech in my novel ( “is it a play?” one agent asked me) I’m toying with adapting Few are Chosen for radio… just following the models of people who have succeeded at writing varietals of the stuff I do.

Well… it’s a thought.

* This joke was brought to you by the Mrs Slocombe appreciation society.

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Filed under Finding an agent, General Wittering, Marketing Ideas

E-publish and be damned?

Will it be frowned upon?  I’m thinking about this because I’ve just submitted to another agency, Wade and Doherty, mainly because I liked them.

This is the only submission I have in, at the moment.  I may do some more but I need to find a tactful way to explain that, due to my advanced age, I must approach more than one agent at a time in order to find one before I die…

Meanwhile the paid editor is launching into the third section of my novel.  She’s managed to cut it to 101,744 words… if I can get it down to 99,000 I’m sure it will improve my chances of publication.  Hoping having it edited will help, too.

Which leads me neatly onto my most recent topic for research.  Should an author e-publish a novel they are trying to sell to a publisher?  Does it reduce their appeal and make them look desperate or, if they’ve managed to sell some copies on the back of their own marketing efforts, does it help to prove their work is saleable?

I want to e-publish for three reasons:

  1. I want people to be able to read my book.
  2. I think the crest of the e-publishing wave is pretty much now – or possibly a month or two ago – and for once I want to be reasonably early to market.
  3. If it sells I can present it to an agent or publisher as something that is already known and successful (albeit in a small way).

If I e-publish, am I about to shoot myself comprehensively in the foot?

I’ll get back to you with more information about this as I uncover it.

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Advice re agents…

Here’s an excellent piece of advice I was given about finding an agent, today.  Find the agents which fit your writing/genre, then look down your shortlist and apply to new agencies, ie anything under 5 years old.  The bonuses are clear…

Most new agencies are started up by experienced agents from larger agencies gone solo.  As an unknown, fledgling writer, you won’t get a graduate trainee or somebody with one year’s experience.  If they take you on, your agent is likely to be a great deal more knowledgeable than anyone you’d get at a larger agency.

They’ll try harder, they are out there to make a name for themselves as well as you.

They will be less well known so you may only be up against a thousand or so other writers pitching for that one slot rather than the two or three thousand you’ll be up against pitching to a larger agency.

This advice came from a London publisher – he publishes text books but he’s still a publisher.  He also recommends writing consultants, you pay but they, too, are often go-it-alone publishing professionals with excellent contacts among agents and publishers.

Food for thought, anyway.

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Filed under Finding an agent, Good Advice

Flat…

Many years ago, when I first wrote a book I was filled with enthusiasm – actually, I’m still filled with enthusiasm – but also, impatience.  You know how it is, you’ve finally manged to get from one end of a novel to another and you want to get your masterpiece out there as soon as possible… even though, in year heart of hearts, you know it’s not ready.

Yeh.

I think all I really wanted to know was whether or not somebody “in the know” thought I had the writing ability to cut it.  So… I had a friend of a friend who was an agent and after a very helpful and friendly initial call, I sent it to them.  He said it wasn’t his bag gave me another name.  I sent it to her, she said it wasn’t her bag, gave me another name and I decided to wait until I’d rewritten it before I tried that.

Spool forward 8 years.  I look her up and yes the agency is still going.  I send an e-mail and horror of horrors, get a very nice reply saying she died some years back but that if I’d like to send an excerpt in, they’d be happy to read it!

I did.

They said no.

Arse!

Never mind they were kind enough to try to help, advise and answer questions when I rang for feedback and I still believe in this one, it is marketable.

Even so… I feel kind of flat.

Sigh.

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Filed under Finding an agent, Rejections

Approach Number Two…

So, the next agency on my list is from the other end, not because they don’t look good but more the opposite, they are clearly high powered and I… well, I’m not.  I can’t imagine them wanting to look at my stuff but it would be pretty wet not to have a go.

Very different to the last one, which had no mention of who it represented merely its ethos and submission guidelines.  This one lists all its authors in meticulous detail, no submission guidelines, just a simple query letter.  I’ve written what I want to say – now to let it rest until Monday before printing and sending it.

The website is huge, they have six agents with two associate agents – all have huge long lists of authors although the site gives excellent information.  Being a Mum and all, progress on these things, while steady, is usually slow.  There are glaciers which move faster I suspect.  I was a bit daunted so I rang them and asked who I should approach for Children’s Fantasy fiction.

The reply I got was basically.  “We’re not telling you!  Look on our website and find out for yourself.”  I was a little taken aback and as I resigned myself to another couple of weeks slow progress Mr McGuire stepped in and saved the day – thank you thank you – by whisking junior off for japes in the garden for an hour.  I was able to do my research and naturally the one who seems to have the most writers of children’s fantasy fiction on his list – including a couple of very famous ones – was the last one I looked at.

That’s a little bit cocky – I’ve had a career in marketing and I’ve never encountered this kind of attitude towards the “bread and butter” before.  Even so, it turns out to be a bit of a hidden blessing.  There are probably about 20 or 30 book blurbs for the kind of stuff I write on there for pukka best selling authors.   So I will gain a great deal by reading and absorbing how they sell their work.  Not a synopsis but a great starting point for writing a treatment… for a query letter for example.   Handy stuff turns up in all sorts of places.

So… if you want to read up on some book blurbs for pretty much any genre you care to mention go here and click on the authors section and read away.

As for my submission, they contact you if they like your letter, if they don’t you don’t hear – definitely the please-don’t-write-in-unless-you-absolutely-have-to school this one – so I’ve told them I’ll give them three weeks to reply and then carry on with my search for an agent elsewhere.

It’s like trying to get an interview for the only job in the country… I read somewhere that JK Rowling ended up with 20 rejections before anyone took up Harry Potter.  I can imagine how.

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