Friday, 24 August 2012

Submitting to a Literary Agent - Part Two

It's been a while since I blogged. I thought that since so much of seeking an agent is waiting for them to reply it was only worth blogging when I had something to blog about.

And so I'm pleased to say I have!

Agent the First rejected me. It was a short email; simple, to the point, a standard boilerplate. 'Dear [insert name here] I am sorry to say...' which is a little disappointing but fair enough. Agents are very busy people receiving hundreds of manuscripts a month, they can't possibly give personal messages to everyone. So how did I react? A polite thank you email and then a sulk. I sulked till you couldn't sulk no more. It's my right to sulk, but then I brushed it off a half day later and tried again. To more agents it went.

I have learned that there's a difference between sending out short stories and novels. In the short story market you're expected to send stories exclusively to one magazine at a time. You send it, wait for a reply and if it isn't the reply you hoped for then you send it on to the next lot. This isn't the case for novels. For novels you can send out to as many agents as you like! Simultaneously! Beautiful.

A few more weeks had passed by when Agent the Second replied.'Wonderful concept,' he said and 'I'd love to read on'. So, lickety-split BANG! The full manuscript was sent off to him via email.

Cue sweaty palms.

Cue more waiting.

I then heard back from an editor, Simon Spanton of Gollancz, whom I work alongside and had badgered and cajoled into reading the first three chapters. 'Shaping up,' he said. And 'A bit overwritten'.

I looked at it again. He was right. I'd let my nerves get the better of me and overcompensated on the description . Reading it again fresh, it was like all the unnecessary words were highlighted in red. Out they came, creating a slicker, neater version to send out to a few further agents who had pinged my radar, worrying that these same problems would be putting off Agent the Second as I was feverishly making corrections. (Luckily, this problem was mostly evident in the first few chapters, calming down as the book got into a rhythm).

Then, out of the blue, Agent the Third rejected me, this one a well-known respected agent of the YA community. But this was no boilerplate rejection. No, it was an actual response. 'An awful lot to like about it,' she said. And 'a near miss'. Buoyed by that, I continued to wait for things to happen. There was still Agent the Second to hear back from and a number of other agents who had yet to get in touch one way or the other.

Agent the Second replied. It was a long reply.

'Loved the concept'.
'Reminded me of early Stephen King, John Wyndham, John Christopher.'
'You can really write'.
'Quite a bit of work to be done'.
'If you wanted to come and chat...'

More time passed, but this time it was me passing it, screwing up my courage to actually take that step. This was exactly what I was expecting, was hoping, to hear. This was, is, something I've wanted for so long, and I was keenly terrified at the prospect of getting it. I emailed. He replied. We now have a date, 12th September.

It's hard to describe how I feel about it all. Excited is one word. Scared is another. There's also a calm there as well, in getting a version of what I wanted, knowing I worked hard and possibly even earned it. There are still other agents to hear back from, some I may not hear back from at all, other routes that still might open up, but right now I have this and I'll be very interested to see what happens next.

And if it all fucks up? I've still got Neo Noir and End of the Line to fall back on. My second and third chances are being lined up. Ha ha!