Tag Archives: agent

Filling boxes

Boxes, I have a lot of boxes at the moment.  I’m not moving house, I am building some new vegetable gardens using this method  or this one if you prefer the US equivalent!  Personally I think they are both brilliant.  Anyway, I need lots of newspaper and/or cardboard for the base.  I have used up our entire firelighting supply of newspaper and have had to resort to making vast orders on the internet in order  to feed the cardboard requirement (well needs must and a girl’s fancy turns to lipstick in the spring and just think how many lipsticks I need to buy to fill a really BIG box!)

However, the boxes I am thinking of are not the card or even plastic variety.  But the mental ones.  The ones we use to put things in order in our minds, to prioritise and codefy so that day to day life can potter along at a reasonable pace without disappearing down the portaloo when we aren’t paying attention.

You may have noticed that we have just reached the end of the first quarter of 2013.  Time to reasse the goals I set in January.  This is a bit disingenuous as I assess weekly and monthly goals so I already have a pretty good idea where I am at.  However, quarterly goals are slightly different.  They are milestones rather than goals, a subtle difference but you could say that Casanova used his notches on the bedpost as milestones marking his progress to his long-term goals…

I have goals that cover all aspects of my life, I like to think of myself as a well-rounded individual.  Actually, hopefully less rounded as of July 2013 so that I can wear a bikini without frightening the fish (to be found under Goal 2 “Take care of myself inside and out”).  Nonetheless in the year that I take up writing full-time it would be strange not to have some goals and milestones focussed on the written word.

Obtain an agent, a six figure book deal and sell film rights to Warner Brothers for an obscene amount of money did occur to me, but whilst I believe it is important to dream I also think it is important to have at least one’s big toe on the ground.

Timesmudger is complete.  It has been rejected by three agents but was also requested in full by an agent I didn’t even contact.  As far as boxes go, that one is fuller than I expected.

Dorothy is filling up nicely.  It’s a slow process but at least that way I know what’s in the box.  Nothing worse than unpacking at random because you don’t know where anything is.

Finally I have acquired some new and unexpected boxes.  I am off to Edinburgh tomorrow to set up a whole new box of stories from Cape Verde which I am thrilled to bits about.

As we move into the second quarter of 2013 what boxes are you taking forward and how well have you filled them?

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Agent Hunger

The title is not a typo, it is the feeling you get when you finally hit “save” (or put down your pen).  Relief that the novel is finally finished is tempered by the realisation that the job is not over yet, there is still a synopsis and a covering letter to compose.  But whilst these are fiendish little obstacles they are not insurmountable.  (For advice on both you can do no better than seek the advice of the Crabbit Old Bat)

What does, however, often appear insurmountable is the acquisition of an agent.  Consequently there are books and directories littering the floors and laptops of every new writer.  Highlighter pens and notes are essential tools.  Whether you scatter them liberally over your desk, have them ordered in a top of the range Filofax or catalogued in an extensive database, you will have them.   You will read biographies and author lists.  The latter are both encouraging and terrifying.

Do you want to be represented by the same agent as Julian Barnes? Yes please, but then would an agent with an illustrious client base even look at my covering letter and what if I bumped into Julian Barnes in the corridor? Perhaps I would be better with somebody new, looking to bolster their list.  But would they know what they are doing?  I certainly don’t.  Endless questions, which lead to more questions and by then the notes pile is attracting the attention of the planning department.

This brings us neatly to Agent Hunter, which is a pretty good treatment for chronic and acute Agent Hunger.  Created by The Writers’ Workshop it is one of the most comprehensive agent databases I have seen and I have crawled through quite a few.

Nice straightforward layout.  No digging around to find the search button.

Publication1

I’m looking for an agent interested in writing for children and YA.    Eek 100 agents.

Publication2

At this stage you can start to filter by experience, client list size and so forth.  But in all honesty I’m not sure this works for me.  Some of the agents I have approached have been from big agencies but are young agents, some have been established agents working alone.  It’s down to the person rather than their circumstances.  So I had to find another filter.

Client List Status  is a bit deceptive and can be rather a good filter.  The status is automatically set to “open to new clients” if the agent did not respond to the question.  Filtering out all but “Keen to build new client list” halved my list of agents and made it far more manageable and guaranteed that anybody I sent my MS was actively interested in recruiting new clients.

However 53 agents is still quite a lot.  So I took a punt and put “Time Travel” in the  Agent Likes”  filter.  One agent only.  But the more I read the more I thought this is the one.

In this case the agent had answered all the questions fully, with plenty of information about what she was and was not looking for.  To be fair, not all agents have done this and some have clearly responded with standard information which has had to be extrapolated in order to answer the standard questions.  However, most have entered into the spirit of the exercise.  After all it is in their interests not to be swamped with work, however wonderful, that is outwith their area.

So what do you get when you finally narrow it down to the agent information.  Quite a lot:

  • Agency (with option to toggle to Agency info page for agent selected)
  • Number of years as an agent
  • Biography
  • Client List status
  • Number of clients
  • Authors and books liked
  • Other loves and passions
  • How to make a submission
  • Advice and Dislikes
  • Where you can meet this agent (Writers conferences etc.)
  • Blog?
  • Twitter profile
  • Interesting links
  • Full client list
  • Email address

And best of all – a photograph.  It may seem silly, but to have a picture of the person you are approaching does make them less scary!

I was provided with free registration in return for a review.  However, at £12 per annum I think it is excellent value for money and an essential screwdriver in any writer’s toolbox.

It’s done

It’s done, it’s gone, I have sent it away.  Having edited and edited, trimmed, corrected, re-written and tweaked I finally put Timesmudger to one side.  The hidden circle of Dante’s Inferno then revealed itself in the form of the synopsis.  Never has a single word put more dread in my heart since the school nurse said “Next!”and I got a very painful BCG injection. Various dreadful attempts littered the kitchen table, a handful of monkeys could have made a better attempt, let alone the infinite number that apparently can write the entire Shakespearian canon.  Rescue came in the form of the Crabbit Old Bat  (see Miracle Cure post below) and after some serious keyboard bashing and excellent criticism from Sandie  I had something I was happy with.  (I can only hope that Stephanie Thwaites at Curtis Brown feels the same way.)

The covering letter was a breeze after that, particularly since I don’t have a glowing publication history behind me to list.

Then, finally I hit the submit button.  I’ve done it before, but last time I was a naive ingenue.  I sent out what can only be described as a literary dog poo.  This time I am older, wiser and have taken a shed load of criticism on board.  But is it enough?

rejection letters and back ups

It has struck me during conversations with non-writers (well they can write, perhaps not necessarily joined up and sometimes with spelling even more imaginative than mine, but they only write out of necessity, shopping lists, thank you letters, twitter etc.   People who do not sit and stare at a page or screen and will it to turn into a novel while they watch) that it is possible that I am not taking my rejections seriously enough.

Thus far I have had two rejection letters.  Actually they were emails but the message was the same, and I quote from the second.  “We’ll pass on this one.”  I felt no crashing sense of defeat, not even a momentary whiff of failure passed under my nose.  I filed them (it’s the inner organiser in me, even my emails are filed) and moved on.

It would seem that this is quite the wrong response.  Apparently I am to be upset that I have been passed over, irritated by the lack of feedback and most certainly not to be downhearted.  I am none of these.  I am not surprised I have been passed over, it could be because I am crap it could be because I am not what they are looking for/they have enough of my genre/they are having a shit day.  Lack of feedback is a bit hard to explain to non-writers who really don’t seem to be able to get their head around this.  I never thought I would be the defender of agents but there you go, I never thought I would be living in rural County Durham with three hormonal teenagers, an eclectic menagerie including a psychotic  parrot and a very long suffering husband.  As for downhearted, this is the oddest one, anyone would think I was dancing on my grandmother’s grave from the response I get to my lack of dismal despair.  Perhaps I might be more concerned if I am still in the same position in ten years time.  At that point I may have to accept that it is not that I am wrong for the current market but just wrong and that may well induce a certain amount of gloom.  But until then I will keep smiling if that’s okay.

Now I have a question – where do you back up?  I once lost the first 20,000 words of book one.  In fact it was a life saver, although it didn’t seem so at the time.  The re-write was infinitely better than the first attempt, it was practically a different book and without the whole thing disappearing down the drain it is highly unlikely I would have had the patience to start again.  However, one lesson is quite enough and I have no desire to stare down the abyss of an empty folder and will my work to come back ever again.

After that first disaster I was an obsessive saver, and I saved in multiple places.  Consequently I had multiple copies and always failing to copy the right copy to the right folder and I got myself into more of a fankle than I had before.  Then I discovered DropBox and now have everything on DropBox and an external hard drive.  But is that enough?  What do you do?  Where do you keep your work to protect if from “file not found”?