Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Waiting Room

The last few weeks have been particularly difficult on the writing front, mainly because I haven’t had time to do any. I’ve found that this is really unhelpful when waiting to hear from agents. I go to sleep thinking about agents, wake up thinking about agents, and in between, well, I spend a lot of time thinking about agents. When I’m not checking my emails. It’s possible to obsess for several hours about whether the fact that I haven’t heard from Agent Q for four weeks now is a good sign or a bad sign. Even though I know it’s not a sign at all.

So I was very happy, last Saturday, when I was able to make a start on my next book. I could have started work on a sequel to the one currently doing the rounds, but that seems pointless unless someone picks up the first book. And, actually, I’m finding it fun to work on something completely different. I’ve learned so much about writing in the last few years, which doesn’t mean I’m a mistress of the craft or anything – far from it – but it does mean that I start further up the ladder than I used to. I have much more idea about how to build characters and plot; the importance of stress and conflict; ways to make dialogue and description really effective – lots of things, which make writing much more enjoyable, even at first draft stage. And you know what? As my crystal-ball-wielding mentor Debi so presciently foretold, writing something new takes my mind right off the whole agent/submission thing. It’s great!

Monday, 29 March 2010

The Age Of Uncertainty

So, my book has been doing the rounds of agents for five weeks now, and in that time I’ve had three quick standard rejections and two slower nice ones.

The first nice one said this:

Thank you for writing to me about your book enclosing proposal and three sample chapters.

I was very impressed with the professional way you present this material and I enjoyed the chapters too. Unfortunately, though, I'm not convinced the British publishing industry and buying public are ready in enough numbers for a book which is essentially all about funerals, as engagingly as you write.

I'm so sorry not to be more encouraging. This is just my subjective opinion and, since you write so well and present your book so convincingly, you will no doubt find someone else who will have more confidence in the market for this book than I do.

I wish you the best of luck.

Isn’t that lovely?

The second rejection was terse, but then it was from the CEO of a large prestigious agency, while the message above came from an agent in a small newish agency. The second one said:

I have now had a chance to read your work and have also shown it to a colleague. However, neither of us are confident in being able to place this successfully with a major publisher, so we are unable to offer you representation.

This pleased me too, for two reasons. First, the CEO wouldn’t have bothered to show my work to a colleague if it had no merit. Second, it reinforced the message from the first one, i.e. that the problem is with the marketing.

I also read an excellent interview with the eminent literary agent Carole Blake on The Literary Project blog. The combination of all three has inspired me to rework my cover letter and synopsis, to place less emphasis on the funerals and more on the characters and their personal relationships. Whether that will make any difference or not, I really have no idea, but I’ll be sure to let you know.