Five things I’ve learned on the hunt for an agent…

So the writing posts have been quiet of late and as usual its not for the want of trying but rather I feel like the car I was travelling in has temporarily ditched me at the side of the road, as the driver (possibly Satan, possibly just a surly guy with long unwashed hair and a lot of denim) pulls the door to his mini shut and speeds away up life’s highway without me, his cackle still audible in the smoke filled air. I’m on a road I’ve never been on, with no idea where it goes or if my destination actually exists.  The regular asphalt has crumbled away, unearthing the scorching hot gravel that I must navigate in my bare feet with my lowly manuscript (sorry I meant magnificent, see No. 4) under my arm. Yes, agent hunting is a new world to me but I’m learning a few things as I go.

Here’s my top five:

1. You need a time machine.

No really – if there is ever a hope of getting an agent before I turn ninety, I’m gonna need one of these. With an average 12 weeks for a reply and a prevalent wish for exclusivity with each submission, this is going to take forever. I may have grandchildren by then, even a great grandchild. How nice it will be for them when their wizened old nan has her first book published. You may venture for multiple submissions but I learned very recently that some may put yours to one side if being read elsewhere. I can see their logic. Hence the time machine. Honesty has always been (perhaps to my detriment) the best policy. I may need to re-consider.

2. Don’t suppose for a second you can imagine who they are and what they want.

You don’t know these people. You may google them, follow them on Twitter, check out who they represent but really you don’t have a clue about what makes them tick. In my short experience, no two are alike, which makes sense as yes they are humans just like you and me. They are not Sauron-like, with their big fiery eye glaring at your pitiful work. Nor are they robots, checking your words for the perfect algorithm. They are people with good days and bad like the rest of us and you will find them having both.

3. Rejection is an armour piercing arrow.

Impossible to deny but much as you steel yourself for replies, the knockbacks and the comments do get through and they do hurt. This is something you care about and its like giving your child to a stranger to be slapped as you stand by watching. Maybe you’ll get a rejection and think ‘hey c’est la vie’ but maybe the next day, that arrow will hit you right in the ticker when you weren’t expecting it.  Their words will swirl around as you try to climb over them and the only thing you can do is move to the next agent on your list.

4. Doubt will be your daily burden.

Looking for an agent? You? With that book? And you will shrink at the thoughts of actually approaching one, let alone calling one and when you do get off the phone you’ll imagine all the really good things you could have said rather than all the pitiful garbage you did. You fool! Press rewind. What do you mean there’s no rewind? Where’s my godamned time machine?!

5. Be you because you can’t be what they want, if they don’t want it.

Much as your manuscript will divide so too will you. While you think your cover email/letter may be as concise as you can, you convey a little part of you and some will like it and some won’t and you can tell from the comments you receive back that some haven’t liked you or your book. Call it paranoia perhaps but this is personal. You are selling yourself too. So don’t compromise that. Just be yourself.

So onwards on the lonely road I go, book in hand with an old saying in mind – “what’s meant for you won’t go by you”. We shall see.

I shall adjust my armour, sharpen my spear and keep hunting.

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2 responses to “Five things I’ve learned on the hunt for an agent…

  1. Thank you for writing this down. I have a truly one-of-kind relevant story but I am advised not to claim that to agents. Then I sit and read lesser stories (really) about the same culture along a similar genre get published. It drives me nuts. So much time, years I’ve spent. A couple of times I put my manuscript down for long stretches. This last go at it has been going on 10 months. I will not give up and self-publish. I won’t.

    Liked by 1 person

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