So today I’ve gone public with the news that I’ve accepted an offer of representation from an agent. And I am, of course, beyond excited! This has led me to reflect on the process that got me to this point, and so here are some geek stats, for those of you who like that sort of thing.
- I started submitting query letters on 6th March this year, and I sent 35 queries.
- Of these queries, 30 were by email, 3 were via an agency’s website submissions page and 2 were hard copy submissions.
- Of these 35, I received rejections from 21, 11 never replied and 3 asked for a full manuscript.
- From initial query to full MS request, it took 7-8 weeks for two, and one week for the third.
- Once I had three full requests, the agents responded within ten days of each other.
I’ve learned several things so far from this process; firstly, my analogy about sending out love letters in the vain hope someone will fancy you is a pretty good one – when the agent I am now working with responded, post manuscript, she sent me the most amazing email that showed that she not only understood where I was coming from, but was really enthusiastic about the book. This was in huge contrast to some of the rejections, which varied from the ‘liked it, don’t love it’ to ‘we don’t think we can sell it in this market,’ and once again proves that the industry can be very subjective.
Secondly, I’ve never been one to brood on the rejection side, which is just as well, considering that I had just over twenty of them! Rejection is par for the course, and if you’re not able to handle it, then you’d better learn how to pretty quickly, otherwise it might just get to you. I’m fully prepared, as I enter the next round of this process, that there will be more rejections, this time from publishers, as well as, hopefully, some offers, and I think you’ve got to be prepared for that to happen. I can say that nearly all the rejections I received were nicely written ones, which makes a huge difference. As does the odd bottle (or six) of Prosecco.
Thirdly, be prepared to wait. Wear out the ‘refresh’ button on your browser if you must, but reconcile yourself to the fact that the process of submitting to agents takes time, and quite rightly. No one wants to think that their work has been skim read and rejected without good reason. Agents are really busy people when it comes to their existing clients, and submissions are read in the spare time between the working day and a well earned rest.
Finally, I would reinforce what a lot of other writers have blogged before me; there’s no point submitting to an agent if you haven’t done the following:
- Written and ‘polished’ your manuscript the very best of your ability. And, for goodness sake, make sure it’s ready to go if you’re asked for it!
- Shown it to at least one other person to read. I was lucky, I had a wonderful first editor, an English Department and a lot of friends who were prepared to sit down and read the thing, as well as spot typos and inconsistencies with eagle eyes. Oh, and a mother and a sister who proved remarkably adept at stroking my ego as well as pointing out continuity errors! (But I wouldn’t advise putting the line ‘my mum loved it’ in a query letter!)
- Done your homework about the agents to whom you are submitting. I subscribed to the Writers and Artists’ Yearbook online, and used the listings section, googled like mad to find agents who had an interest in the kind of book I was writing, took some time to look at their websites, their clients, read a few books by their clients if I could and generally made sure I got to know their clients and likes and dislikes as much as I could. And didn’t submit to those who weren’t interested in my genre, obviously.
- Made sure you’ve checked carefully what the requirements for each submission are. They do vary. I was meticulous about making sure I met the requirements for every single agent, to the best of my ability (although I did mess up one, by complete accident, and didn’t realise until quite a long time afterwards – no wonder they didn’t reply!!).
- Compiled a folder of submission material – I had the first three chapters, the first 10,000 words, a two page synopsis, a one page synopsis, a 500 word synopsis, even a 350 word one (that was hard!), all in a folder so that I could attach them to the query letters as and when required.
- Have a query letter that you’re 100% happy with. No point sending out something you aren’t confident in. Once you’ve got the basics in the letter, you can then ‘tweak’ it to suit the agents to whom you’re submitting. Personalising this is essential, though – don’t just send out exactly the same thing again and again. If I was an agent, I wouldn’t want to think I was one on a list of hundreds!
- Create a folder on your email, away from your inbox, to put rejection emails when they come. I found it a little bit depressing to keep seeing them in my inbox every time I logged in, so putting them safely away helped me to stay positive! I never deleted them, though – it’s useful to remind yourself to whom you’ve submitted, so you don’t send something to the same agent twice.
- Treat it like a business; rejections aren’t personal, and you should be as professional as possible when submitting. I always emailed agents post-rejection to thank them for considering my submission. I don’t know if that’s essential but if someone’s taken the time to read your work, it’s the least you can do, in my opinion to thank them for their time.
So now it’s time for the big reveal. Who is the agent who has decided to take a chance on me? Well, it’s the lovely Sara Keane from Keane Kitaria Literary Agency, based in Bath. And why did I choose to accept her offer? Well, simply put, she had me with her initial email, post manuscript. I felt, as a writer, that she really connected with the book, and, slightly more pragmatically, she works forty minutes away from me, and, as a rookie in this book writing business, having an agent close by seems like a really sensible thing to do! Also, with all the riffing I do on Somerset idiosyncrasies in my writing, it’s really useful having someone who understands the quirks of the county ;).
Today I’m taking the next step on the road to getting the book out there into the wider world. And I know I have absolutely made the right decision.