The past few weeks, I have been a busy bee. I had an influx of freelance editing work, including a really interesting research project on creative writing courses, and a novel manuscript critique (if anyone is interested in my critiquing service, view more information here). Great projects to be working on. However, I still haven’t had much time to work on my own novel… And I’m getting agitated about it. I need some time to get stuck into it. It’s possible I might have some free time to do this next week, but keeping up the momentum is the tricky part.
In other news, I have decided to sign to the Janklow & Nesbit literary agency. I had a tough decision to make between two offers from two very good agencies, but I felt J&N understood my genre more, and really seemed to ‘get’ what I was trying to do with my writing. They also say they work editorially with their authors, something that very much appeals to me, and they have their own specialist rights department. I got the contract in the post a few days ago. Before I sign, I’m planning to join the Society of Authors, who offer a contract vetting service (I’m sure it’s all fine, but you can never be too cautious).
I have had celebratory drinks and Mario Kart marathons (a hilarious combination), but it still feels a little bit surreal, mostly because I didn’t expected to be at this stage in my writing career for a little while yet. Now, I must use it to fuel my writing!
Karolina Sutton, literary agent for Curtis Brown, visited our university to share her industry insights. She says that a good agent will help you pitch to publishers, help create a great title, and get you the best royalties, rights and editors.
Work submitted to publishers via agencies have a better chance of being read than unsolicited manuscripts because it means someone in the industry has already recognised its merit. Here’s what Karolina had to say about pitching to agents:
- You can submit query letters to more than one agency, but not more than one agent in the same agency.
- It is better to submit directly to an agent, rather than just general submissions.
- Submit to agents that you think might like your book and who have similar titles or genres on their list. For example, an agent who deals only in high-end experimentational literary fiction probably won’t want to read a YA sci-fi.
- Make your query BRIEF. You won’t need more than three paragraphs.
- Don’t use humour in your query. It is too subjective.
- It is helpful to mention your intended genre.
- Don’t mention writers that you like if you aren’t writing like them.
- Mention any writing credentials (e.g. MA), but don’t rattle off a huge list of small-press publications – select a few of your best.
- Mention any life experience that is relevant to your novel. For example, if you’re story hinges on deep sea diving and you’re an expert diver, mention it.
- Send hard copies of the first 2-3 chapters of your novel.
- OR email the whole thing as a Word document. Then the agent can decide to read further if they wish, without having to wait for you to send the rest.
- Use standard formatting.
- If you haven’t heard back within four weeks, feel free to send a follow-up email.
- Don’t re-submit to the same agent if they have rejected you and have not ask to see a re-write.
- Always let the agent know if you’ve sent your work to other agents, and if you’ve been signed.
Remember, it’s not about grabbing any agent you can. You have to work closely with you agent, and you have to trust them. Select the agents you approach with tact and intent, and hopefully this will lead to a strong career-enhancing relationship.
Part 2 next week: What Do Agents and Publishers Want?