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Thursday, 17 July 2008

'Still Waiting' and Agent Responses

I'm still waiting to hear. And it is HORRIBLE!

I know that I am lucky to have an agent.

I know I should be grateful that my novel has been pitched at the publishing world and no news is good news (so they say!!).

I know I am a complete pain in the a**e to anyone who knows me. I can't concentrate on anything else - this enormous warm and fluffy feeling that is my first novel occupies every space in my brain, forcing out mundane things like shopping, cleaning and working.

I'm coiled up like a cobra, periodically sticking my head up to spit venomous poison at anyone who asks if I have heard anything from my agent.

Anyway - less of the incoherent burblings of a frustrated wannabe, the reason for this post is to share some information with my fellow aspiring novelists.

I sent out a total of six submissions to agents earlier this year. I have now had a reply from all of them; the last one responding just yesterday. I thought you might like to know the statistics and how and by when they responded. I won't put the names of the agencies on my blog, but most of you know who they are anyway from chatroom ramblings, and if you e-mail me I'll tell you privately.

Agent No. 1: Submitted end February. Replied five weeks later with a request for the full manuscript. Rejected one week later with an individually written letter, mentioning the huge amount of submissions they receive, the current economic climate and suggesting that I try elsewhere. The letter was polite and friendly and I got the feeling this was a top-class agency.

Agent No. 2: Submitted 3rd May. E-mailed on 20th May to say she would like to read the whole manuscript. M/S submitted 21st May. E-mailed on 29th May to say she liked it and would like to meet me to discuss it. Meeting held on 6th June. Revisions suggested. Rewrite submitted on 16th June. E-mailed back to say she was sending it out to two big publishers on 3rd July and 'a few more' during week commencing 7th July. She says she will let me know immediately she hears back from any of the publishers. (Hence the constant checking of e-mails and jumping each time the phone rings.) I have to say that the service I have received as a new author has been second to none, and although this agent has a scary reputation I feel she will do her utmost to get me published.

Agent No 3: Submitted 3rd May. I received a lovely individual response at the end of May saying that she had enjoyed the first three chapters, but that 'on balance, she felt she would have to pass this time as it didn't quite grip her in the way that it should for her to offer to represent it'. She urged me to try other agents, who may be looking for this type of family saga. Once again, she made me feel valued as a person, even though she had rejected my manuscript.

Agent No. 4: Submitted 3rd May. Package returned with no covering letter, standard letter or anything to indicate where it had come from. I had to guess which agency it was by the postmark. Big thumbs down for this agency. I wouldn't have thought a standard rejection letter would have been too much trouble to include in the package. Mind you it does now say on their website they are not considering any unsolicited material at the present time, although it didn't mention this at the time I sent it off. Perhaps a junior assistant forgot to include the standard letter?

Agent No. 5: Submitted 3rd May. Packaged returned with standard rejection letter mid June. I have to say that the manuscript looked as if it hadn't even been read.

Agent No. 6: (Submitted 3rd May, reply received yesterday). A letter requesting the full manuscript after I have re-written it using just one narrative voice. The agent said '.... we enjoyed the writing immensely, but feel that it is best for a new author to stick to just one narrative voice.' I have written back to the agent thanking her for her time and informing her that I now have an agent.

What do you all feel about the response of Agent No. 6?

The first part of my novel is written in the first person from five points of view as each of the principal characters describes what happened on Easter Sunday in 1922. The second part takes up the story from the Autumn of 1922 and tracks the life of the family up until 1978. It is written traditionally in the third person, with occasional narrative (typed in italics) in the first person as the main character (Tom) speaks directly to the reader and makes comments on his life story, giving shocking little secrets away.

It just goes to show how agents have differing opinions doesn't it?

JM (my agent) loved the way it was written. She said it was original and made the reader feel a part of the family. When we met I did say that I was worried about the structure of the novel, but she dismissed my comment with a wave of the hand and said that 'true writers just write, and it's how it grips the reader that matters, and how quickly they want to turn the pages, not how it is technically constructed.' Mind you, she suggested changing the viewpoint in places, and I could see why when I did the revisions - the whole thing flowed much better.

I'm just hoping that publishers won't take the view of Agent No. 6 just because I'm an unpublished author; I feel that No. 6 does have a valid point about using just one narrative voice, and it's something that I've read elsewhere too.

The only thing is, I don't see how the story would work if I changed it.

Anyhow. I'm keeping everything crossed that it's just a hypothetical conundrum, and hardly daring to hope that one of the publishers will want to publish my novel. If they don't - then I suppose it's back to the drawing board, but even though the waiting is killing me, I wouldn't miss the experience for anything!

But what is really comforting is knowing that my blogmates are right beside me, and if the ultimate outcome is rejection then I know I'm in good company!

11 comments:

Captain Black said...

Agent #6 sounds a bit tenuous. Did they give any indication of the likelihood that they might take you on, after your re-written full manuscript was given to them? It seems like they wanted you to do some work but weren't prepared to commit to anything themselves. I dunno, perhaps this is normal behaviour in the agent/publishing world.

My trouble is that I'm liking less and less what I hear that counts as "normal behaviour". Don't get me wrong, I can cope with rejection. What really irks me is the sometimes terrible way authors are treated. There seem to be very few analogues in other businesses. We take it because we're passionate about our work. They use this and often milk us for it.

Sorry, that was a bit of a rant, wasn't it. It's not all bad, as you've clearly discovered. Now you have a good agent and merely have to put up with waiting for her to find a publisher. I know it's going to happen!

I'm probably not the best person to answer your POV question, since I'm all over the place at the moment in that regard. Having said that, I also fail to see how you can have five main characters but only one narrative voice. Did they perhaps mean that the whole thing should be done with "over the shoulder" or "god voice", or whatever it's called?

Perhaps we can pick some peoples brains at Caerleon...

HelenMH said...

To be honest, I think the fact that you've been picked up by such a top notch agent will make publishers see past the fact you're a first time novelist. And as your agent obviously feels the novel works as it stands I don't think publishers would question it. I think agent 6's advice is probably good general advice for first timers, but that doesn't mean it applies in all cases. Hope you hear something soon. The waiting must be awful.

L-Plate Author said...

Thanks for that Annie. I had a 'top class' agent for two and a half years. A year later I have been lucky enough to find myself a mentor in the publishing world who is now undoing all that the first one 'taught' me. What she has shown me is phenomenal, no wonder I struggled to get an agent afterwards.

Hang in there, you have something special to have had so much interest. I've still got my fingers crossed for you x

Annieye said...

Captain: Thanks for this - you've made me feel heaps better. I think you're right in assuming that Agent No. 6 wanted me to do this huge rewrite with no guarantees that they'd take me on. I assumed that too.

Over the last year I have been surprised at just how insular the literary world is. It's a tough, almost impossible, nut to crack for newbies like us. It seems like some exclusive club that has hundreds of contradictory rules. Breaking through the barriers of this microcosmic world seems like more luck than talent to me.

I think I have come to realise over the past year that, yes, I probably can write. (And so can you and everyone else in our little group.) I think I am just lucky in that I happen to have written an early 20th century family saga and that is what publishers are looking for at the moment. I don't for one minute think I'm exceptional.

Still I'm hungry for anything that will improve my writing - and I know it can be improved, so had I not secured JM, I probably would have copied the novel into a new file and re-written it on the offchance that it would suit the requirements of Agent No. 6. I somehow suspect that it would have killed the novel, though.

Annieye said...

L Plate: Thanks m'duck. Your tenacity just proves what I have written in my reply to the Captain! We do it because we have to, don't we?

Helen: I like JM. She's awfully blunt and speaks her mind, and can be scary to the nth degree, but she's left me in no doubt that she'll stop at nothing to get her authors published. And speaking to Lola Jaye (her newest author) has confirmed my impression of how she works.

KAREN said...

Very interesting post.

I think with JM behind you the publishers are far more likely to take on board her feelings and thoughts about your MS, so I agree with Helenmh :o)

SO exciting but like you said, so hard waiting! I'm sure it'll pay off in the end though.

TOM FOOLERY said...

Hope you get some good news soon. TFX

motherx said...

I think as you have such a good agent the comments of no 6 needn't worry you. I can see what she means but I am sure it is not the case for everybody. Your agent obviously has a lot of confidence in you and that is the most important thing. If she didnt think your novel stood a chance then she wouldnt be wasting her time or the publishers.
I just cant imagine how how nervous you must be feeling! I have fingers and toes crossed for you ok? x

KAREN said...

I keep popping back to your blog, because it inspires me to Get on With It!

Debs said...

Sorry to be so late in commenting but have been battling a nasty virus (of the computer kind).

I agree with helen and karen and having spoken to a couple of JM's authors they think very highly of her as far as I'm aware and I'm sure she'll be a wonderful agent to have representing you.

Fingers and toes crossed that you hear something soon. Dx

Annieye said...

Karen: I have been surfing the net for info. and it seems so unfair that a lot of publishers won't accept any ms's unless they're submitted through an agent. Talk about Catch 22! - you can't get published without an agent and you can't get an agent easily without first being published! I know I've struck lucky by getting this chance with JM, but I know I'm up against it. We all are. But that's no excuse not to GET ON WITH IT.

TF: Thanks. Still waiting though.

Mother X: I suppose you're right. She wouldn't have sent it out if she wasn't confident it could stand on its own two feet!

Debs: A couple of JM's authors have e-mailed me with messages of support. Apparently submitting during the summer months means more of a delay because people are on holiday and it takes longer to get through the process. It never ceases to amaze me how lovely writerly people are. Thanks m'duck. Hope your nasty computer virus is well and truly deadded!!!