Wednesday, May 13, 2009

And yet another

Is blogging magical? No sooner do I post than something happens. Or it could be Eleanor breaking my legs! If so it worked.

I mentioned in the previous post the agent who asked me to call before signing for anyone else as she hadn't finished the manuscript? Well she still hasn't, but emailed me to say she wants to meet next week.

I know enough to know that agents don't meet with writers unless they are pretty serious. I don't want to go into names at present but here was how this all came about.

A few weeks ago I had just gotten a couple of rejections. As a pro writer and therefore by definition a masochist nothing spurs me on like a rejection so I thought I would go to the top this time and query three of the biggest players. Two responded almost immediately and one responded with a deafening silence.

A couple of weeks later one came back saying she hadn't finished it but really enjoying it. This is the one asking to let her know before I signed with anyone else. I thought at the time that it was promising but didn't make too much of it as she could still finish the book and decide it was a steaming pile of crap.

I didn't hear anything for a week or so, then the other big player came back having read the first 10 chapters and asked for first refusal on the manuscript.

As I said in the previous post I didn't quite give that but told them I would wait to hear from them before signing with anyone else.

Now it seems to me that any right thinking person is going to use what little leverage they have in this situation, so to find out where the first agent was at I emailed her telling her of the second agent's interest, basically stating they had asked for first refusal. Never lie! It is a very small world!

She emailed back asking for a couple more days, then the next day asked for the meeting. Of course she may well have got back to me this week anyway, but I don't think a little pressure ever hurt anyone.

The thing that strikes me is that if I had taken the first two or three rejections as gospel and thrown in the towel then it would never have got to this stage. My mate Dublin Dave, he of the mega-deal, has a good chuckle over some of the rejections he got for his novel before striking gold shortly after. It is a very subjective business.

So that's how I went about it. a short query letter, a submission, and a long wait. The query letter consisted of just a short introduction saying who I was, a one paragraph description of the book and finishing off by saying I had solid ideas ready for five more novels. [No one is that keen on a one-book writer]

My success rate on requests was pretty high so it seemed to work.

I'm still waiting for the second agent to get back, and a third has had a re-write. But as Dublin said the other day, writing is one half of the job and selling is the other. For example, off his own back, and not from his publisher, he has got some A list writers to blurb his novel. That's chutzpah! Being a good mate he has also volunteered to quiz his editor on the merits of the two major agents interested in my book, thereby giving me some valuable information, but maybe as importantly creating a little ripple of buzz that there might be a hot book out there.

You've got to work it!

I guess it's going to be a long week to the meeting and that tiny voice in my head is still saying she might actually finish the book and change her mind. If I wasn't insecure I wouldn't be a writer!

Monday, May 11, 2009

The latest

Eleanor has reminded me that it is some time since my last post. In the intervening weeks life has treated me like an excited puppy, in that it has smacked me on the nose then rubbed it in my own wee. Nothing to do with writing but a reminder that if you don't take care of things they have a habit of biting you on the ass.

Anyhoo, back to the book. After an initial surge of requests from agents everything went dead, in that I heard practically nothing, nada, zilch for several weeks except for a couple of rejections from agents citing that they didn't really handle that type of material, which made me wonder why they had requested it in the first place? Oh and one from an agent whom I thought would lap it up but said he was too busy with existing clients. That was a disappointment, mainly because I think it was really just a brush off - but it's a numbers game so I ploughed onwards.

One particular very big agency asked for an exclusive read of the first 10 chapters, stating that they were very quick and on that basis I agreed, but after a month I decided that either they weren't that quick or weren't interested so sent it out to a few more.

Again, things went quiet for a couple of weeks but then in the space of a few days a week or so ago I got what I think are some good notes back from one agent who said he'd be happy to take another look if I felt like re-writing to his notes, and another top agent sent me an email to say she hadn't finished the book yet but was very much enjoying it and to please call her before signing with any other agent.

Then a couple of days after that, the 'exclusive read' agency, about 7 weeks after I first contacted them, finally got back to say they loved the first 10 chapters and please send the rest, again on an exclusive read basis.

I decided that honesty was the best policy and told them what I had done and why. They took it pretty well, apologising for the delay caused mainly by the London Book Fair taking up their attention and still wanted the read. But they did ask for first refusal on the manuscript.

This is a top agency and one I'd love to sign for, so on the basis that they said they'd get back to me hopefully this week I agreed. Well I didn't quite agree. I said I wouldn't sign with anyone else until I heard from them, which isn't quite the same thing as first refusal but I think is fair enough.

So that's where I'm at. Three good agencies are showing a bit of interest, but I've been in this game long enough, albeit the TV side, to know that doesn't count for a bucket of warm spit until the deal is done. And then of course, even if I'm signed there is no guarantee the book will sell. Though at least the agents involved have more than enough juice to get it read by the top people over a weekend kind of thing, which I'm told counts for a lot in this business.

So it's fingers crossed that at least one of the three will come good. Time wise I guess I'm about six to eight weeks behind where I hoped I'd be, but having no experience at this I don't know whether I was being unreleastic or not.

I should know in the next week or two whether I have a shot with an agent and then the real white knuckle ride starts with re-writes and going to publishers. I'll keep you posted!