... You know the one - when your sae arrives back through the letterbox with a photocopied rejection letter clipped to the unthumbed sample chapters. Well I wrote what I thought was a pretty damn fine query letter, whittled down my 125,000 word story into a two page synopsis (double spaced!), but the fundamental barrier of an agent actually READING part of my book has still to be broken. "Our client list is currently full...", "We do not feel passionately enough about your work...", "We are receiving 10,000 submissions a year..." (OK - I made that one up, but it's close!). I thought I'd done my research well - as to which agents could be interested in my book - a gothic 'coming of age' adventure - but alas no. I'm gonna keep on sending my little packages off (with more desperate wishes for good luck), but I can't help but think there has got to be other ways I can attack this - other strategies to get someone of influence to read it. Does anyone have any ideas? (except for posting it on the web - I don't trust it). Alternatively, does anyone have any recommended agents for first novelists, or agents specialising in the genre I have written? Thanks...
Hi Simon, you're right that is best described as a sinking feeling. I don't think there's any magic answer all you can do is make sure everything you write is intensely readable and eye catching. I don't just mean your novel or even the synopsis, but the introductry letter and C.V as well. These people are receiving at least 70 manuscripts a week and use a search shorthand to find somoething that stands out to them. If you can capture them initially at least they will keep on reading. Perhaps make your synopsis a bit briefer. Try and write it as if you were reading a review on the back of a book in a shop. You know that feeling, will I like this? Shall I buy it? Make it punchy and to the point. Try describing your book out loud either to the walls or friends, depending on how close you are of course, then try and get that down on paper. Do your homework, find out what agents are representing which authors and whether their work is similar to yours. Search them out online, read their quotes, what they're looking for , what they like. Then go for it. Sometimes a personal recommendation will get you read, but that doesn't necessarily mean they'll take you on. A friend of mine sent out loads of sample chapters and synopsis, all rejected or ignored then finally bingo! Someone wanted to see more of what she'd written and within two months she had a £250,000 two book deal. A fairy tale, yes but she deserved it and was fortunate to find a likeminded agent who worked for her. Good luck and keep us posted.
Of course, we have a lovely agent directory here on the site, many of whom are seeking new talent.
Have a browse. As someone who has yet to complete a novel and experience the heartache of being outright refused, I'm afraid I cannot empathise to any greater extent. But good luck.
Hi Simon- welcome to the site. 'Gothic coming of age tale'- can you give me any examples of writers in this genre so I can get more of a handle on it? say, Martin Millar? Generally speaking, good agents will transcend genre. Have a look at our very own Simon Trewin's interview in the er, Interview section- and check out his webpage. Also, do use the Directory. It may help to get some feedback by posting a sample on this site, either in the Fiction group or Archive- have you had feedback at all?
Sending it to a smaller agency might help, as while they take longer to respond, they will usually read/send out to readers.
Thank you all for your advice and encouragement – it means a lot. One of my stumbling blocks is not being able to place the book into a specific ‘genre’ (ie. describing the marketing demographic) for my introductory letter. For instance – I look at the genres in the ‘agents list’ on the website – and I feel it falls into at least six – which is why I invented ‘gothic coming of age adventure’… A friend that read it said it was like a cross between ‘Catcher in the Rye’ and Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ (in atmosphere – it’s not a horror)… It’s hard to be subjective myself because I never based it on any type of book – more on the landscapes of musical imagery and film, which is why I’m passing it around to get feedback on what I’ve created, because I can’t think of a book it is like… which of course makes it hard for me to ‘sell’.
I think my other stumbling block is that I do not have a ‘CV’ to speak of. The job I have has nothing to do with writing, I have not had any other work published – the only authority I have to write the book, besides my imagination and scattered experiences – is that a lot of it centres around the lead character writing a book in enforced isolation, which I subjected myself to in the depths of the Czech Republic and wilderness of Northern California (which sounds pretentious when I write it in a letter). This means that my introductory letter is pretty scant on relevant personal details – and pretty heavy on the story description, which, as it stands looks like this….:
“The story follows Max Cooper, an aspiring young writer whose life in a remote town is turned upside down when he discovers his childhood nightmare is alive, hiding away in a dilapidated hut behind the local church. His name is Carsten Wallpole – a folklore outcast, allegedly abandoned in town by a travelling freak circus at the turn of the century. Utilising his fear and imagination, Max embarks on a secret mission – to write a book on the strange man’s life. Only weeks later, after an unrelated midnight escapade goes wrong, Max and his hapless gang of friends get mysteriously framed for a shocking crime they did not commit, and become outcasts themselves in their God-fearing town.
What follows is a tale of self-discovery, as the gang are forced to confront their fears, friendship and fate. Plagued with thoughts of revenge, Max doggedly continues with his book in enforced isolation, eventually discovering that Carsten is not the despised culprit of the set-up as they had thought all along. Instead he turns out to be Max’s saviour, opening his eyes to life and driving them all to expose the hideous secrets of a tranquil town, where nothing appears as it truly is.”
Any honest feedback would be great. Forever indebted…
What about agents and publishers posting a list entitled: "Current major figures I once ignored, openly rejected or told to take up another hobby"?