• Meet the technical requirements of the publisher.
• Spend time on your covering letter and synopsis. Do lots of research on what to write, but in the end it might be something personal that heightens an agent’s interest.
• Pause for Thought: Raymond Chandler called it ‘brewing.’ Put your novel away in a drawer and return to it fresh.
• Make the novel as good as it can be.
• Research the right people to approach.
• In your covering letter, make comparisons to published authors without saying you’re going to be the next JKR (or whoever.)
• If you sub to several agents at once and someone is interested, let the others know. They’re people; be courteous.
• Spend time in bookshops: browsing what is selling, what titles are around, how your book fits in, and understanding your market.
• Charm doesn’t go amiss, but don’t suck up.
• Put thought into which agents to approach. Sending a mass mail out to fifty agents wastes everyone’s time.
• Consider how to hook an agent’s interest: make your sub compelling and dazzling.
• Avoid clichés in your sub just as you did with your novel.
• Ellah advised us to check out our personal bookshelves; look at the agents representing the authors we like to read.
• Euan said that he wouldn’t offer to represent someone without first meeting them. It’s essential that you get on; like and trust each other. Editor/author and agent/author relationships are very intimate.
• It’s a job – you have to be professional.
• You need staying power and to recognise that there’s grafting to be done. You need a hunger to succeed as well as talent.
I suspect that nothing in that list has surprised anyone. Those of us reading ‘writing’ blogs, articles, books and blogs by agents and editors are already mostly aware of these ‘rules.’ I still find it desperately hard to believe that someone might go to the effort of writing a 100,000 word manuscript and not bother to find out how to format it, how to present it, who to send it to and so on. Apparently they do, so that’s why I’ve repeated everything above.
I think there is a feeling of desperation sometimes in the Blog World of Want To Be Writers. We’re told we have to be all singing, all dancing; a multifaceted expert in many fields even to get noticed. (I’m not negating the fact that we need to take responsibility for spreading the word and I do believe that we have to produce the best book we can) but I did come away, feeling that there are agents and editors out there looking for good writers. Yes, it’s competitive but it should be hard. These same editors and agents aren’t looking for perfect subs; all the examples I saw were different (hell, there was even a spelling error in one of them) but if your book is good enough and your writing engages… there is hope.
In the meantime it’s back to my novel - well maybe when I get back to Bangkok next week - because that is the thing: I want to make it the best I can.