A couple of years ago I decided I wanted a literary agent. I read everything I could on the subject, lurked on agent blogs (Kristen Nelson’s Pub Rants was a favourite, along with mysterious Agent Sydney’s Call My Agent)and poured over the acknowledgement pages in my local bookstore, searching for likely candidates. I completed a third draft of my manuscript, and launched into an organised campaign bearing all the hallmarks of a military operation.
Firstly, I purchased an up-to-date copy of the Australian Writer’s Marketplace. Each country has its own version, containing current details of every contact you could ever need in the publishing industry, including agents. This is also available online, but there was something very satisfying about highlighting each suitable listing, and then ticking them off as I made submissions. Australia is a small market with a correspondingly small number of agents. After carefully reviewing them all, it turned out just eighteen agents were accepting submissions for adult fiction.
I listed them in order of personal preference, agonised over a query letter, then in October I queried the top twelve all at once. I received six requests for chapters. Of those, I received four gracious rejections and two requests for the full 80,000 word manuscript. One of these was from Curtis Brown (Aust), my first choice! Trying to remain calm, I sent off my submissions and waited. Finally in February I received a phone call from Curtis Brown requesting a meeting. It turned out I was already heading to Sydney that week for an Australian Society of Authors course. That meeting was a great success and I was offered representation.
Hurray! I thought all my troubles were over. It was only a matter of time before my manuscript found a home. Nothing could have been further from the truth. My agent submitted to six publishers and got knock-backs. Write the next one she said. I did, while my old manuscript languished. By the time I’d finished the next one (about a year) the agency had lost interest in me in a major way. They couldn’t even find the time to read it. A cold stone settled in the pit of my stomach. If I didn’t do something soon, I felt sure they’d drop me. What I needed was a plan B!
Next week – Plan B The Conference Pitch