Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sorry, I don't accept submissions

One of your road rules is: 'I'm not able to accept manuscript submissions'.
Forgive me my ignorance but what submissionable form of manuscript are you able to accept?


This is an advice website only - it is not the official website for a literary agency. Plus I have enough manuscripts to read in my offline life. If you'd like to know what sort of manuscripts I accept when I'm being the 'real me', check the submission guidelines for every literary agency in Sydney and you're bound to come across what I'm looking for. That's as much as I can tell you.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Sydney Writers' Centre Best Blogs update

Well, well, it seems as though I'm a finalist! Well, this blog is a finalist - in the Words/Writing category of the Sydney Writers' Centre Best Blogs 2011 competition:
Apparently I am able to download some HTML code thingy to this site regarding this award but it may stretch my technical capabilities a bit far ... I'll give it a whirl though.

Thank you so much to those who voted in the People's Choice Award, too.

And now, a request: does anyone have any questions or requests? I haven't been posting much lately because it's been All Quiet on the Question Front. But I'm also happy to just write about non-question-related stuff if anyone has a request - about the publishing industry, about agents and agenting, about writing ... Anything! Try me!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Vote early, vote often

Thanks to a kind reader, this blog has been nominated as a Sydney Writers Centre Best Australian Blog 2011. If you would like to vote in the People's Choice Award - for this blog or for anyone else's - please go here:

And if you do vote for me, thanks in advance - it's a crowded field and I have absolutely no expectation of winning anything, but if I do the prizes will be offered to readers of the blog ...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

What manuscripts am I looking for? Hmm ... good question

What sort of manuscripts would you like to see cross your desk?
[NB: this question is short because it came from Twitter]

This is a timely question because I was just reflecting the other day on my deep desire to read the riot act to potential submitters.

My short answer to your question is:


But that's not very helpful, is it? Fundamentally, in my dream submission-reading life, what I am reading are manuscripts that are ready to be seen. Manuscripts that have been redrafted once or twice. Or non-fiction submissions that contain ideas that have been properly thought through. Or 'young adult novels' that actually consider their readership instead of having main protagonists who are thirty.

Most agents and publishers who read submissions spend a lot of time reading manuscripts that are simply not ready. And the time that we take reading and then rejecting them is time we'd really rather spend on the manuscripts that are ready. Instead, we are always short on time to read our clients' manuscripts and to find new clients.

The best thing that any writer can do for themselves when they're in the submission phase is to make sure that their work is really, truly ready to be sent out. That doesn't mean that it should be perfect. It means that they should make it as good as they, individually, can. Because none of us can ask any more than that. And making it as good as they can means not sending it in with typos everywhere. It means not sending in something that that agency isn't interested in - this is a 'rookie mistake' and it immediately reveals that the writer has not read the submission guidelines, which doesn't predispose the agent/publisher towards the writer.

If what my question-asker really wanted was for me to say what genres I'm looking for, well, that would be telling. What I'm always looking for are great stories for adults and children, and great non-fiction ideas. I can never define exactly what I'm looking for because it's very much a case of knowing it when I see it. Great writing is alchemy. None of us knows which chemicals go into it - we just know that we like the gold at the end.

Friday, April 15, 2011

It's all in the timing

I have a query about how to address an issue with my (UK based) agent. He approached 5 publishers for my sci-fi novel seven weeks ago. So far, 3 rejections.
I'd like him to now move on and send out the next round of submissions, but he doesn't want to do that until the remaining two respond. I understand that he needs to maintain good relationships with the publishers, and part of that means being open with them about simultaneous submissions. I also know that 7 weeks is not really very long for a publisher to respond. But I am concerned that this process could be unnecessarily delayed by waiting for publishers that might be slow to respond.
Is there a reason why he might want to wait that I'm not seeing? How long should we reasonably wait before moving on? And would it be appropriate for me to raise this concern with him? I don't want to appear too pushy.

Your question is a good one, because it raises the issue of how agents submit to publishers and the delicate dance therein. When I'm submitting I send out the manuscript to the publishers I think are most likely to be interested and also the ones I would most like to take the manuscript - this is round one. Of course, I always hope that I only need one round. Round two publishers are the ones I originally deemed less likely to want the manuscript and also the ones I thought may like but whom I thought may not be a good fit with the author, for whatever reason. I will usually wait to exhaust round one before moving to round two, simply because I think the round one publishers are more appropriate for the author and/or their book.

That doesn't mean that I haven't been pleasantly surprised by a round two publisher - I have. But it doesn't happen often. And, truthfully, the Australian market is so small that usually I only have one round anyway. The UK is different, even when you're writing sci fi (which isn't published by everyone). Your agent would have more choices and is, no doubt, hoping to get one of his first choices before moving to his second choices.

Thus the reason he might want to wait (and I'll say 'might', because I don't know for sure) is that he really wants one of the two remaining publishers to take it and he wants to wait and see if one or both are interested before going further. Also because, for an agent sending out sci fi (or most fiction), seven weeks is not that long to wait, so as far as he's concerned there's no urgency. (Of course, we know that authors feel differently but we exist in our own time frame. Time not being linear etc etc.)

Having said all of that, you are the client and it is your manuscript. You should be able to raise this with your agent and feel comfortable about doing so. A simple, 'Hi, I'm just curious - how long do we wait before moving to the second round of submissions?' would do it. You don't need to explain your reasons for knowing - you are entitled to know. And the agent should explain his process, and give you the opportunity to discuss it. It's not as though we're all working on the Large Hadron Collider, after all - there are no mysteries here. But things can sometimes seem more fraught with meaning and intent than they really are, so just keep it light and friendly, and feel free to tell me what he says if you need some interpretation.