Friday, January 27, 2012

Sometimes it takes a really long time to get published

A few years ago I took on an author - let's code-name her AG. AG had written a manuscript that was in a genre that didn't usually appeal to me, and it needed at least another draft. But it was clear that she was hugely talented and I loved the story. She has a natural gift for storytelling and a great facility with language. So I sent out the novel to the publishers whom I thought would like it. One of them was very keen. This publisher asked for some rewrites, which AG cheerfully did in her ninth month of her first pregnancy, when she probably had other things on her mind. That publisher wasn't able to get the novel through acquisitions but later suggested that AG write another type of novel, which she did. (I should point out that AG is the sort of writer who is in love with the process of writing and drafting - not all writers are, and if you aren't that sort of writer it doesn't mean you're a better or worse writer than someone like AG.) That novel didn't get through the acquisitions process either.

More time passed. I kept an eye open for opportunities for AG, and she was very patient about it all. AG now has two children - and one publisher. Yes, at last, someone else loved the novel as much as I did and was able to convince their colleagues about it too.

I'm passing on this story to illustrate, mainly, the point that it can take a long time to find a publisher, even when there are plenty of people who love what you do. Also to afford the chance to talk about why I think AG ultimately did find a publisher. Firstly, there is (obviously) her skill as a writer. But she has some qualities apart from that which have helped. Both of us could have walked away from our professional relationship at the point at which the second novel didn't get up. I wouldn't have blamed her if she'd wanted to go, and I wouldn't have blamed myself if she went. But the simple fact is that she's a great client. She is professional and realistic. Not once has she fallen into the 'poor me' trap which can defeat many a talented writer - purely because, I reckon, it starts draining their energy towards a dangerous downwards spiral. She kept her chin up and she retained her love of writing. Some of this has to do with her personality; a lot of it has to do, I suspect, with decisions she has made along the way.

Now AG has a publisher who thinks she's fantastic. I think she's fantastic. I just wish I could tell you her name so that you'll find out how fantastic she is too. But that would give away my top-secret identity ...

Click on this link

A fairy godsister (as she's not old enough to be a fairy godmother) sent me the following link:

I recommend you click on it as it's to a post entitled '25 Things Writers Should Know About Agents'. While the post contains some information that is similar to things I've posted in the past, it's going to save you having to trawl through this blog to find it!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Settle, petal

You mention in one of your responses 'publishing people value manners,' and you often urge politeness, but surely it cuts both ways. I submitted a query to an agent a couple of months ago but, receiving no reply after six weeks, I queried another agent and am still waiting for a response. Yes, their websites said they were open for submissions and, yes, I did follow the submission guidelines conscientiously.

If they are not interested it surely takes only a couple of minutes to hit the 'reply' button, type 'no thanks' and hit the send button. Getting no answer at all is worse than getting a knock-back. Incidentally, I have also queried agents in the USA and UK and usually get an answer within a day or two, albeit sometimes automated. Should I contact agents who fail to respond and ask (politely) whether their email or mine has gone astray?

Yes, it cuts both ways. I've never said that it hasn't. But if you have read other entries on this website you will also have read about the restrictions on time and resources for agents, particularly in Australia. Most of us don't have assistants. Most of us are trying to fit in the submission-reading and submission-replying in our private time. The agents in the US and the UK usually have administrative help, so they can turn around submissions faster.

You'd also have read that a couple of months is really not a long time in publishing. We do the best we can - honestly, we do. But you probably would not believe how many submissions we receive if I told you. If I spent my time only reading submissions, I still wouldn't get through them at a pace that would satisfy the authors who sent them. Because the other side of this is that many authors take ten years to write a novel and then want a response to a submission within ten days. Our reading takes time, just as your writing did.

Is this slow-response situation ideal? No. I would love to be able to get back to submissions faster than I do - I would love to spend a lot of my time reading submissions. But my clients come first. And I also have to be mindful of my relationships with publishers. They take time too. I do always have it in the back of my mind, though, that the people who sent in submissions need an answer. So if you send an email after a few weeks reminding me about your submission, that is completely understandable. Check the submission guidelines first, though. Some agents say how long they're likely to take to respond. If they don't, then eight weeks is a reasonable amount of time after which you can remind an Australian agent that you exist. If they do, then wait however much time they've said and then another week or so, and then make contact. Just don't call unless they specifically say you can. Just as you wouldn't believe how many submissions I get, you wouldn't believe how many people call, and it all takes time away from getting our work done - and getting to your submission faster.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Age is not the issue

I'm a young writer (still in school) and very interested in becoming a published author. I write fiction mainly consisting of fantasy and supernatural. What can I do to help myself get there? Should I look for agents now or wait until I'm older with more experience?

You can help yourself do what writers of any age do - read, read, read and write, write, write. Your age could be a factor if you were attempting to appeal exclusively to readers over the age of 50 - it would then be arguable that you perhaps should wait until you've experienced what it's actually like to be 50. Except maybe you have a great imagination and you know lots of people in their 50s and you're a really good listener ...

Age is not the issue for writers - that is, it's not that you don't know what you're doing just because you're young. It's actually time that is the issue. The older you are, the more time you've had to spend reading, and honing your writing skills, and finding out all you can about writing. If you're 30, you've had more time to leave manuscripts in the bottom drawer and more time to try out different things than you'd have had at 16 or 17. But you shouldn't let that stop you - you should just be aware that, regardless of your talent, you're submitting to agents and publishers alongside writers who have had more time.