Clever, very clever. I bet you say that to all your master classes. Mind you so would I. Any excuse to be able to make a sharp exit and not have your path blocked by us zombie like authors, all desperate to tell you about our masterpiece.
I was here. Attending a Guardian master class. “How To Get A literary Agent” run by the very professional Juliet Mushens. She works here and by all accounts is one of the best and most successful agents in the UK. So of course, we all want her to be ours. She’s perfect for us. Us? Oh yes, there is us. Almost one hundred of us, all shapes sizes and variable dress sense. We hang off her every word. The words shooting, fish, and barrel come to mind. She is kind. She tells us about what happens if you get an agent. She tells you how to present your manuscript in the best possible light. She has two actual authors with her Amy Alward and Laura Purcell. They are very nice, and they have been published. So we also hang off their every word hoping to learn the holy grail of being picked up. This is something we are desperate to be part of. But of course it’s what she doesn’t tell you that really matters.
Publishers use agents to filter out the crap. Of the people attending today approx. 0.1% of us have a chance to be taken on by an agent. The rest of us will be rejected, frequently, brutally. Juliet gets over 5 thousand manuscripts a year. We will need to develop the hide of a rhino to carry on. “It’s not you, don’t take it personally.” She’s right it’s not you, agents don’t care about you. I’m serious and so is she. It’s the book, the whole book and nothing but the book. Lesson one and the most important thing any of us can learn from today is “write a good book”. Keep writing it until it’s the best you can make it. Then let it go. A fresh pair of eyes will see things you cant, or wont. So remember, you haven’t finished writing it yet. Just the first stage is completed.
After that, research your agents. Find between six and ten who will consider the genre you are writing in. Writing across genres? Decide on the major category. If it’s a romance with time travel, send it to an agent who is interested in romance. If it’s a thriller, but also a biting satire on our inner cities, it’s still a thriller.
Next get your package right. Yes you heard me, time to adjust you package. Write a good covering letter, be professional. Write an enticing blurb, the back jacket elevator pitch for the novel. To do that follow the Mushens method of character, setting, conflict, resolution. Somebody, somewhere has something happen to them which results in something else happening and so…..You can find mine here. Next, you have to have a synopsis. One to two pages where you outline the characters, the plot and, crucially, tell them who dunnit. At this point I felt rather sad for Juliet. Doesn’t she ever long to read a book where she doesn’t know what happens?
Other things to remember.
Agents are subjective. It’s their opinion and they only back what they like.
They make money out of your book. 15% domestically, 20% overseas. Before you cry out in horror, what they do for that is all the business side of getting you a deal and managing your career. Don’t whinge, it’s a bargain.
Treat “open door” months by publishers with caution. Some may very well offer sub-standard contracts, and how do you know what is fair and reasonable? Agents do.
What else? Oh, some off us got to read out our blurb and get some live feedback from Juliet. I got an opportunity and some good comments, but then we all did. Finally, she said the one thing we were all secretly hoping for.
“Thank you all for coming, sorry I cant stay. Here is a pile of business cards, do take one. I look forward to reading any submissions you make.” We descend on the cards like wolves, hardly noticing that she has already left the room. We have all decided that Juliet is the one for us. It’s not true of course. She is mine, all mine, the rest of you losers can go to hell. I am the 0.1% and nothing will stand in my way.
In other news, I am still engaged in the second draft of the book and I have updated the creative writing page with some more examples from my writers workshop.
See you next week.