Friday, August 15, 2008

At last! Something positive!

After many hours' work, I completed my trawl through on-line agency resources. I now have a list of 212 agents. Because I'm a methodical kind of guy (hey! nothing wrong with that! Most of the sites strongly recommend a professional approach to choosing an agent, so I'm making sure I do my homework) that list is divided into three categories:
  • Green: Agents that handle my kind of material and will take electronic submissions of some kind, from an email query only in the first instance, through to a letter and three chapters as an attachment. There are some who have an online form, some who want the chapters embedded in the email, but whatever the method, they'll all deal on the net.
  • Amber: Agents that handle my kind of material and require paper-based (i.e. snail-mail) submissions. Again, some of these prefer a query letter only to start with; others are happy to take chapters right off the bat.
  • Red: Agents that don't do fiction at all, or if they do it's not my kind of fiction. "Why have I bothered including these in my list?" I hear you ask. Because during the course of my travels I've read that it can take up to a year to find an agent. If it takes me that long, after nine months when someone in the know asks "haven't you thought about sending it to Bloggs & Co.?" I want to be able to run my finger down my list and say, "no, because they only do children's books."
Next step is to take the green ones and rank them. Out of all the ones I could send it to, which do I think would give it the best chance? Which is the most prestigious? Which ones are actively seeking thrillers, rather than just saying they handle "commercial fiction"? Which websites give me the best feeling? Trust me, some of them are dire, and even some of the good ones give you a cold, unwelcome vibe.

Which brings me to the title of this post. My last couple of entries on the subject of agents accentuated the negative messages I'd found in my search, but the truth is these were more than counterbalanced by the positive messages many, many agents had taken the trouble to include on their sites. In advice pages, or on the "submissions guidelines" pages I found encouragement, warmth and humour and occasionally something to make me laugh out loud (in a good way this time). All of them expressed admiration for writers, and reminded their readers that just because one agent turns a book down doesn't mean it's unpublishable. Often their reasons for rejection are not really to do with the content at all, merely the genre, or the fact that they already represent someone who writes similar work and don't want a new client to compete with him or her, or they simply have too much on at that particular time. They all exhort writers to not be discouraged, to keep on keeping on. One memorable site put it like this:

"Think about a typical trip to the bookstore. There are thousands upon thousands of books there, and you can only take home a handful. Many of those books are great, but just not what you’re looking for at that moment. Don’t get discouraged, and keep going!"

So with that in mind, it's back to my list...

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