FIRST DATE WITH AN AGENT
I’ve done it. I’ve started the journey to publishing my novel, or at least come closer to the dream than ever before. I’ve studied publishing as an industry, I’ve been an editor for four years for a digital publisher, but I’ve not managed to publish my own work—yet.
So, I figure we can experience the journey together, because despite the publishing experience that I have, this is all new territory for me.
1. How I triumphed the Hunger Games and won the agent
Okay, so I wasn’t bulldozing through a queue of clients to get to my agent, but the process of getting your foot through any door of traditional publishing can feel like a battle. Just notice me! Give me a chance!
I met Suresh (said prize agent of the Hunger Games) through my place of work—a tea house. We are tea merchants who serve tea gong fu style and in other methods that have existed for thousands of years. As such, we get a variety of customers from all over the world, including from weird and wonderful jobs.
Just from asking about Suresh’s life and work I found out he was a publishing agent. I took a deep breath and, beet-red in the face (probably), managed to choke out the words “oh wow really that’s great because I like to write”. It took off from there.
He asked what I like to write, what I’m working on, and finally, did I have a completed novel. As he paid for his tea, I took the final deep breath to ask for his email address.
But I wasn’t ready to send my novel.
2. Get your ass in gear, quick
I did have a completed novel, but it wasn’t completed in terms of being ready to publish (it’s still not, but it was even less ready then). So I didn’t send Suresh my work for a week after getting his email—I started editing the heck out of it.
As a regular customer, Suresh came into the tea house again, and this time he enquired about me as a writer and my novel. He emphasised that he really would like to read my work. Shit, awesome, shit.
If you want to make contacts with people who can help your career, it’s important to respond to their inquiries in a timely manner so they don’t forget about you, or so they’ll take your creative potential seriously. Most developers or representatives of creative individuals want to see that you’ve built a community through your own initiative, usually by putting out some form of work. You need to have something to show, or they’ll forget about you.
I worked intensively every night, every morning, and in-between work for two weeks. I ploughed through my novel to get it in good condition. My partner is a blessing, he’s so creative and was an incredible help at giving feedback. I hacked off bits of the novel, I rewrote the entire ending, I deleted a whole character, and my partner read everything I wrote, as I wrote it. I must one of the luckiest writer’s out there.
In two weeks, I wrote 10,000 words and sent it to Suresh.
3. First Date: Feedback
Let’s gloss over the waiting for his reply and call it ‘agony’ (although, amazingly, he read my novel in just over two weeks) and skip right to it. Suresh wanted to meet up to talk about my novel. Given that he hadn’t emailed me to say ‘no thank you’, I could only presume that arranging to meet me was a good sign. Why waste your time meeting with an author if you didn’t think that you’d like to take on their work?
I arrived early at the fancy cafe, ordered myself a tea, and waited.
After pleasantries, Suresh broached the topic of my novel by starting with: “There are two types of writers who tend to submit their work. The first have a great vision, but they can’t write. The second can write really well, but they haven’t fully developed their vision. You fit into the second category, which is great, because it makes development much easier if the skill of writing is already there.”
AWESOME. SHIT BALLS. THE BEST NEWS EVER.
The entire meeting consisted of Suresh helping me consider ways to develop my story. He started by asking me questions about my world and characters, to which I was super glad I could answer immediately. It’s good to show you’ve given your world thought. Once I’d cleared up his main questions, we got down to his feedback.
I wrote down almost all of his concerns that he felt needed development. It was a great experience. He’d clearly given my book a lot of thought and he remembered story points and characters with distinction. Despite my story having teething problems, his concerns were conveyed kindly and made total sense to me. I could see he wanted me to make my book shine, not just good. Obviously, from his perspective it has to be as sellable as possible when he approaches publishers, but his input was genuine. He even said that I should probably push-back against him and disagree with his comments somewhere, but I felt all of his feedback was supportive and not unfounded.
4. Next steps
So, my novel isn’t ready to publish yet. No contract has been signed. However, Suresh has given me a week to think over the major changes I should make. He’s going to give me a phone call, and we’re going to talk about those changes. Then, I have two months to implement those changes.
Suresh is going to act as my soundboard until I can give him my revised novel. If we work well together, and he thinks he can sell my revised novel, we go from there to the publishing gods.
I’m super excited, and super nervous. It’s crazy to think this window of opportunity could change everything for me. Once you’re foot is in the door, it doesn’t mean fame or fortune, but it does mean that the next book should be easier to get published.
And that’s all I want. To write books.
On that note, I won’t ramble on further. I’ll let you know how the phone call goes!