…people kept telling me, and last year I finally did.
In December 2017, I completed the first draft of my first novel. By August of this year, I had a draft I was happy with and decided it was time to send my baby out into the world. I wasn’t terribly enthusiastic about the idea of getting an agent. My knowledge of literary agents comes mostly from fiction, where they are invariably portrayed as boozy parasites. My real life experience of agents is limited to estate agents, and that has been far from happy – a future volume will definitely feature a villain with the initials KFH! Nevertheless, friends I trust insisted that one can’t find a publisher without first securing an agent, so I told Nick I would simply grit my teeth and fire the manuscript off to half a dozen agents, and then get on with painting the living room. Hah! Little did I know! It seems every agent has a different set of hoops one must jump through. One doesn’t accept submissions when there’s an R in the month, another requires a 3000-word synopsis, another will accept only hard-copy submitted to the US by courier.
I was both amused and horrified by Jessie Burton’s account of twitter-stalking her chosen agent in order to craft a cover letter which would save her manuscript from the slush pile. Burton, author of book club favourite The Miniaturist, was working as a receptionist in the City at the time, and I suspect that sitting, bored stiff, working for people she didn’t respect, contributed to her willingness to go to such lengths. I, in contrast, am not on anyone’s payroll and have a living room to paint.
Writing Brightwater was a joy. Editing it was tedious but satisfying. But this scrabbling about, trying to find an agent, seems so old-fashioned. Life’s too short to jump through so many pointless hoops. Then, one day, I was thinking about 6 degrees of separation, and it occurred to me that I undoubtedly already know someone, who knows someone, who knows someone, who’s simply desperate to publish interesting near-future speculative fiction…
So, if you’re interested, and especially if you are one of those people who said “You really should…”, click on FICTION above to read two alternative versions of the first four chapters of Brightwater: Major Ryan Returns.
Let me know in comments which one you like best. And of course, tell your friends – one of them might know someone who knows someone!