Wednesday, 7 March 2012

The novel is finished! And now... the submitting to an agent

It's been a long time since I blogged. The reasons for this were threefold.

1. At the moment very few people read this blog so there are very few people to disappoint. Actually that's a lie - I get on average 100 views a month. These people are either interested in a photo I once put up of Stephen King's writing room or are looking for the font style of the Back in Black album cover and stumble across a post I made in 2008 of the same name (Back in black font). This mistake has happened so often that by the miracle of Google I'm currently the third link that comes up when you search for this.

2. Those people that really do come to my blog looking for new posts already know me personally and so know what I'm doing anyway.

These two points may sound like I'm moaning but I'm not. These are simple facts. I'm not a well-known writer, my successes are small and there are thousands of other novelists' blogs to read who actually have books you can read and also can talk about book tours and new books and other interesting author things. The advantage of my lack of notoriety is that I can abandon the blog for a while and receive no complaints - it relieves me of the terrible burden of guilt when I neglect it. 

But I mentioned three points. So...

3. I was finishing the novel. The end was in sight and I didn't want to spend time doing anything other than finally wrestling it to the ground, stunning it and dragging its carcass to an agent's submission pile.

Does this mean the novel is finished? After five years of working on this leviathan, have I finally subdued it?


It's done. I finished reading it through, I proofread it and now it's a manuscript.

So what happens next? It's time to submit it to an agent.

How did I pick an agent to send it to?

The Handbook helped. It more than helped. And so did the advice of a colleague who knows a great deal about agents. There are questions that have to be asked before you choose an agent to send it to. Do they read the kind of things I write? Would they be flexible if I stretched my genres a bit? Would they get me a good deal with a high-profile publishing company? Would I get attention from them or just be lost under a pile of greater, more powerful authors the represent and never see the light of day? Would they push for results, both of me and the publisher, or leave everything to its own devices? It's a very big decision, taking into account not only what the agent is like but knowing what I'm like and what I need of an agent and how the two would combine.

The submission?

There was every temptation to just knock a letter and synopsis together and send it out as is but after so much time writing the book, I tried to be as careful as possible with writing these supporting documents. For the first impression they're just as (if not more) important as the book itself.

There was about a week of working on the synopsis, which was difficult to do. Imagine taking 257,000 words and boiling the story down to 4,000, that's how difficult it was. Taking out everything that was interesting and leaving just what was important (and realising the difference between the two) and still making it sound like a book worth reading was a task, I can tell you.

And then there was the covering letter, a quick intro on who I am and what the book is about. Here, I also  mentioned the short stories I've already had published. This should hopefully help grab at least more than a passing glance when it passes across the agent's desk.

So is it done? Sent to an agent? Yes. It's with him now, sitting at the bottom of his slush pile awaiting a yea or an 'oh my god, no!' He probably doesn't even know its right in front of him, the very document that's going to make him (and me) a megastar. And it is also in the hands of a publisher who asked to see it, a very exciting prospect as they're very well respected, so we'll see what happens. Now, it's a case of waiting and seeing what happens and of my book cuts the mustard or just smears itself on the hardened crust of indifference.

So what next? I took a week off. And now I'm planning the next book. Harlan Coben once said that the best way to get over the jitters of your first novel being published is to have the second book finished before the first even hits the shelves. Wise words, I reckon.

Will my book ever be published? I have no idea. Will it even be picked up by an agent? Who knows. Is it even any good? I have my opinions, my girlfriend has hers and maybe between those two opposites there's something approaching the truth. Right now I can only wait and see and get on with the next book. That's the only thing I can control.

Either way, I loved writing the book and I'm aching to get to work on the next one and really the writing was all I was in it for anyway. Any cash, mansions, super stardom that comes about is a welcome by-product.