I'm at that tricky time in a debut novelist's career when the subject of 'agents' looms up on the horizon. "You need an agent," they say. And then it gets scary. Do I need one? Aren't they just for the big guys? Where do they hang out? How do I go about snaring one? And it goes on. Like most writers at all levels of their careers, I have a well-thumbed copy of the Writers' & Artists' Yearbook sitting on my shelf. I buy one every two years, but it's impossible for a printed list to remain up to date when human beings will insist on changing jobs, closing lists, etc. It's so selfish of them! So while the Yearbook is great for contact details and a rough idea of what agents don't want, you still have to look up each individual website searching for the right info and (if you'll excuse my language) it takes flipping ages! Then a friend said, "try Agent Hunter." "Who?" I said. "www.agenthunter.co.uk" they said! So I did. And here's my review: Curated by the folk at Writers' Workshop, Agent Hunter is the most useful resource I've found so far and would recommend it to anyone seriously looking for an agent. The search filters are really useful, enabling the hunter to select by genre, size of agency and (most useful of all) whether their lists are actually open! Every literary agent in the UK is covered, and for each agent and/or agency there is lots of information on what they're interested in, tips and guidelines for submissions, contact details, personal background and history or (and equally useful) they even tell you if they know very little info about that agent...honesty, how refreshing! You can then save searches, build a favourites list and find up-to-date info, which the Writers' & Artists' Yearbook - while it's an essential guide - can't really compete with. In many cases, I found there was even more info about an individual on Agent Hunter than there was on their own company website. It's not a free service, but subscriptions start at only £6 for 1 month or you can go right up to the most expensive Platinum package for 12 months where you can even get your cover letter, synopsis and the opening chunk of your novel reviewed. I went for the Gold Package; the most popular one costing £27 for 12 months. I found it very user friendly and have been able to easily put together a list of half a dozen agents that I might have half a chance with. It's saved me days of work. Of course, Agent Hunter can't guarantee to secure you that elusive deal, but they've saved me hours and hours of hair-pulling stress and wasted submissions. Try them for yourself. I'll let you know if one of them agents bites!
Musings and mind leaks...
This week I went to visit my little book in its new home; the kind of home you always hope your children will move into when they leave you. It could have ended up in a seedy squat in King's Cross, living off Pot Noodles and never cleaning the oven - sure I'd still love it, but I might not boast about it to my friends. Or it could have got tangled up with a massive mortgage on a studio flat in Battersea with a shower in the kitchen and a view of the local KFC's air conditioning unit. At least they're trying to get on the ladder. Luckily, for my baby, it ended up landing on its feet in the best home a book could wish for: face out on a shelf in Waterstones. And, thanks to having a surname that begins with 'C', it's even in that most perfect of levels - eye level! It's even got a bookseller review attached, so it's not just me that loves my baby. Move over Angela Carter, and thank you to Valda Fisher at Waterstones.
A few days ago I received a box of books in the post. It was a box of my books; my debut novel; my baby; my first born, and lots of other over-effusive descriptions for what was, essentially, a box full of paper. It was a very strange sensation. Of course, I was very pleased to have a copy in my hand, check that it was all okay and that the quality was as good as I hoped (it was), but there was another feeling that I hadn't expected, and it was this: My book is now a physical thing. Even the digital version is kind of physical once it's downloaded onto an e-reader. I can pick it up and hold it and see the printed words with my eyes. It's no longer something that's in me, or even part of me. It was once, but now it's independent of me. It now has a life of its own. Now, I'm not a parent but I imagined it was a little bit like seeing a child that's grown up leaving home. I now have to decide what kind of mother I'm going to be. Will I be possessive and over-emotional, interfering with every action, lashing out at every criticism, and demanding that my book phones home every day? Or will I be strong and selfless and let it go free to live its own life with my blessing? I want to be like the latter and set it free...Off you go, little book. I hope you find good friends and kind enemies. I hope you live a long life and inspire a few people along the way. Farewell, be free...but don't forget to phone home once in a while! (Nope, I'm not crying. I've just got something in my eye.)
In 5 days' time, the physical copies of my debut novel will be delivered to my door. The ebook is already spreading itself across the virtual world and people are downloading it onto convenient reading devices. This must be the time when all authors, no matter how seasoned or experienced, have that odd feeling of nothingness waiting for somethingness that's totally unknown, and that is: what will they think of it? Human beings (hopefully more than just a couple) will soon be looking at black print on white paper or black pixels on little screens, and taking in some words that came out of my imagination and stuffing them into their own to process. What will that process be like? What will a reader see in their mind? Will it be the same as what I saw? Will it make them happy? sad? inspired? bored? I don't know yet. It will probably be different for everybody. It's all fascinating to me. Some ideas got into my head (and where do ideas come from?...that's another blog), those ideas got condensed into words and sentences and paragraphs that were written down, then typed up, then processed by a publisher and a printer and all bound up in paper and digital bits. Then somebody will read those ideas, mix them with their own ideas and something will be alive in the world that wasn't before. It's quite a thought. It's scary, and profound, and exciting. For those of you that plan to read the finished book: Thank you for reading. I look forward to finding out what you made of it, and I hope you find something in it that you enjoy x