tagged with: literary agents

I always shuddered at the thought of pitching my novel to an agent, so when the opportunity came to pitch my novel Coming Out Of Egypt at a writer’s conference recently, I made sure to prepare myself well beforehand. I researched the agent online to see the kinds of books she was interested in, then I read as much as I could about how to pitch before creating my pitch. I even blogged about it. See http://angelasfreelancewriting.com/blogging-about-my-book-the-pitch/. Then I created three versions of my pitch and sent them to my critique group, who was already familiar with my novel. I was happy when they picked the one I preferred. I practiced and practiced, recording it on my cell phone and by the time I got to the conference, most of my nervousness had disappeared.

I happened to meet Ms. Hardy in the ladies’ room during one of the breaks. She told me who she was and my mouth fell open. She seemed so friendly and down-to-earth, I took the opportunity to introduce myself and let her know I would be pitching my book to her that afternoon. That meeting helped to remove any lingering nervousness I still had. I had another contact with her during her workshop on, what else, how to find a literary agent.

By the time I faced her in the chair that afternoon, I felt I knew her quite well and was able to speak confidently about my novel. She took notes while I spoke and asked questions about the characters – their age, occupation and, since my book is Christian fiction, their religious beliefs. Then came the question I expected, but dreaded: What section do you see your book fitting into in the bookstore?

The fact is that every book in a bookstore has to fit a particular genre perfectly. Even though I consider my book to be a Christian romance, it does not fit the mold exactly and I explained that to Ms. Hardy. My book has multicultural and police sub-genres, which give it, to my mind, more substance than the usual boy-meets-girl, they fall in love, then boy-loses-girl, then he gets girl back. All of this happens in Coming Out Of Egypt, but with more depth. After I’d explained this to Ms. Hardy, she asked me what percentage of the novel I would say is romance. I told her about seventy-five percent, which I believe to be accurate. Apparently, romance readers are more interested in the romance aspect of the story than anything else.

The session ended with her saying she liked my story idea and I should send her my proposal. I had walked with the synopsis and three sample chapters, but she said it’s easier for her to read it electronically, so I e-mailed it to her a couple days later. And now I wait.

Have you pitched your book to an agent? What was the experience like? How long did you have to wait before he/she replied? Please leave your comments below.

This post really belongs in the category, Guess What I Read This Week, a post that I started last week, however I couldn’t use the same title twice, so I decided to use the next best thing, which is the title above. If you’ve been following this blog, you may have read my post some time ago on famous authors who suffered rejection. You may recall that Jane Austen was one whose famous novel, Pride and Prejudice, formerly called First Impressions was rejected by the publisher and subsequently accepted after some revision.

That was centuries ago. The famous scribe was once again rejected in this century, according to an article in Writer Beware Blogs, but this time the person submitting the manuscript was not Jane Austen, but a writer named David Lassman. How did this come about? Well, it seems that Lassman, frustrated with all the rejections he was receiving for his own novel, decided to pseudonymously submit chapters of Ms. Austen’s books to several publishers. The result? Rejections galore. Why did he do it? He wanted to test whether the publishers and agents could recognize great literature. You can read more about it at this link: http://www.janeausten.co.uk/regencyworld/pdf/rejecting28.pdf.

So, what do you think? Should Lassman have played that hoax? According to WBB, submission hoaxes have been around for some time, with even the UK’s Sunday Times getting in on the act and achieving the same result as Lassman. Of the 18 publications that he submitted to, only one responded, letting him know they recognized what he’d done and warning him of the consequences of plagiarism. But hoaxes aside, what lesson can we as writers, desperate to have our works published, learn from Lassman’s folly?

I think the first one should be, never plagiarize, whether seriously or in jest. Think of how you would feel if someone plagiarized your work.

Second, always research your markets carefully before submitting. Apparently, Lassman did not. He subbed romance manuscripts to houses that do not publish romance, and to publishers who do not accept unagented submissions.

Third, be prepared to wait. And while waiting, continue to sharpen your writing skills. It will all pay off in the end.

Establishing yourself as an author or freelance writer is not a task for the faint-hearted. I am realizing this everyday, but I’m also realizing that there are thousands of writers who succeeded because of their perseverance. Would you believe that authors like Stephen King, Carrie, Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank, Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar and Agatha Christie, Murder on The Orient Express, to name just a few, all experienced the pain of rejection. When I think of what these famous people have contributed to the world of literature, I wonder where we would be if they had given up. (more…)