It was one year ago that I blogged about beginning the process of submitting to literary agents in the hope of moving beyond self-publishing. I had a spreadsheet of agents to approach, a meticulously crafted begging letter with the all-important elevator-pitch, a carefully thought-out synopsis and highly-edited first three chapters of my novel. And begin I did, just a few days after writing that blog.
Since then, I have made approximately twenty-five submissions. I have found and corrected some sneaky mistakes in the first three chapters, and redrafted my synopsis in various attempts to make my novel sound more enticing. I have read many advice columns and blogs, prompting me to rewrite my introductory letter countless times. I have carefully filed into my records each individual submission, and logged any responses – my spreadsheet is colour coded, with each agency highlighted in a different colour according to the month I contacted them, with the colour being changed to grey if they reply with a rejection. Inevitably, there are a lot of greys. And I think the time has come to update the outstanding colours to grey too, especially those from the first half of the year. Well, all I can say is, they missed their chance!
I still have faith in the quality of my work. However, by the autumn, I was beginning to wonder if I was submitting the wrong novel; I had thought that After the Rain was the easiest to sell, but what if that also made it seem too clichéd? I don’t think it is, but to agents with five minutes to glance at a synopsis, it might just seem like another First World War love story. So I made a complete U-turn, and took a chance on submitting The Most Beloved Boy, hoping that its more unusual story would stand out more. This meant a brand new synopsis, another rewrite of the opening chapters (in which I decided to delete a whole chapter!) and yet another begging letter with a new elevator-pitch. I’m hoping that the unique and intriguing plot will be tempting enough to smooth over the fact that it is a very long novel, or maybe even convince them that the length is another selling point – after all, what’s wrong with a good, lengthy read with lots of complexity and depth. That’s the kind of novel I like.
The months of November and December were completely taken up with promoting the Advent Calendar stories, so I have taken a break from the submission process for a while. But now that it is January, it is time to start the ball rolling again. However, I have almost exhausted my first list of potential agents, so will need to return to Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook before I can go any further. It’s time for another list, and a new set of colours. Am I down-hearted? Well, yes, of course I bloody am. But I’m not beaten yet. I will keep going, and I will believe that each of those agents that rejected me will one day look back with regret that they missed their opportunity to sign me up. I’m sorry if that seems hubristic, but what kind of writer would I be if I couldn’t imagine that? Besides, I am a writer, with other projects to work on. It’s been eighteen months since I completed The Hawthorn Bride, and so far I have resisted the urge to start editing it. I think the time is now ripe to start turning the first draft into something more polished, and maybe aim to publishing it on KDP by the end of the year. I also have a new novel niggling away in my head. Shortly before Christmas, I was invigilating for mock GCSEs, and in that lovely empty time, I found myself fleshing out the bare bones of a story that I have been loosely plotting for a few years now, and suddenly I have an almost complete chapter plan. If I were to apply some Nano-Wrimo motivation and my newly discovered technique of “don’t think, just write” to it, I could probably get a first draft written pretty quickly. Both of these projects are really exciting, the things that make writing fun and worth-while. I don’t write to be rejected by agents – I write to create fiction. If no agent has discovered that yet, they only have themselves to blame.