Hunting agents, Getting book dealsHarry Bingham
A guest post from Liz Monument – who found her agent through Agent Hunter. Read more at: www.lizmonument.com
Like most novelists, I’ve been writing since childhood. And like most novelists, it took several drafts of several novels before I reached a publishable standard. My ‘first’ novel is actually the seventh I’ve written… the earlier six are still in a shoebox underneath the bed.
Every writer has a turning point, and mine came in the form of an MA in Creative Writing. I’d reached a glass ceiling I couldn’t seem to break through, so I saw the course as a last resort. It was expensive but for me, it worked – two years during which to write a project of my choice, supported by a tutor and a critique-group of fellow students. With some technical tips that helped to polish my prose, and the realisation that the fantastical worlds of science fiction and fantasy gave free rein to my imagination, I began to write The Eternity Fund.
The novel is a futuristic noir thriller. My narrator Jess Green is an empath employed by the Unit. She’s assigned an uncooperative handler, and given the grimmest of cases that conventional science isn’t able to solve. Jess soon finds herself with a price on her head, and knows that her life depends on the success of her predictions.
At the end of the MA, The Eternity Fund was short listed by Mslexia for their unpublished novel competition. I was absolutely thrilled, and knew it was time to look for a literary agent.
In today’s market, if you’re a debut novelist then it’s impossible to have a book signed directly by a publisher. It might be different if you’re a household name, or if you’re already an established novelist, but for first-timers it’s far from easy. That’s where a literary agent comes in. Agents sell manuscripts, have a host of publishing editors willing to read new novels they recommend, and will look after your business interests.
Agent Hunter popped up on a website trawl, and I joined up because I had nothing to lose. I was immediately impressed by the level of detail on the site. The search facility allowed me to input criteria relevant to my needs (agents had to be agreeable to sci fi, for example, and actively looking for new clients). I found a list of thirty or so agents who fitted.
Over the next few weeks, I sent emails and a fiction sample to batches of five at a time. Then I sat back and waited, which, as some agents warn you, can take in excess of three months. I struck lucky; Charlie Viney emailed and then telephoned as soon as he began to read the manuscript. Within two days he’d read the whole novel, and three days after that Charlie came to my hometown to sign me up. We had a wonderful champagne lunch in an old coaching Inn, one of the few companionable highlights of what is a very lonely and demanding vocation. Then it was straight back to work. Based on Charlie’s suggestions, I set about editing the manuscript in preparation for it to be read by publishers.
Charlie wasn’t the only agent I heard back from. Over the next two months, I had a further five interests in the manuscript, all through Agent Hunter. Some asked for exclusivity, but I’d already been signed.
In February 2015, Audible will publish The Eternity Fund. I’m now working on another novel, and taking a part time PhD in Creative Writing.
Charlie told me that The Viney Agency don’t advertise openly to ensure that they aren’t swamped with unwanted manuscripts. If I hadn’t used Agent Hunter, I wouldn’t have connected with the agency. Fate, I suppose.