After three weeks of bursting at the seams to get on with a rewrite that had already begun to form in my head, and three weeks of possibilities i’d really ought not to be indulging myself in, i finally got on the train to London and meet a real jen-yoo-wine literary agent.
I had a little re-read on the train, and a glimmering, shiny pitch began forming in my head. I would blow that agent away with my confident BASTARD WONDERLAND know how, and my coherent writing history – indeed, i seem to have had my whole life mapped out and made meaningful by accounting the development of my writing career.
Due to my cheap train fares I arrived hours before, so that i could dither around the capital wondering what to do with myself – until arriving early at the Agency. I was impressed by the place – which turned out to be larger and more distinguished than i expected – and sat quietly before a wall of previously published clients’ books in reception – with names i recognised and everything!
Agent arrives (i recognise him before i’m introduced because i’ve already –
stalked researched him and seen a video interview on the BBC). He briskly gets me onside by whisking me straight out to the pub, a pub so immaculately unpopulated it might have been a specially built set. He offers me a drink and i perhaps hastily select a big old pint of ale and am wondering how professional this is when the conversation begins. I wouldn’t say that my Golden Pitch went out of the window exactly, but i did find that, like in a job interview situation, my mind was threatening to seize up, or at any rate was lumbering through treacle at times. It was obviously nothing to do with the bucket of beer i’d made the man buy me. I reflect that it is a good job i’m on paper based assessments in this game, otherwise i’d be f**ed. The literary agent (i’m not just being cagey, i just don’t want to name-drop until time) seemed to be okay with this. He turns out to be a human. He is honest about what he likes and what would need to be changed. He is obliging about my befuddled questions about ‘the process'(see below). He makes it clear there are no promises on the table (only a seemingly endless pint that seems to befuddle me still further). The meeting repeats some of what we’d kind of gone over by email, but it was nice to emphasise it, and to put a face to a name, as the saying goes.
And so, the upshot is, THE BASTARD WONDERLAND needs another draft. We need more emphasis on the core relationship/s, a more coherent sense of how the world works (they went were? Why? Why do they do that?) to put the story in context, and some sort of broader motion of events that unites world and character change, the way a novel of this genre ought to.
I have already submitted a revised synopsis to The Agent, and all being well, i will soon be blogging about getting stuck in, and all that (or just getting stuck).
For anyone who is interested in ‘The Process’
- i am lucky, for a start. It’s unusual for an agent to suggest a general rewrite, unless, as the case was here, he particularly liked some element or character. Normally it would be a more black and white case of cut this, change that.
- I had imagined that an agent takes on over a long term, a year or so, and touts your work over that period. But no. If an agent takes you on, you will pretty much know if you’re successful within a month. Agents have regular meetings with their associated publishers, at which they pitch ahead titles ahead of their particular auction date. On that date, publishers bid, and bid against one another if there are more than one interested. Winner gets title. If you’re still on the table after a few weeks or so, then it doesn’t happen. Eek! Is that good, or bad?
- Your genre (however loosely or reluctantly you are aligned with it – i’m a bit of both) expects certain conventions to sell. First is that ‘fantasy’ has to have the old epic sweep. Not necessarily the old obligatory battle shoehorned in at the end, but its hard to escape some sort of scale<up. (I have to change this). Also, readers of fantasy expect a series. They just do. its the rules. So cast aside the integrity that made you want to write a standalone, because they don’t sell in fantasy. Any deal you get will be for your current book + more (just a general synopsis will do for for the others).
- By the time you’ve been accepted as far as the agent stage, its unlikely you will be asked to do any major rewriting by the publishers themselves. Agents now package to go. With a side of ‘slaw.