The net’s a wealth of free information on writing and editing techniques and approaching a good agent. You will doubtless have figured this out for yourself and I won’t replicate what Nicola Morgan already does so brilliantly on her blog and in her extraordinarily generous guide to being published, Write To Be Published. Instead, I can share with you how I became agented and how having written a comparatively short novel, I managed to bust some myths circulating on the net.
Spurned writers have said a variation of the following:
‘You’ve written a short novel (or novella as I still refer to it), and you want an agent? Forget it. THEY WON’T BE INTERESTED.’
Actually, they might, and in my case they were, which is nice.
You can write a novella as a first work, but it’s unlikely you’ll find an agent if you don’t have a plan for a full-length book. If you’re lucky enough to be called by an agent (yes, a real phone call) they are screening you every bit as much as you’re sussing them out. They want to know:
1. Your book of fiction isn’t autobiographical.
2. You have an idea formed for another book.
In my case this book should ideally be longer than a novella. Also, it must be similar but different to the one submitted. Not a sequel (that would be madness) but evidence of a similar thread running through is a positive indicator. If you’ve written a thriller about a sinister baker, your next book should ideally be a thriller, but not about a sinister baker. Try a warped pathologist instead, or something.
3. You’ve ideally been published in high profile publications before (but this isn’t in any way a deal-maker).
4. You’re of sound mind (much more likely to be a deal-maker).
There are other subtle tactics up their sleeves but much of what they’ve decided happens before they call. They’ve read your writing and it will not have been perfect but they will see you can form character, pace, plot, dialogue, voice and point of view well (and I should imagine that’s cause enough for celebration in the average slush pile).
He/she will then work with you to point out what needs improving before he/she sends it out to publishers.
They will share with you who they have in mind and this part is lovely. If they’re a good agent they will be writing to the type of publishers (with iconic spines) you dared not dream would house your own work.
And then you wait, and you make a start on your next book, and hope burns softly.