With rookie optimism I try both. Hours later and the only thing I’m certain about - writing the book’s the easy bit. Okay, I already knew sending an unrepresented baby off to a publisher, is a sure way straight to the shredder bin. But agents are tricky customers to catch and surprisingly few are in the least bit interested in Romantic Fiction.
I sort out a handful of hopefuls who look like they might be sympathetic. Treat it as a job application says one bit of advice, 'I'm only human so spell my name right,' the plea from another. I only take electronic submissions says a third, I only take paper submissions, a forth. Some like particular fonts or a writing C.V. All want a one page synopsis. None of them seem likely to respond to a bribe of homemade blackberry jam or a basket of vegetables from my allotment, which is a pity as I seem to have a glut of both.
And then there is something called The Agent’s Letter. This is the key. No matter how good your manuscript is, if you don’t catch their eye with your letter, you’ll never get off the slush pile. Start with a sure fire hook is the advice I find on the internet. But what exactly is a hook? A sentence or a phrase, or possibly a single word (if it's exactly the right word) that sums up the book. Which is where ‘Passion in the Potato Patch,’ comes in – sometimes I think that husband of mine doesn’t take my writing as seriously as he might – you wait, one day I’ll be signing copies in Waterstones ... and then who’ll be laughing? Eh!
I have to write a Short Bio about myself. I look a few up to get some idea what to write. Have you noticed that no writer is ever run of the mill? One I find describes herself as being the sole child of a teacher and a circus clown. But I am ordinary. About the most exciting thing about me is that I’ve actually written 93,000 words in book form. I was a special needs teacher at one time, and I love gardening. I was feature of the month in a publication called Hot Stuff a while back, but don't get excited, it was only because I make lampwork glass beads as a hobby.
Now my letter is written. I’ve got together my first three chapters, a synopsis and neatly compiled a writer’s C.V (at least with two short stories published I’ve something to put in it now, though it still looks like the shortest C.V ever) But even thus prepared, current wisdom says I might not get my manuscript read. With thousands of hopefuls sending off novels every year, finding an agent is starting to seem actually harder than getting published. But if you can’t get published without an agent ... I feel a ‘Catch 22’ situation coming on.