Thursday, 12 January 2012

Passion in the Potato Patch, or the art of finding an agent and other assorted writing trials

Anyone will tell you nowadays, a writer who wants to be published needs a literary agent. So where to begin? Online is an obvious place to start, or possibly a troll through the Writers’ and Artists’ Year book.
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.


  1. It may take time, but I so hope it works out for you....and look forward to reading it one day.

  2. Thank you Elizabeth. Whatever happens I will keep trying.

  3. Hi Lampie,

    You have a wonderful gift of writing, even reading this post has 'swept me in', fabulous. I so wish I had some good advice about seeking out that Agent, Hoping that one will soon prick up their ears and say.... wow, yes lets get this great story published.

    Whatever happens don't give up Lampie, best of luck.!


  4. Let's hope 2012 is the year it all happens Lampie! Best wishes, Faith x

  5. Best wishes, Lampie. I have trod - indeed am still treading - that path. Have you thought of self-publishing via eg Completely Novel? That way you can get yourself published and on Amazon at the drop of a hat and you then have an actual book and actual book reviews to send to an agent. I've just written a children's story which is being published on Blurb (which does illustrations) but the next book (which is a factual offering) will be Completely Novel, I think. Anyway good luck and no doubt we shall share experiences as we go along.

  6. Good advice from Fennie . . . I too have been told if you can go to an agent, or publisher with stats of how your own self published book is selling then you stand a much better chance.

    ALSO - smacked wrists - you are amazing - I found you a wonderful person to get to know and if you don't fully 'get' and transmit that you are fabulous then other people won't 'get' it either and won't be interested in you. So don't you DARE sell yourself short . . . taps foot and folds arms . . .

  7. Self publicity is soooo tricky. I find it really hard, though I freely admit I'm a dab hand at making jam.

  8. You're keeping going - that's the most important factor in getting published.

    I don't have an agent, but I did run my M/S past a professional appraisal service (Hilary Johnson) which meant the publishers treated it as a serious submission if that helps. Here's sending you all best wishes.

  9. Lots of good advice there - I hope you find an agent or some way of getting some attention for your book. Right now, with your book ready to go, it seems that perseverance will be what you need most. Don't give up!

  10. I'm in the same position now as you. The amount of advice out there, on how to submit, is overwhelming at times.

    Many of the people giving advice on pitches are actually pitching to us for sales of their book (about pitching).

    I'm starting to wonder if a not-so-polished-pitch might stand as good a chance as any if the book shines. Building on your potato analogy I tend to buy the ones with dirt on now. They keep longer and taste better.

    Keep at it. Like Chris (above) I have used a professional appraisal service. Well I'm still waiting for the appraisal so might even be told to write a different book. Or take up sewing. I got a bursary for the fee so look around for one if you're on a low income. Also there is a competition running with an appraisal as the prize. I'll look out the link and post.

    Good luck.

    1. Sorry can't find the competition yet but recommend this. Details about how to apply for bursary are at the bottom.

  11. Good luck! I have not even got as far as any of this, I just daydream!