For the next couple of weeks, Hampshire Writers’ Society has gone all Publishy. Here, Claire Fuller tells us about finding her Agent.
It’s Not Who You Know
A few years ago when I was in the middle of writing my first novel, without any idea about what would happen to it, I went to a talk by a writer who told us how her book came to be published. ‘I went to a party in London,’ she said. ‘And I met a girl there who was the receptionist at a London literary agency. A few days later I sent her my manuscript; she showed it to her boss; and he offered to represent me. You’ve got to know someone in the industry.’
All of us came out of that talk feeling dejected – getting published was about who you know, and I didn’t know anyone, and I certainly didn’t get invited to any London parties.
But, I’m pleased to say that she was wrong. My novel got picked up from the ‘slush pile’, and I now know that so do many more. It’s not about who you know, but it is about following the rules.
Of course you still have to write a novel that an agent will be interested in. You need to be passionate about it, and that passion needs to come across in the writing. And it goes without saying that it must be well written and brilliantly edited.
After that you only need to regard your submission like a job application. I used Agent Hunter (www.agenthunter.co.uk) to select twelve agents who had open lists, were looking for my genre, and were interested in debut authors. I went onto each of their websites and I sent them a submission that followed their guidelines exactly and professionally. No funny coloured font, no gifts enclosed, no begging letters (and agents do receive all of these).
There is still some luck involved – will your submission hit the right desk at the right time? But get the basics right, and your novel, like mine, can be selected without knowing anyone in the industry or getting invited to any parties in London.
Claire Fuller, a member of the Hampshire Writers Society, is the author of Our Endless Numbered Days, published by Penguin. It won the 2015 Desmond Elliott Prize and is a Richard & Judy, and Waterstones Book Club book.