My Uncle Bob said

Ah, advice. We all need it. The naive writer, in particular, needs it, and we suffer an embarrassment of riches when it comes to finding out what the writing experts of the world think: Do I get an agent first or a publisher? What do you put in a query letter? Should you try to sell yourself, or should you act cool and professional? How many letters should you send out in one go?

In the next few days, I’ll be finalising my novel ‘Proper Job’, and these questions will be foremost in my mind. Even when I try to convince myself that, in the long run, the quality of my writing should be the primary determinent of any success I have in selling stuff, it’s difficult not to focus on the possibility of a typographical error or (as I discovered yesterday) a mix-up between ‘to pedal’ and ‘to peddle’. Might these blemishes cause an agent to through (sic) my letter/manuscript on his bonfire? Some agents might do that. But – I try to reassure myself – not the good ones.

I’m also aware that I was not able to interest a large publisher in the manuscript of my first novel, Deja Vu (in the end it came out under the smaller UKA Press imprint), and in case this reluctance on the part of publishers was due to sloppy presentation (wrong stuff in the query letter, synopsis too long, whatever), I’d like to make sure I know what publishers and agents actually want.

Things to do, then, before next Saturday:
(1) Write a synopsis of Proper Job
(2) Write a decent enquiry letter, including review snippets for Deja Vu
(3) Send letter to agents who specialise in comedic fiction or who have represented a humorous writer
(4) Maybe even send off a letter or two

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Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

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