‘Our Writers Mean Business’

It’s that happy time again: rejection. This morning I received a bulky package from the Darley Anderson Literary, TV and Film Agency. Bulkiness is never a good sign because it can only mean that the first three chapters of my book are inside, along with a rejection slip.

Darley Anderson scores Brownie points over Curtis Brown, who rejected the book last month, because DA’s letter has been touched by a human hand: someone wrote ‘Ian Hocking’ in the space after ‘dear’, and the same person signed it. Don’t ask me who; the signature is unreadable.

It’s worth being jaundiced about this kind of thing. Basically, expect it. Have excuses ready: “Ah, well, they’re one of those commercial agencies, anyway.” (Like there’s any other type.) Or, “The buggers haven’t even read the manuscript – I’ve dusted it for prints and there aren’t any!” The reality is that the odds of being accepted are vanishingly small. If the DA letter is correct, this agency receives 300 submissions per week, and they only take on two or three writers each year. That means the probability of being accepted is 3 in 15,000 or 1 in 5000. Critical acclaim – which, to be nakedly honest for a moment, I have as much as I could hope for – doesn’t cut it. Maybe that meant the submission was read (yes, there are thumb prints!). I doubt that all 15,000 are read.

One small gripe: Both Curtis Brown and Darley Anderson stipulate that they want exclusive consideration of the material, and their consideration time runs to six weeks. In the event, I’ve got through them in two months, which is lightning fast in publishing industry terms. (Don’t tell me to send multiple submissions regardless. Agency readers are busting for a reason to ignore a submission in favour of the next, and any whiff of guideline contravention will probably do it. “‘Ere, Cheryl, this one’s stapled her manuscript! In the bin it goes.” *cackle*) But now we’ve reached Christmas, and I don’t think it will be a good idea to resubmit until January. One good thing: I’ll then be onto smaller agencies who don’t require exclusive reads.

And people look surprised when I tell them it took me five years to publish Déjà Vu. In the meantime, I’ve fought back by writing my daily 1000 words of my next novel.

In the spirit of balance, it’s worth remembering that agents aren’t ogres. They’re just swamped and testy and ‘have to be confident of substantial sales quantities before taking on a project’ (from the DA rejection letter). Here are a couple of blogs that illustrate their warm, bluffy side: Agents 007, Zack and Kate.

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Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

2 thoughts on “‘Our Writers Mean Business’”

  1. i like your site – and your insights! i got five rejections this week alone. that’s a record for me. but try and try again (i’m anon-fiction freelancer). i found your site because our blogs have similar titles…mine’s THE writing life.
    i’ll be sure to check back on your page.
    ~ks
    http://www.livejournal.com/users/kateyschultz

  2. Hi, Ian. Don’t let the buggers… you know the rest. Anyhow, I’m really impressed with the reviews you’ve managed to get for your previous novel. The Guardian, no less! Surely that cuts some ice with these agent types?

    By a strange coincidence, I know someone who has been published by UKA – Tom Saunders, whose short story collection Brother, What Strange Place is This? is well worth reading.

    Small world, eh?

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