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.

Author: 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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