Never tell me the odds

The writers among us know that ter­rible, itchy-palm feel­ing when an envel­ope arrives with the address writ­ten in your own scrawl. Can it be? Indeed: It is the SAE you bundled with a manu­script you sent to an agent or pub­lish­er.

Well, today I received such an envel­ope, and my heart sank. “Crumbs,” I thought, “It’s the chapters of Proper Job I sent off to the Annette Green Agency not three days ago.” Such a rap­id turn­around, you see, can­not be good news.

I apo­lo­gise if I’ve set this up to sound as though the manu­script was accep­ted by the agency — it wasn’t — but I’m still feel­ing very pleased because, for the first time in long years, the let­ter was per­son­al­ised. Whereas Curtis Brown and Darley Anderson sent stand­ard let­ters (in the case of Curtis Brown, it was a post­card), David Smith over at the Annette Green Authors’ Agency, actu­ally took the time to write me a let­ter.

This makes me dewey-eyed for a time when I was sev­en­teen and sent off all sorts of things to agen­cies. Most of the them replied with encour­aging remarks like “We would be delighted to see your next nov­el” or “I par­tic­u­larly liked the bit when…” Those days are long gone, my friend. And, of course, there are good eco­nom­ic reas­ons why mod­ern agen­cies — only twelve years later — will tend not to reply per­son­ally.

Anyway, on the basis of the first three chapters of Proper Job, Mr Smith, thought that my authori­al voice was ‘fresh, lean, ori­gin­al and invent­ive’. So why didn’t he want to rep­res­ent it? Because he doesn’t think humour is a genre that can cross over to a large mass mar­ket audi­ence. He sug­gests I con­cen­trate on thrill­er writ­ing, which I am indeed doing, hav­ing jot­ted down about one half of the sequel to Déjà Vu.

For the most part, I think his advice is sound. But I don’t want to use this blog entry to air the oppos­ing case, just illus­trate that Mr Smith sug­gests the impres­sion of someone a bit old school, someone who will take the time to give feed­back. This is excep­tion­al in my deal­ings with agents and pub­lish­ers, so if you’re a writer with good stuff you’ll find him here (this might be con­strued as pun­ish­ment, but I don’t think the cir­cu­la­tion of my blog is that vast). If you’re a read­er, you can show your sup­port the old-fash­ioned way by pur­chas­ing books from authors he rep­res­ents.

Meanwhile, on to the next agency…

Author: Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

8 thoughts on “Never tell me the odds”

  1. ecel­lent entry and pur­pose­ful, too. glad to know that the tip for call­ing loc­al pub­lic lib­rar­ies helped some. keep up the good work — and i’m glad you’re blog­ging. i received two of those SASE’s in my own hand­writ­ing just today — so it’s nice to get online and be reminded that oth­ers out there are exper­i­en­cing it too…where there will be rejec­tions though, even­tu­ally, there will be some accept­ances. 🙂

  2. There’s cer­tainly noth­ing more depress­ing for a writer than the sight of our own hand­writ­ing on a brown, well-filled envel­ope. Sorry it didn’t work out with the Annette Green agency. By the way, thanks for men­tion­ing RANAM up above. Can we include Deja Vu?

    All the best — Roger.

  3. Sadly, this may be my fault, at least in part … David is my agent and has spent the last few months tire­lessly push­ing my first nov­el, a com­edy thrill­er, to pub­lish­ers only to get the uni­ver­sal and deeply frus­trat­ing response that humour isn’t “mar­ket­able”. But I can con­firm that he’s a lovely guy, and a true gent. Best of luck with the book!


  4. I am cur­rently hawk­ing my second book around, fol­low­ing a hiatus of ten years since my first nov­el was rejec­ted by every agent I sent it to…it’s good to read some shared exper­i­ences of authori­al agony.

  5. David is my agent and as Adam said, he’s great: polite, sin­cere and he cares about the work, about the blood, sweat and tears. He also does not mis­lead and he can be very tough when neces­sary. If only there were more agents like this (some of the agen­cies I sent work to replied with rejec­tion let­ters headed ‘Dear Author.’)

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