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…

Published by

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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