Trying to secure an agent feels like a fairground tombola. You win the big prize if you pick an odd-numbered raffle ticket – not realising that out of 2000 tickets, 1999 are even.
Almost a year ago I started searching – following guidelines, submitting in batches, issuing new submissions after each rejection.
I got a lot of rejection.
Some never responded, or just said “not for us”. Those sending personal messages all said the same – liked the writing, but didn’t feel passionate enough. A couple said they really liked it but had no idea where/how to sell it. The first rejection hurts. You cry after the sixth. Then immunity kicks in (“another one? – whatever!”).
Up to that point I’d picked agencies using my head, researching agents who broadly fitted the genre or represented writers I knew.
Time to use my heart – it’s romance, after all. I love most of the genre but there are few authors whose writing really fires my synapses. Most of them are dead. One isn’t. Luckily she has an agent.
They’re US based but the heart goes where it must. Where UK agents want a query letter and sample chapters, this agent just wanted a letter. Query letters must be taken seriously – but when it’s all they ask for, that really sharpens the mind. So I drafted, re-drafted, printed, checked, spell-checked, left to stew, reviewed then sent the most important consecutive string of 400 words I’ve written. What did it contain? – a 1-line twitter-style “hook”, a 2-line summary plus a longer blurb (not revealing the end!), finishing with an explanation of why I was passionate about my favourite author, comparing my novel to hers but also explaining how it differed.
I almost missed their response. It arrived two days later, 20 minutes after another rejection when I’d just poured a consolatory gin. I had to re-read before realising it wasn’t another “no” – they wanted to see the first five chapters. The lovely lady sounded enthusiastic but my rejection immunity curbed my excitement. A week later they requested the full manuscript; two days after that the agent e:mailed saying she wanted to pursue it. Coincidentally, each time they contacted me I was in an airport departure lounge – I now have a “lucky seat” at Heathrow.
We struck up a dialogue to see if we got on, working on a few edits before arranging a videoconference. They got right down to business – no fanfare – discussing further edits, and I almost missed the words “we’d like to represent this.” Even then, it didn’t sink in until the signed agreement came through. One of the best days of my life and I’m looking forward to a long and productive relationship!
I still cannot say “my agent” aloud for fear I’ll wake up to find it’s not real. But the advice I’d give anyone wanting an agent is:
· Join an organisation like the RNA – the support is invaluable
· Join a critique group; share your work
· Follow your heart when querying agents
· Perfect your query letter…
· …review it at least 10 times before sending. It’s the first thing they’ll read
· Find a lucky seat. Sit on it.
Emily Royal has always loved gritty, emotional stories with dark sexy heroes. She joined the New Writer’s Scheme of the Romantic Novelists Association in 2015 to pursue her passion for writing. She lives in rural Scotland with her family and menagerie of pets.
Emily writes on any surface she can lay her hands on, even aeroplane tray tables or at home on her kitchen table or lap, often with one of her pet snakes round her neck. She can be found on twitter at @eroyalauthor and Facebook at www.facebook.com/eroyalauthor.
[Emily Royal is the pen name of Sally Calder]