Sunday, 6 March 2016

Out of the Slush Pile - How I Found My Agent


This is a follow up to my post 'The Day My Life Changed Direction'.

You know that feeling when you've just been told you've won the lottery? Well neither do I but I came pretty close to it recently.

Agent, Eve White, had just uttered these magic words, Congratulations! We only invite a few writers from our slush pile of 10,000 to meet us for a chat and you're one of them, and I was trying to think of some reply that didn't make me come across as either a) gushing b) desperate or c) unhinged.

In the end, I plumped for plain old thank you, which seemed to work.

Let me tell you how it all began. At the beginning of 2015, I wrote a novel and at the end of 2015, I finished a novel. In between, I received a favourable critique from my RNA New Writers' Scheme reader (for the partial I'd managed to complete by the deadline). I liked it, my best writing pal, Tracy, liked it, my husband liked it, the dog liked it - what more did I need to show the publishing world that I'd written something fabulous?

A lot more, as it happens. I needed someone who couldn't be bribed with teacakes, who didn't fear they'd end up in the spare bed or be denied a walk along the river.

I needed an agent.

So I made a start. I dusted off my Writers' and Artists' Year Book, I joined Agent Hunter, I read all the agent interviews on the Novelicious website and made a list of people who sounded like they a) might enjoy my genre of book b) were taking on new authors c) sounded like they'd be happy to work with said new author. Then I made a plan - I would send out my submission package a few at a time and then, after a month, send out a few more so that when the rejections came in I wouldn't be suicidal.

And that's what I did. I had a few standard rejections. You know - the ones that end with we don't feel passionately about your novel, I received a few more with short encouraging comments which made me kiss the screen. Then came the request all authors dream of - we'd like to see your full manuscript. Soon after that came another.

The first email came back. The agent had taken the time to give me feedback - great sense of place, compelling opening, strong writing, intrigue from first chapter but she wanted more drama. My heart sank. I'd come so close.


It was then it happened. I received an email from the Eve White Literary Agency. Eve represents Saskia Sarginson (The Twins) Jane Shemilt (Daughter) and Ruth Ware (In a Dark, Dark Wood) whose books are (or will soon be) Richard and Judy Book Club Reads. The email was from Kitty, Eve's assistant. She'd read the full manuscript and liked what she'd read. Eve had too. Could they arrange a phone call? The following day, they'd changed their minds - could I come up to London for a chat the following week?

So that's what I did. To say I was nervous was an understatement but as soon as I arrived at Eve's office in Pimlico (which is also where she lives) she and Kitty did everything to put me at ease. We discussed my novel, we discussed how it could be improved. It would mean a lot of work but they would help me with this. They believed in me. They believed in my work. They'd like to offer me representation.

If you read the advice given to writers in this position, you will know that what I did next is not what is recommended. What I should have done is let the other agents who had my initial three  chapters know that I'd had an offer of representation and given them the opportunity to read the full manuscript if they wanted to. But, do you know, it didn't take me long to realise that this wasn't what I wanted to do. Okay, I might get more offers but what was it I wanted in an agent?

Here is the list I'd previously made. They had to be:

a) someone who I liked
b) someone who liked my work as much as Tracy, my husband and my dog did
c) someone who represented successful authors
d) someone who represented authors whose books I enjoyed
c) someone who I felt I could work well with
d) someone prepared to invest the time to work with me as a new author

I'd already found that someone - why look further?

That's why, last week, I signed the contract to be represented by the Eve White Agency.

And I couldn't be happier.

71 comments:

  1. Brilliant, Congratulations Wendy! Good luck with the next step :) x

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    1. Thank you, Sam. That's the hardest part.

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  2. Brilliant Wendy! You've worked hard and you're truly an inspiration. Well done. Great blog as usual x

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  3. Congratulations - love your slush to agent post x

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    1. Thanks, Pat, though I know Eve prefers it to be known as a 'submissions inbox' :-)

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  4. Well done, Wendy. Look forward to the next piece of good news.

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  5. I know I've said it before - but... Congratulations!

    If you've found an agent you're happy with then I don't think it would be a good use of your time (or theirs) to meet others.

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  6. Congratulations, Wendy! all your hard work's paid off. All the best with the rest of the work you have to do now. I can understand you must be on cloud nine!

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    1. I am, Helen. My husband took my out to my favourite Thai restaurant to celebrate.

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  7. Well done, Wendy. Much deserved success.

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  8. I loved reading this, Wendy. Many huge congratulations! Wishing you all the best with the next stages and looking forward to seeing your novel in the flesh. xxx

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  9. Well done Wendy. Looking forward to hearing all about it.

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    1. At our next RNA get together, Margaret - ooh, that's tomorrow!

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  10. Many congratulations, Wendy. Xx

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  11. It's wonderful, Wendy! Congratulations!

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  12. Many congratulations, Wemdy. Enjoy the moment, and celebrate!

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  13. Congratulations. It sounds like the start of a good working relationship.

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  14. It's brilliant that you've found an agent you like and know you could work with and they feel the same about you and your writing. So happy for you and looking forward to the next stage of finding a publisher for your book.

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    1. Yes. Of course as you know only too well, Rosie, the next stage is just as hard!

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  15. I'm so very thrilled for you, Wendy. Your dedication to your craft is second to none - and it shows. Congratulations.
    I'm curious to know how your dog showed approval. Tail-wagging when being given treats doesn't count

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    1. Ha ha - she's a clever dog is Bonnie.

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  16. That's brilliant news, Wendy.
    Congratulations.

    Sometimes you just know that the first choice is the right one.

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    1. I think sometimes you have to go with your instincts, Carol.

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  17. Woohoo, Wendy, I've got tears in my eyes �� so excited �� for you. I've got someone reading my hats novel who I'd like to work with so waiting for a response before submitting elsewhere.

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    1. Oh that's exciting for you, Susan. The very best of luck with it.

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  18. Fabulous news and well deserved.

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  19. Congratulations—and this is such an inspiring post!

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  20. I think it might be Eve and Kitty who have won the lottery, Wendy. They are so lucky to have signed you. Really enjoyed this post - inspiring and full of very sound advice.

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    1. Thanks Tracy - I'll pay you back in teacakes later :-)

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  21. A great post, Wendy! Delighted for you.

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  22. Well done you, you really deserve your success.

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  23. Fabulous news, Wendy!! Many congratulations. I hope you enjoy the rewrites and look forward to hearing all about your progress and future publication. So chuffed for you!!

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    1. I'm enjoying them so far, Nicola. Eve tried juggling plates?

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  24. I really enjoyed reading this and I am thrilled that Eve White saw the potential in your book. I love it when writers have success - very life affirming. When it happens to a friend/RNA NWS member, its even better.

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, Lizzie - though I'm aware it's only the first rung on a very long ladder.

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  25. Many, many congratulations Wendy. Delighted for you. Reading was post was like reading a story, exciting, funny, uplifting and such a happy ending.
    May you continue to go from strength to strength :-) xx

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  26. Gah - that should be reading your post - duh!

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  27. Wendy, I'm so pleased for you. Many Congratulations. What a lovely inspiring post! :) Xx

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    1. Thank you, Jan. I'm hoping other writers will take heart from it.

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  28. Congratulations Wendy - so pleased for you, and thanks for sharing a positive story that'll hopefully encourage aspiring authors to take a chance and submit :)

    Nikki x

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    1. I hope it will, Nikki - after all there's nothing to lose.

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  29. Sounds as if you did everything exactly right, Wendy, and it's paid off. Look forward to hearing what happens next – the editing process is my favourite bit.

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    1. I'll keep you posted, Kate but the edits will take a while.

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  30. Many congratulations, Wendy. I like your strategy for sending out your submissions - much better than sending out a batch and waiting for all the rejections to come rolling in. Wishing you a long and successful partnership with Eve White.

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    1. I read that that was the best way to do it, Susanna but it did mean I had to email the others to withdraw.

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  31. Great post, Wendy - huge congratulations again! Look forward to hearing about the next step of the journey.

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    1. Thank you, Risemary. Your support is always appreciated.

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  32. Congratulations, Wendy! Wonderful news! And I look forward to reading your novel when it's published. :-)

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  33. well done for achieving what you wanted. You know my views on agents...so I'm going to stop there!I hope she lives up to your expectations and finds you great publishing deals. If not....move on!!

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  34. How fantastic! It is so difficult to get an agent and Eve White is a wonderful one!

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  35. How fantastic! It is so difficult to get an agent and Eve White is a wonderful one!

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  36. Just read this now Wendy, and I know exactly the feeling. There's something pretty special about the Eve White team :) Can't wait to read your book when it hits the shelves one day!

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