There is always a time to discard hardened attitudes and recently, I have come to the conclusion that one of my overiding prejudices has to go. Ever since I started writing novels and that, dear reader is over thirty years ago, there is one thing I have believed with an unshakable faith. Indeed, when I was reading for my MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University some ten years ago, that this belief was reinforced almost weekly.
It was a fairly common occurance for we students to be called to attend talks and presentations from a rather superior breed of people known as Literary Agents. They would routinely patronise us, tell us what a privilege it was for us to receive the pearls of wisdom that dropped from their lips and how unlikely it would be that any of us would ever be published. If however, we were to be so fortunate we should never, ever forget what an honour it would be to have one of their number making it all posssible.
I had been sending off packages of my purple prose to these Gods for many years, only to have them returned, normally without comment. Quite often they just disappeared, never to be seen again. Obviously beneath contempt. So, when I completed my Dodger’s Lot and sent it off, three chapters, synopsis and CV in the manner prescribed by the Deities I was completely taken aback when an agent actually called me on the telephone and asked to see the whole book. A week later, another phone call: I’d like to sign you up. Wow! Could I have been wrong all these years?
Sadly, no I wasn’t. Eighteen months, the thick end of a thousand quid spent and the book went unsold and in my view, badly compromised. A row ensued and I was once again agent free. You see, I was right all along.
I gave up sending stuff out to agents and decided to enter competitions instead. One, to try to make a few quid in prize money and two, to see if people really liked reading my stories. Some success followed but no offers of publication.
Then I entered my book Boonie for a competition called Undiscovered Voices run by an indefatigable and unerringly enthusiastic bunch of volunteers called SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). Joy upon joy, Boonie was selected as one of the winners and the opening chapters were published in an anthology. Seven, yes Seven agents rushed to sign me up, three of whom had already rejected the book when it had been sent to them previously! But a lovely and dare I say perceptive publisher, none other than the famous Hot Key Books offered me a contract which I grabbed with both hands. So you see, you don’t need an agent do you?
Er, well, and this is where I take a large slice of humble pie, actually you do. While dealing with the various editors at Hot Key and knocking Boonie into shape I was often preoccupied with negotiating the points of the contract with my editor in chief, Sara O’Connor. Fortunately, she was very understanding but I wouldnt want to do it again. I don’t think friendship and contract negotiating mix very well and I’d rather be friends with Sara than constantly on the other side of the negotiating table.
And another thing. One book is not a career and if Hot Key don’t want my next book I’m back to square one.
So, as the founding member and Life President of the Triple A, B (All Agents Are B******s) Society I have taken the plunge. In the process of going through the Undiscovered Voices thing I met a lady who not only liked my writing but seemed very much to share my interests and ambitions. I’ve waited a long time, which says a lot for her calm demeanour and understanding but I have finally signed up to be represented by Anna Power of Johnson & Alcock. www.johnsonandalcock.co.uk I’m really flattreed that Anna has taken such an interest in my work and am really quite excited about the future. With Sara and now Anna helping me, how can I fail?
So, agents, who needs ’em? Er, I do actually.