Agents In The Mist

Literary agents are furtive creatures. In my years of sending stories and novels to them, I never got one to show any interest. This used to concern me. Perhaps they were just stupid, and didn’t see my obvious talents. Or perhaps I was just a talentless hack who’d serve society better if turned into glue. But finally, after another round of head-shakes, I decided to bite the bullet (ow) and go meet them. In London, that is, where all the agents live in a sparkly cave lined with the skulls of failed supernatural romance authors.


I booked passage on White Thrash Airways and bought a ticket for the Getting Published Event. Click the link, and you’ll get the idea — talks, lectures, tips and a chance to meet actual people working in publishing. Now I won’t tell you too much, as you should bloody well go there and find out for yourself, but I did learn many valuable things. Here’s a few of them, minus the best ones which I plan to hold tight and safe in my sweaty grasp.

1. To get an agent just write a good book and don’t be an idiot.

2. If you sent your book to ten agents, and they all say no, it just isn’t good enough. Rewrite, or do another one.

3. You need to know what your book is about, and what sets it apart from others.

4. Stop using bloody adverbs all over the bloody place. Just use a stronger verb instead.

I also met a great group of people who were immediately easygoing and friendly. And I realised how much I miss being always surrounded by my own language. Being an alien does suck.

So what next? Well, I realised the book I brought with me wasn’t good enough, so instead of trying to massage it into shape I’m just going to focus on my new book, which is 60% done, and a whole lot better. Plus it has a central idea that I can explain in a few seconds and make an agent’s eyes glaze over with glee.

There’s nothing more to say, really. I think I’ve finally understood how I am supposed to write, and have a plan for how I will continue. And that information is worth any number of hours in cattle-class on Ryanair, surrounded by ignorant, drunk, farting Swedes from the country, all of them called Lasse.

/ paddy

12 thoughts on “Agents In The Mist

  1. Poor Paddy. The things you have to do to get back to civilization… :-)

    But Paddy, was your book really bad? Remember, England is the civilization that rejected the Beatles. Perhaps your book was good, but not of the agent’s pet literary style. Perhaps you chose the wrong agents. Perhaps your application form was of the wrong colour. (Yes, it happens. It’s a european thing.)

    I’ll believe you the day I’ve read the book and decided that *I* say it’s a bad book. I’ve read one of your books, and that one was *good*.


    • No it wasn’t at all bad. It was very good, just not good enough to grab an agent’s attention when I am an unknown. I need a more attention-grabbing book to get a career started, and then it will be easier to sell the previous ones. Patience, my pretties. Patience.

      • Hmph. You need an agent specialized on finding the right agents… :-)


  2. I think you should look at it like this; it is not that your book wasn’t good but that the people who are paid to sell it don’t know how. There is a market for your type of book, you just need to find the agent that knows how to sell to that market.

    • They’re not “paid to sell it”, though. They only get paid if they DO sell it. So market conditions dictate what they take on. A first novel has to be better than most other novels to get a chance.

  3. I don’t know if you follow John Scalzi’s Whatever blog, but he has a fair amount of (hard earned) info for aspiring authors scattered here and there among his posts. See, for example, this one on advances,, or this one on a con man’s scheme for novice writers. Searching John’s site using [writing business] will turn up more, some less relevant but some worth reading.

    • Cheers. It’s amazing how many writers think it’s okay for agents to ask for money. Several people asked about that at the writing workshop. The actual agents said – “No. If they ask for money, they’re charlatans. It’s just that simple.” Lot’s of desperate people out there. Although, that’s almost always because they can’t write but think they can.

  4. Yes. :)

    Actually, it was stimulated by my previous comment staying in moderation, and it was a modest attempt to get your attention.

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