9.Looking for a Literary Agent? My 3 R’s!

About the blog.

the 3 Rs copy
R #1 – Rejections.

R #2(s) – Repeat. Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, (like forever)………..you get the drift.

R #3 – Representation.
Have you written a book? Are you seeking representation from a Literary Agent? Do you want to be the next big thing on their list?
Well looking for a Literary Agent costs, and here’s where you start paying in rejections…cue the Fame theme tune “I’m gonna live forever if trying to get a Literary Agent doens’t kill me first la di la di lah ”……doesn’t fit the tune too well does it?
I want to share with you my story of gaining representation from a Literary Agent, the lows and, ahem, the lows along the way!
So! About twelve years ago I wrote my first book – Miss Nadderbanks Investigates: The Scandal at Torbury Hall. As I said in my first blog post this was in the halcyon days of freedom before the kids came along. Ted (my new husband back then) and I were living in Wimbledon (no not the village bit, the other end) and no I never did see a Womble, I’m sure they were made up! I was a freelance journalist and found the time, inclination and drive to write a whole book mostly during the evenings and weekends. It’s called having no children, adequate sleep and some youthful determination or some such yadayadas. Anyway, it happened, the words (about 100k) got written. Selected family members were made privvy to my tome and were much enthused (however this is no bonafidy litmus test because they have to like it – or they’re sucky relations!) Now all I had to do was find a Literary Agent and a Publisher who loved and adored my darling book as much as me. No probs!
Back in those days it was far less emaily and more papery so I compiled a list of agents to send my query letter, synopsis and first three chapters to (with an envelope, stamp, SAE and everything). I trotted down to the Library and photocopied some of the pages listing Literary Agents from The Writer’s and Artists Yearbook. These days lots of agents now encourage you to email or upload via a portal blah blah as you will know if you are out there looking to get represented. The Writers and Artists Yearbook is the most usefullest book ever written for new and would be authors and illustrators etc. Mind you – if you’re reading this post you’ve probably read the latest edition cover to cover and could recite it back to me.
I decided to send my submission package out in waves of five but when I say waves of five I mean wave of 5 because I thought one of the first wave of 5 agents would snap my arm off to read more, beg me to become a client and sell my book in a frantic bidding war for a 6 figure sum. Hmmm, managing expectations …..yeah……..I didn’t really do that.
Rejection no 1 arrived a month later: I received my manuscript back with a standard letter of ‘not what we’re looking for.’ Seriously, did they even read it? My book is bloody fantastic!
Rejection no 2. Three weeks later, much the same as no 1. Seriously, did they even read it? My book is bloody fantastic!
Rejection 3 & 4. As above. Sod this I’m sending it to the next 5 agents already. Pan in on a montage of me (peeved face) and my printer chugging away and cut to me buying out Staples of envelopes and slightly posher paper than before (even peevier face).
Rejection 5,6,7&8 with standardised ‘not interested ‘ letters. Right then at this point it was fair to say that I stopped being peeved and started crying a bit when each manuscript flopped impotently onto my welcome door mat (it wasn’t bloody welcome) I started to make sure I always had plenty of cake in for emotional eating purposes. I also began to recycle (where possible) what they sent back to me if the corners weren’t dog earred, making sure to not leave in the rejection letter from the last agents I’d sent it to…..rookie mistake that!
I still thought my book was pretty damn good, but enter stage left the nagging insecurities and the reassuring husband/family who tried to gee me up whilst regaling me with stories of very famous authors who have been rejected over and over again. #wasn’t consoled.
Rejection no 9, Hang on just a sec it wasn’t! It was an email registering interest and a request to see the rest of my manuscript (well I couldn’t hotfoot it down the Post Office quick enough in my espidrilles.) BTW, we are now 8 months down the line because it takes ages (and longer) for the manuscripts to get read. When I was actively seeking an agent I conveniently forgot (or chose to ignore) that these Ladies and Gents had numerous other things to do (such as represent their client list, submit manuscripts to publishers, read contracts, sort finances etc etc) all before plucking my manuscript triumphantly from the slushpile and shrieking wildly – “I’ve found the next Agatha Christie!!!”
Meanwhile I got rejections from 10 and 11, well feck that because someone else was interested (possibly vaguely) and then NO, they weren’t! The agent replied by sending back my manuscript with a few cursory lines about how it wan’t quite right and they didn’t suggest any revisions. IT WAS A NO. IT WAS A LOW. The joy of a tidbit of interest turned to utter bloodiness when I got rejected on the full manuscript. The sickly fear of complete and utter failure seemed to come creeping up my neck and I wished (oh how I wished) I hadn’t told anyone that I was embarking on this seemingly insurmountable conquest. Crying ensued! I’m crap at writing. Crying again. Day off work to mope about in crusty dressing gown. More crying. I’m crap at writing. REPEAT!
The next 5 rejections with standard letters came slowly and painfully and I remember quite clearly one Sunday morning, thinking to myself, hey big phew, no post on a Sunday! I can’t possibly be rejected today and so help me god if I received an automated email from a large Literary Agents telling me to go do one! Yes – on a Sunday unbe-bloody-lievable I definitely howled my way through Antiques Road Show that day!
Rejections 17, 18, 19 and 20. What a waste of paper, postage and my life! What a bloody idiot I am to think I can actually get a book published. My self esteem was gasping and flapping about on the ground like a landed Plaice. Next – crying. Eating too much cake. Crying. More crying and eating too much cake, #letting it ruin my life, #husband quite worried for my sanity by now.
Rejection 21. Standard ‘no thanks’ and manuscript returned. I actually couldn’t bear it anymore. Now I had to admit to everyone I couldn’t get an agent let alone a publisher. I was tempted to give up writing and take up cross stitch, pot holing and underwater basket weaving instead. Although I did remind myself that writing is a compulsion and I had to keep keeping on…I don’t think I really had control and that wasn’t my fault.
Rejection no 22-IT WASN’T it was a request to see my full manuscript! I sent if off feeling far less excited than the time before but nevertheless I allowed myself to be a little hopeful. I didn’t hear back within a month and so at this point Ted and I went on holiday to Greece, which was a distraction Kos I could’t do much from Kos! Returned to find no email (didn’t have email on my phone in the olden days.) Managed not to contact them or chase them up by cutting my fingers off!!!

Five days letter I got the call, yes the call you’d happily kill your best friend’s most beloved pet for! It was Rebecca Langbourn of Langbourn and Strutter Literary Agents! I tried not to wee myself with excitement, this was actually possible because my pelvic floor wasn’t totally trashed back then! (babies and kids trampolines have played havoc since). Basically she liked my book and wanted to have lunch to chat about representation!!! Crying (happy tears). Cake (happy eating in celebratory way!) We met near her office in North London and we went to a Sandwich Bar, ok it was pretty swanky but not what I would have liked (I would have preferred cutlery). Have you ever eaten a sandwich and tried to look sophisticated/cool/and like a proper writer – not easy. Anyway Rebecca was very enthusiastic about my book and I tried to be the same without showing I was slightly overawed by her literary, bookly presence. It did feel a bit like speed dating, was their any mutual professional attraction?  Would the relationship work longterm and could we raise a baby (my book) together? The upshot was yes, we could and as we chatted away I just hoped I didn’t have lettuce wrapped around my left incisor or a mayonnaise mouth. I had never wanted to not eat a sandwich so much in my whole life!
Rejection no 23, 24 and 25. Oh what evs!!!!!!

book copy
So anyway Rebecca sent me a contract. I signed and she went on to sell Miss Nadderbanks: The Scandal at Torbury Hall in a two book deal and later the other 4 in the series, explained in 1.Village Survival, starting from now! I was a writer, an author, my self esteem (the Plaice analogy) was doing backflips NOW. Yeeeeeehaaaaaarrrrrrr.

Then when the children came along I went a bit off piste and started writing and illustrating picturebooks which Rebecca was able to sell – (there were two) but hey they kinda flopped. Ouch. And now, her patience at my lack of writing genius is wearing thin. So I’m not far off giving her the first 4 chapters of my new novel Twelve Days and the Thatcher which is a gritty love story effort and quite different to Miss Nadderbanks Investigates but I’m really hopeful about it……
Have you had a ‘mare’ getting a Literary Agent, or was it easy for you? Do you think Literary Agents are essential or living on borrowed time in this ever changing digital age and online publishing? Would love to read your comments.
I don’t know if rejections make you stronger or if they just add another layer of Teflon?
Inspirational words of the day : Keep submitting your writing/book/illustrations and that is all.X
More next week.
As you were.

If you’d like to know more about my blog :- about.

Linking up with www.writingbubble.co.uk this week 🙂

Writing Bubble

Note to myself: The one about seeking representation by a Literary Agent.

17 thoughts on “9.Looking for a Literary Agent? My 3 R’s!

  1. I love this. Thanks for sharing your experience. It means a great deal to people like me who are at the beginning of this journey. I’m laughing but I can feel your pain. Well done for persevering though.


  2. Fact or fiction this sounds pretty damned accurate to me. I have the joys of finding myself a (new) agent to look forward to after I’ve finished the first draft of my latest project. I do have one, but I’m not convinced they’re actually doing very much… I am still convinced I need one though. Even after lots of people have said maybe I don’t. I think it is mainly my ego’s fault – she has a lot to answer for… 😉


    1. Love your reply and yes this was a post I wanted to write for so many reasons. All the very best with finding a new agent, you can only go on gut instinct-like any business relationship. Good Luck – you’ll be ninja xx


  3. I love this! It’s so good (sorry) to hear about all the rejections you got before an acceptance as it really underlines the need for perseverance and the fact that a rejection is just one person’s opinion etc. I recently submitted by picture book manuscripts to agents. I say recently, it was last October and I really need to send out the next batch. Well done for keeping going and finding an agent and becoming a proper author! Thanks for linking to #WhatImwriting


    1. They do say don’t they that writing is about 20% talent and the rest is damn hard work. This post was pretty cathartic for me in a fiction lead way!! Good luck with your next round of submissions xx


  4. Fabulously useful, as I’m just setting out on this quest. I’ve heard of successful authors who’ve papered their smallest rooms with rejection letters, and who kept them all on a spike on the wall (that must have been Steven King – you could kill someone on that!), so I’m determined to view the rejections as proof that I’m a proper writer, and hopefully not a rubbish one!


  5. Glad to hear you got the agent in the end 🙂
    I had a similar amount of rejections (didn’t count them) and had a close call with a ‘nearly agent’ who I worked with for over a year on rewrites before she decided not to take a chance on my book.
    After that I rewrote the book again and self-pubbed.
    I do think agents are on tricky ground. They are the middle men that are becoming redundant. Publishers looking for books can now use Amazon to sort out the slush pile and the rise of agents becoming ‘publishers’ shows how worried they are about their changing role.


  6. Yes, the publishing world is evolving and changing at quite a rapid pace at the moment. Amazon etc has definitely changed the boundaries. As you say, finding an Agent isn’t necessarily the happy ending but you went on to self publish – all power to you. Great to read your comment.

    Liked by 1 person

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