Sunday, September 13, 2015

Flogging the Novel - 2: A Revoltin’ Development

There’s a classic story and I think a whole ballet -- “Spartacus”-- about slaves rebelling. You suffer under someone else’s oppressive rules for a long time and one day, like Spartacus, you think, Dpz  SaFGv  WYbje -- “the hell with this” --  and you do it your way. It’s the most liberating feeling, figuratively and literally, there is.

You may know about my novel. I’ve written about it in a post or two and there’s a whole sub-page about it on the home page, and if that hasn’t brought it to your attention I’m not sure what more to do here. But I’ve figured out what to do with literary agents.

It’s galling, when you’ve written something and you’re trying to get it published, to have to approach someone on your knees. That’s the way the agent game is played, however, and how you’re expected to play it. That’s the way I’ve been doing it. 

You look up a likely prospect -- an agent who specializes in your type of writing, your “genre.” They all list the types of material they want and don’t want to see. They also tell you exactly how they do and don’t want it submitted, and that if you send something you’d better not expect to hear anything back from them any time soon. “Responds in four weeks.”  “Responds in six weeks.” Never responds at all. But you send your work anyway.

 As I said, that’s the way I’ve been doing it. Because novel-writing is an aberration rather than my career, I’ve been pretty lax about it. Send it out and wait. Maybe get a rejection, maybe get nothing. Send it out again.

Well, no more. This time I picked 20 fiction agents off a list, starting with the “A”s and pitched them all at the same time.         If  I’d stopped to think how easy it is now I’d have done it long ago. No more typing a letter, addressing an envelope, the stamp, adding the time-honored SASE, the package  mailed to arrive three or four days later.

Today’s listings give the agents’ email addresses; you type “Query” in the subject line, and that’s all the writing you have to do. You paste your pitch in, hit “Send,” and go on to the next one. And  like it or not, they’ve got it in their inboxes right now.

What’s more important about my new approach, however, is the pitch itself. For starters, I ignore their precise formulations of what they want you to send and the format they expect to see it in. I just pitch. But I don’t try to tell them how great the book is; in fact I don’t even mention the novel until the end of the pitch.     I tell them they can make money off of it.

It’s not hype, either. I honestly believe there’s a big market, and   I give them examples where the same subject matter has generated publicity and book sales  -- the mother’s milk of agenting.  And you know what? It’s working.  I’ve had two rejections in two days. Laugh if you like, but that prompt a response is unheard of in this game. The last rejection I got took six months. Six months!  What would you prefer: hang by your thumbs for six months, or get the word immediately? And there’s still 90 percent of the list that hasn’t rejected it. So I’m revolting.