It’s now two weeks since I sent the submission of ‘The Al-Muzafara Affair’ (aka Flight Into Darkness) to agents selected on the basis outlined in my last entry. I would add the list here but the cut and paste function of this blogsite is not that user friendly for Excel spreadsheets so have a look at the original on Harry Bingham’s Writer’s Workshop website.
So, after two weeks, what has happened? Well, surprisingly, things have moved on. Within a day I had a ‘thanks, but no thanks’ email from one, followed a few days later by one asking for the full manuscript. This is A Very Good Sign. It vindicated my confidence in the book and offset the second rejection that followed a few days later. Just being asked for the full MS by an agent is a major step forward. Often the submission will not have been read by the agent whose name is over the door, but by an intern or secretary who does the coarse filtering. Of course, being asked for the full MS doesn’t mean that the agent will take me on, but it is encouraging.
A word about what agents do with submissions. When we writers have carefully crafted our novels, we are slightly miffed that agents only ask for the first three chapters and a synopsis. ‘But, surely,’ we say to ourselves, ‘they can’t possibly assess my fabulous work on that basis…what about the wonderful extraterrestrial sex scene in Chaper 45?’ OK, this is true but it’s not what the agents are trying to do. Their initial question is: Can this person write? Second: Has he/she got a good idea? Third: Is it a gene that they are interested in? Fourth: Is it something they could push with confidence in a difficult market? Agents are inundated with submissions, so these coarse filters are a survival strategy. They want to spot winners…they need to spot winners because they make their money that way. I understand that a good agent can tell whether we can actually write by the first paragraph and quite often they need go no further than that. I guess that’s what we’d call professionalism.
So, there you have it. So far, encouraging. I’m interested in the response times as agents seem to operate entirely differently. Some are really on the ball, others seem to follow geological timelines. I will report on how long it takes for them to come back to me but, to some extent, I like to believe that: time = they’re thinking about it rather than: time = it’s in the middle of the slushpile. I’ll let you know.
In the meantime, I have a house to build. What? I didn’t mention it before? I’ll tell you later…..