Securing A Literary Agent Is Bit Like To Trying To Catch The Wind.

A few years ago I made a radical decision; some would call it misguided while others were not so kind with their opinions. After a lifetime scribbling advertising copy for products I didn’t really believe in, coupled with ongoing love/ hate relationships with marketing managers, fresh from graduate schools armed with useless MBA’s, I jumped ship.

Having left the safety of the multi- national agency cocoons to start and run my own agency I endured a decade and a half of what can only be referred to as a period of intense stress. Sure, we produced some truly great work and, on the whole clients were happy (although praise was seldom forthcoming) something in my life was missing. I do believe that everyone at some period in their lives, reaches that so called ‘tipping point’ as I did when the industry was facing yet another downturn. And so I took, what many believed to be a cowardly route by selling out to one of the multi-nationals for whom I used to work.

A series of unlikely events followed and my partner and I found us living in the unlikely location of Bali in Indonesia. A short period of bliss transpired when I continually had to pinch myself to remind myself exactly where I was! It might sound trite but after a few months boredom set in and to save myself from drowning in the local brew I decided to write a novel.

Surprisingly this first book was not as difficult as I thought it would be as sometimes, when you have a good idea the hard bits fall nicely into place. Armed with a bulky manuscript I booked myself into the Ubud International Writers festival and had an extraordinary stroke of luck. I shared a table with a delightful Indian diplomat, Vikas Swarup author of the delightful Q&A, better known by its film adaptation, “Slumdog Millionaire’ who offered some extremely sound advice.

The upshot was that, within weeks I had secured an American publisher who has to date produced four of my follow up novels. All well and good you might say …well actually it’s not. I have fallen in love with the writing process and really, that’s all I want to do…write. (A little self indulgent perhaps) I would prefer to not have to try and market the books myself (even though my current publisher does a passably good job) as I live on a small island close to the equator, far from the madding crowd.

The solution of course was simple. Secure the services of a good literary agent and life would become a lot simpler. And so my quest began in earnest a few months ago when I began to write letters to literary agents around the world. I’m sure I am not alone when I say that even getting a reply from an agent would be easier than securing an audience with the Dalai lama.

I have consulted with the oracles that put out screeds of articles with titles such as, “How to write a killer letter to secure an agent” or “ Ten steps to follow when trying to snare and agent.”  To get this scintillating advice all one has to do is deposit funds into their accounts and they will then hand over the keys to the inner sanctums where agents apparently reside.

Sure, agents are ‘busy’ people and are probably inundated with manuscripts by the truckloads that sit unread in dusty cupboards in their basements but surely they could acknowledge receipt of a manuscript or a letter from time to time.

Technology today surely has the ability to fire back a response along the lines of, “ Thank you for your correspondence and your unsolicited manuscript, which has proved useful as a doorstop for the laundry door. Have you considered a career in plumbing?”

I have had some interest, given that I am published, and this has elicited some short – lived euphoria until my follow up emails go unanswered. I will however remain undaunted in my quest for I have never met a literary agent and I am now immensely curious as to this most elusive of species.

And so, to conclude, if a literary agent does happen to read this piece and it piques your interest (or your conscious) please do respond, if only to point me in the direction of the school of plumbing!

This post is Contributed as Guest post by Paul v Walters

Paul v Walters is a best selling author of five novels and writes for several publications around the globe. His latest novel ‘ Scimitar’ is due for release in August 2016 (www.paulvwalters.com)

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2 Responses

  1. Simone Z. Endrich says:

    My experience of literary agents is … the biggest killer of an author’s muse, dignity, self-respect, and, yes, self-confidence. They treat debut authors like second-class citizens. They make judgements mostly based on a query letter. God help you if you happen to say the wrong thing or make it too wordy. It has to be just so in order to catch their almighty attention. Most of them never even get to the sample chapters. I think, like you said, they have made gods of themselves and they perceive authors as small fry. Unless they happen to be J.K. Rowling, of course, off whom they can make a certain profit. It’s a pity, really. The great authors were debut authors once upon a time. I think it’s time they got off their high horse. The least they can do is READ the material and acknowledge that there is a person on the other side.

  2. I thought the internet killed the literary agent?
    Seriously, can you be a bestselling author without a literary agent?
    Literary agents think they are gods of the unpublished writers on earth. And self-published authors get snubbed by the almighty New York Times that looks down on them. But many self-published books have been edited by some of the best book editors who have edited many books on the New York Times’ Bestsellers List. Since my editors finished editing my “Barack Obama and the American Dream” and “Bye, Bye Zimbabwe”, I have not contacted any literary agent, because I have given up on finding a good one.

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