Friday, April 19, 2013


So where was I? Oh, yeah, I was still waiting for a response from the three agencies I'd approached.

To be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect. I'd heard all the horror stories by published authors who claimed to have been rejected twenty, thirty, forty times before getting their chance, and I was well aware I might fare no better. So I decided the best thing was to get back to my day job and try not to think about it too much. Easier said than done, of course, but the world keeps on turning, as they say.

But as it turned out I didn't have too long to wait. The first response came through the post about a fortnight later, and I pretty much knew what it contained before I even opened it. It was just your standard rejection letter. Nothing particularly noteworthy or personal about it. They just weren't interested in taking me on and wished me luck for the future. I think my initial response was 'Well, at least they responded.' But I also took major consolation from the fact that the rejection wasn't coming from my first choice agency. There was still a chance.

The next response came by email. And this time it was from my first choice: Camilla Wray at Darley Anderson. And guess what? Camilla really liked what she'd read so far and wanted me to send her the rest of the manuscript.

I can't honestly remember, but I think it's a safe bet I was walking on air for the rest of the day. Maybe the next, as well. Naturally, I sent the rest of the manuscript out to Camilla immediately in the hope that she'd like the rest of the book as much as she'd liked the samples.

I see no point in drawing out the suspense here, especially as I've named both the agency and the particular agent in question. Camilla did like THE WRONG MAN (although it had a different title then), but she also made it clear the manuscript needed a lot more work before she could make a decision about whether to represent me or not. Which, since a literary agent can only take on a couple of new clients a year at most, I felt was totally understandable.

Camilla then invited me up to the London offices where we had a coffee and got to know each other, while at the same time hashing out what needed to be done to the book. Plot holes needed to be filled and characters had to be strengthened. Pacing needed to adjusted, and exposition reduced. Basically, everything needed to be reworked. Fortunately, though, it was clear we thought along the same wavelengths, and almost every suggestion Camilla made I agreed with. The satisfactory meeting ended with me promising to come back with a third draft, after which Camilla would make a decision on whether to take things further.

Cut to three or four months later. I'd already made the required changes to the manuscript and had emailed the whole thing over to Camilla. A few weeks later, she contacted me again and said she LOVED the new draft and that she'd like to officially represent me!

Whoa. How much better can life get? That was a day I don't think I'll ever forget. In fact, I was on cloud nine for a whole week after hearing that. I actually had a literary agency representing my work! And not just any agency, but the one I'd earmarked from day one. Just goes to show - dreams can sometimes come true.

Now all we needed to do was find a publisher.

But that's for another time, I think. Next up, I'll talk about my trip to Arizona to research my latest novel, BACKTRACK...

Monday, April 1, 2013


There's a very famous quote of Hemingway's that goes: 'The first draft of anything is shit.' A sweeping generalisation, maybe, but it's essentially true. And it should be noted that Hemingway was a world famous author when he said that, so you can imagine what my first draft was like.

Although I was up against a self-imposed deadline, I knew I had to give myself enough time to produce a second draft before sending it out to prospective agents. The manuscript simply wasn't good enough as it was and needed a lot more work. And I mean a LOT. But I also knew I needed some time away from the story in order to be as objective as possible. So as much as I wanted to get straight onto the second draft, I forced myself to take a couple of weeks away from it so I could come back and look at things with a fresh perspective.

But they weren't wasted weeks, oh, no. When I wasn't at my day job, I was spending every spare moment thumbing through the Writers and Artists Yearbook, looking for literary agents that might be interested in representing another thriller writer. Although there was one agency I really liked (and who helpfully had a full-page ad on the inside front cover), I came up with about a dozen more possibles in case they weren't interested. I'm sure I could have found more, but I felt a baker's dozen was enough to be going on with. I also did a lot of research on how to submit to an agent. Fortunately the interweb was full of helpful sites that gave me the information and advice I needed. Such as: how to structure the query letter, making sure keep the thing as short as possible, don't submit blindly, name the agent correctly in your letter and on the envelope, etc. Most of it was common sense stuff I'd already worked out for myself, but it was good to have it confirmed.

Once that was done, I spent about ten days working on the two things every agent asks for: a query letter and a synopsis of the book in question. And I thought writing a novel was hard! But synopses. Man, don't get me started on synopses. All I'll say is that they're not one of my favourite things in life. But I did it. I sweated and I raged, but in the end I did it. Yet I knew the query letter itself was far more important, since this is what the prospective agent sees first. I probably spent a whole week on that letter, polishing it into something I felt no agent could ignore. By the end, I was left with just a couple of paragraphs, but what paragraphs they were! After working and working on them, I was finally satisfied that they contained everything that I wanted to get across.

So with those tasks done, I then came back, read through the manuscript again, hung my head in despair and really got down to it. Whole chapters of the book got moved around while others were erased completely. Numerous plot holes got filled. Dialogue got polished. Characters got fine-tuned. To be honest, I could have spent the rest of my life trying to make it better, but at some point you have to let go and just put it out there. So I made copies of the first three chapters, stuck them in three large manila envelopes along with a synopsis and a personally addressed query letter, and sent them off to my top three choices.

And I waited...