Four words I have long wanted to say: I have an agent. And now I do. Not just any agent. But the same agent who represents Tim Winton. If only having the same agent meant I would sell as many books as he does I’d be a very happy woman.
I didn’t have an agent for What is Left Over, After. I wanted one. And I was very lucky to be published without one. Before I won the TAG Hungerford Award and secured a publishing contract, I sent an early draft (probably too early) out to 3 agents about three and a half years ago. One sent me a standard rejection letter. One asked, based on the sample chapters, to see the whole manuscript before ultimately rejecting it. The last one sent me back a wonderful, personalised response which gave me encouraging feedback as well as a reason why she too was rejecting my manuscript. I remembered her name and told myself that, once I’d finished my second book, she was the agent I wanted to have.
And so, a few weeks ago, I sent the sample chapters of Bodies, my second book, off to Jenny Darling. The same day she emailed me back and asked to see the whole manuscript. At this point I was very hopeful but also aware that she could easily say no upon reading the whole thing. She rang me a couple of weeks later and gave me some very blunt and honest feedback about the publishing industry and where she sees my work fitting in to that. At first I thought she was rejecting me and my book. It was only after about 10 minutes of conversation that I realised she was going to take me on. It was a very exciting day and a real breakthrough for me as a writer.
It meant even more to me having gone through the process of publishing one book without an agent. I can now see very clearly where an agent would have been of invaluable help along the way. And not just in contract negotiations. But in support and advice on all aspects of bringing a book to market: cover designs, back cover blurbs, the evolution of e-books, publicity. On many occasions during the process of working on What is Left Over, After I felt as if I was groping my way through fog. Even having a marketing background didn’t make some of these decisions any easier because book cover design, for instance, is very different to making a mascara ad for Vogue.
So I’m really excited to be working with Jenny on getting book number two out into the market (and book number 3, 4, 5 …) I think there are certain moments in your life as a writer where you really feel validated and even a little bit proud of yourself. This was one of those moments. So I thought I would share it with you in the hope it might inspire anyone struggling to imagine how they might ever get themselves an agent one day. Besides, I almost can’t believe that I really do have an agent so writing this post is one way to help make the realisation sink in!