My mother used to say that the day I stopped having a "new system" was the day she would start worrying about me. A familiar phrase of mine is indeed "I've got a new system" which usually means I've come up with some grand scheme or plan which I'm convinced is going to be the answer to all my problems, as well as the life, the universe and everything in between.
Well, I'm pleased to say that I have a "new system" for this blog
which means you should (if the system works) be hearing from me on a slightly more regular basis. We shall see.
A couple of weeks ago I posted a writing tweet (melissawriter95) which implied that "cold-calling" an agent was more scary than wrestling a shark. OK, maybe that is a slight exaggeration but then, I've never wrestled a shark. However, I have "cold-called" an agent and very scary it was too, although to be fair I did only get to speak to their PA which was probably more piranha fish than shark.
By then, I thought I'd done the hard bit. This was three months of very intensive work on the proposal and sample copy for my non-fiction book based on the letters I inherited from my grandmother with a strong Downton Abbey connection, followed by sixteen hours of non-stop editing and proofreading (Don't try this at home.) and then the scary phone call. That however, seems to have been a slice of Battenberg compared with what I'm having to do now which is wait for the agent to respond to the proposal and the sample copy.
I must admit that in some corner of my mind (do minds have corners?) I was rather hoping that the agent would call back within 24 hours, tell me that my submission was the best thing they'd ever seen and that they were now going to make me incredibly rich and famous. I don't know why I thought that as I've been trying (on and off) to get an agent for more years than I've been trying to get the body of Kate Moss and neither of those events has happened yet.
It's just that I'm convinced that for once in my life I actually have something that is so unique, so original and above all such an absolute belter of a story that no publisher in their right mind would turn it down. After all, how many people open their mother's wardrobe one day and find a huge cache of letters and postcards which turn out to have been written by someone with (among other things) an incredible insight into the workings of the real-life family on which the most popular TV series of the last decade is based?
Of course, a quick flick through the articles in the Writers' & Artists' Year Book, not to mention a perusal of all my previous rejection letters from agents reminded me that in the "real" world someone may take a rather different view. On the other hand, they may not and it is entirely possible that just because I haven't heard anything positive from them yet, doesn't mean I'm not going to. After all, no news is good news and all that.
Meanwhile, if you are also playing "the waiting game" with your precious manuscript or proposal, here are my tips for keeping sane.
1. Take a complete break from the project for at least a week after you've sent it out. Better still, take a break from writing altogether and go and do something else for a few days. I hear that shark wrestling can be very exhilarating.
2. Start a new writing project or go back to working on something that you've been neglecting while all your time and energy has been focused on your submission.
3. Resist the temptation to sit by the phone 24/7 in the hope that the agent might call. Go out for a long walk. Watch the TV with the volume turned up so you can't hear the phone. Hide your mobile under a cushion. If they really want to get in touch, they'll call again.
4. Whatever you do, don't start rewriting/editing the work you've already sent out. However good it is, you will immediately suffer a complete crisis of confidence and drive yourself mad wishing you'd written this or not written that. If you really feel you need to make changes, at least wait until you've had a response from them.
5. Try not to get annoyed if you haven't heard back from the agent within what you consider to be a "reasonable" amount of time. Despite the enormous groundswell of people self-publishing, agents are still inundated with submissions and they do sometimes need to come up for air.
6. Don't feel that it will be the end of the world if this particular agent rejects your work, for whatever reason. In the grand scheme of things, it isn't really that important (yes, I know!) and of course, there are always plenty more sharks (sorry, fish) in the sea.
I promise I'll keep you posted.
by George Hodan