All unpublished authors know the horrible feeling when an email arrives in their inbox from an agent they have recently submitted their precious manuscript to. It’s hideous! When I was submitting Help I’m an Alien I became totally inboxaphobic, in fear of what would come pinging over the internet.
One day about six emails, various subjects, landed at once. One of them was from Anne Clark. She had recently set up a new literary agency and I was hoping that as she had a hungry list, she would at least look at my submission seriously.
‘Another rejection! I’m not opening that,’ I said to the cat and left the email untouched. I didn’t need another kick in the teeth right at the moment, but the flipping thing kept glowering at me, daring me to open it.
It took me an hour to pluck up the courage to click and . . .
Thanks for sending me Help! I’m an Alien. It made me laugh, and I’d like to have a look at the rest of it if I may.
Would you mind emailing the complete MS to this address?
I’d made an agent laugh! Suddenly I was zinging.
‘Would you mind emailing the complete MS?’ Those words were the best words ever!
I screamed, I danced, I scared the living daylights out of the cat.
I was only one step closer to finding an agent, but it was a big step. I knew that despite all my best efforts, the beginning of the MS was the weakest part. I was absolutely convinced Anne was going to like the full book.
Anne helped me sort out the weakish beginning and the rest is history.
That was three years ago. Even with an agent behind you, living in the world of publishing is full of dark moments as well as sparks of delight. I am so lucky to have Anne by my side showing me the way. She was my first professional partner in crime and I hope that we will have a long and happy career together.
Recently we had a chat about her life as an agent :
- Why did you choose to set up your own agency?
It was time for a new adventure which involved my favourite things – working with authors and getting great books out into the world for children and teenagers to read.
- I was thrilled that you picked up Help I’m an Alien from the slushpile. What was it that drew you to the story in the first place?
It made me laugh! But I particularly loved the warmth of your humour, and the way that the comedy grows out of your spot-on observations of how real-life boys interact with their families and friends.
- An agent’s job is very varied, which is your favourite part?
Finding a gem among my submissions. Settling down to read the latest MS from one of my clients and finding it’s as good as I’d hoped. Finding that a publisher loves a book as much as I do, and clinching a deal.
- I know you get loads of submissions a week. How do you deal with your submission inbox?
Decisively! By now I can tell fairly quickly if I’m going to be interested in a submission, so I don’t dither.
- Unpublished writers always want to know what individual agents are looking for or what the next trend will be. Can you offer any advice?
It’s usually not a great idea to try to write what someone else wants, unless of course they are offering you a commission! If you set out to follow a specific trend, the chances are that things will have moved on by the time your MS is ready. However, it’s a very good idea to keep up with new and successful books in your age group and genre (bestsellers as well as prize-winners), so that you have a feel for what is actually working in the market. And do be aware that every new book needs a hook – something that makes it different and special. Then write what you want to write. Good luck!
Isn’t she lovely? If you would like to submit to her, head on over to her website and read her submission guidelines.
Look out for my next partner in crime post- my publisher Martin West from Troika Books.