Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Best Laid Plans

Can there be anyone in the UK who hasn't been affected by what is being termed the 'deep freeze'?

The snow and ice have, it seems, disrupted every form of travel which in turn has kept everyone off school and work for an extra week after the Christmas holidays.

I suspect I'm not alone in treating it like an unofficial mini-break and have cheerfully worn unattractive hats and tramped to the top of hills only to whizz down them again on plastic sacks, inner tubes and old trays found languishing at the back of the garage.

I suspect also that I'm not the only one who has put off the commencement of my New Years resolutions.
Who could stick to 1500 calories a day with Jack Frost nipping at their toes? Surely stew and dumplings are entirely appropriate in the circumstances.

And as for cutting back on the sauce...another hot toddy anyone?

I've no reason to suspect that writerly ambitions have not met the same fate.
Which I imagine comes as a relief to many a literary agent.
Where we scribblers are apt to spend the second of January in WHSmiths buying envelopes and a copy of The Writers Yearbook, agents must be steeling themselves for the white deluge-not of snow, but submissions.

Not so much a slush-pile as a slush-mountain.

Sure, every agent is looking for the next big thing, and for that they need submissions. But the January onslaught must feel like a tidal wave.

Now I don't want to discourage any writer from seeking representation.
Personally, I would be without my agent. Not only for the book deals he's secured, both here and abroad ( for I'm sure I couldn't have done that myself) and not only for the TV option I'm in the process of signing ( though that is bloody exciting). But also for the wonderful feeling that come- what- may he's on my side. This is a lonely old business and it's nice to have support.

Rather, what I'm suggesting is that those looking for an agent take a deep breath.

Don't join the hordes and bang out a slurry of ill-considered letters and half-arsed synopses just because it's January.
Instead, ask yourself what agency might suit you. Check out their website. Do they represent authors in your genre?

And check out their submissions guidelines. Don't assume all literary agencies want the same submission packages. Some want a letter and no more. Some want a one page synopsis. Some want a full treatment of your work.
Don't fall at the first hurdle by getting it wrong.

Then look at everything you're sending. Is it the best it can be?
You might have promised yourself to get five off by the end of the week but is there any point if you're not selling yourself as well as you could?

This isn't a race.
There is no prize for the writer who can gather the most rejections by February.

If you can honestly say that your submission is good to go, then get licking those stamps.

If not, try to relax. This is a marathon, not a sprint. So pour another glass of mulled wine.
There's still snow to come and the post might not even get delivered tomorrow.

9 comments:

CarolineG said...

It hadn't occured to me that there might be a January 'slush mountain' but I bet you're right. Good post Helen...pour us one of those hot toddies, will ya?

Samantha Tonge said...

Let's face it, there's never a good time.

There's the pre-Xmas rush, New Year backlog, post London Fair backlog, post holidays back log, post Frankfurt backlog, then we're onto the pre-Xmas rush again...

Just take you time folks, like Helen says, and send when read and not before!

Helen Black said...

You're absolutely right, Sam, there's never a 'good' time.
But my agent says that January is always a nightmare - not because of the sheer volume necessarily, but the quality.
Folks sending out their subs because they've promised themselves they would.
My advice would be that if you have some work finished. Spend January giving it, and oyur sub package another polish.
HB x

Fionnuala Kearney said...

I'm sticking my fingers in my ears about the novel I should submit becasue I'm having too much fun writing the next one!
BTW, you did mean you 'wouldn't' be without your agent didn't you - just in case he's reading?! x

Susie Nott-Bower said...

Love this, Helen - the idea of a blizzard of manuscripts descending on agents all over the country. A 'write-out'?!
It's become one of those writerly myths, that the best times to send subs are in January and August. So much for that! You are so right, though. The best time to submit is the time when your manuscript is as good as you can get it.
Susiex

Roderic Vincent said...

I sent a batch in early December. I imagine the agents and their children are tobogganing over them right now.

Fionnuala Kearney said...

Actually, another thought...I heard Jan is also a bad time to submit becasue of book fair in Feb (Frankfurt I think, without checking?)

Blossom said...

I'd promised myself to send off my first three chapters by the end of the first week of January.

However, snow, ice and 40 miles between me and work has meant staying with friends during the week. When I got home last weekend and read through wip I decided the last chapter wasn't right and book overall could do with another edit ... fortunately I like the rewriting stages! Now it'll go when I'm completely happy it's ready.

So although I'm hating the snow and the disruption it's caused to my life, I'm glad it's stopped me from contributing to the slush mountain.

Karen said...

It clearly doesn't work the other way - I was rather disappointed that our postman managed to battle through deep snow this morning and deliver me a short story rejection!