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Posts Tagged ‘Agents’

Most writers engaged in producing a novel have some wellspring of hope the work will someday see the light of day. Acclaim would be great, they think, but even publication — ah, publication! — would be a wonderful, perhaps life-changing, event. This hope of publication just over the hill is often the only thing that keeps the writer going through the long, solitary journey.

Long distance runner

In my particular case, it actually appeared as if I was in with a chance of having a traditional publisher for the book I’m about to put up on Smashwords and Amazon this November. Way back in 2003 or thereabouts, I sent the 3rd draft of an animal fantasy set in Byron Shire to one of the foremost agents in Australia. I’d been stalking this agent for years, trying to tempt her with various projects. When she accepted this manuscript without reservation, I was ecstatic, this lady handled big names like Frank Moorhouse. She loved the work, she said, and intended to send it first to HarperCollins. HarperCollins! I was over the moon. I had this crash hot agent, and she liked the novel so much she’d gone for one of the biggest publishers in Australia.

Well. I waited and waited. Gradually, my excitement dwindled. After some months I rang the agent up. The head editor of HarperCollins, said the agent, hadn’t liked the anthropomorphism in the work — hell, it was one 70,000-word piece of anthropomorphism — so goodbye HarperCollins. But never mind, she’d look around for another perhaps smaller publisher.

More months went by. Eventually the agent rang me up: what genre did I reckon this book was, anyway? Yes, dear reader, it was a cross-genre work. Which, if you’re an unknown novelist in Australia is akin to setting fire to your chances of ever scoring a large traditional publisher. I understand their thinking. If you’re a publisher, you can afford to take a chance on a weird, off beat novel with a well-known writer. With a writer such as myself, known only for short stories, the risk was simply too great.

I don’t know when the agent gave up on the ms, I was never informed. I simply heard one day that she had retired. In my naivety I attempted to find another agent for the work. However, having had the big-name agent turned out to be the Kiss of Death for my finding another. ’Oh,’ each of them said to me, ‘if she couldn’t place it, I doubt I could. I’ll pass.’

I then attempted to place the ms myself with small Australian publishers. After all, I did have a track record of pleasing the public with short stories, and had been fortunate enough to win a number of awards with them. Every small publisher I approached with the ms seemed to think I was writing in this fairy tale style because I could write in no other, ignoring the fact that my published stories were, in fact, rather edgy and streetwise. Two of them managed to reject me on Christmas Eve, though I’d sent them the ms many many months before. My mouth fell open when I opened those emails, which occurred in two separate years. Rejecting a writer on Christmas Eve was, as well-known author Susan Geason remarked, like something out of Dickens.

So I came at last to the wild and woolly territory of indie publishing, which contains its own pitfalls as set out in my previous post . Currently, I’m working on the first set of proofs from CreateSpace – but more of that next week. (If you like horror stories, don’t forget to tune in.)  After that, it’s back to the Hill of Bewilderment for more agonising over categories – Amazon allows writers two.

Will it be worth it? Money wise, I doubt it very much. But it will be nice to finally hold a published copy of the book in my hands and to know it’s out there somewhere after all this time.

Writing. It’s a great life if you can last the distance.

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http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00991SMHY

I first met Allan Lloyd in Mullumbimby, way back in the 1980s, when I worked as a volunteer with his first wife Diana; we were trying to obtain a government grant for housing for people with a mental illness in Byron Shire.

In 1994, when I returned from a 2-year stint in Sydney, Allan gave me a ms called The Case to look at. I was immediately struck by his edgy take on life and his clean writing. Now he’s produced an ebook entitled Peace & Love and All That Crap, which has even more of the same.

I’ve always been interested in how authors come to write their novels, so I asked Allan to give me a little rundown on the genesis of his book. Here is what he said:

 

Peace & Love & All That Crap came out of a scriptwriting workshop I was invited to attend in the late 1990s, having had my first film script shortlisted for development funding (albeit unsuccessfully) by what is now known as Screen Queensland. For the workshop, I had to write a treatment and the first thirty-or-so minutes of a new script.

Some relevant personal background: I’d spent much of my life as a walking dichotomy – a left-leaning quasi-hippy working as a freelance advertising copywriter. Talk about a conflict of interests.

And a flashback: Years before, I’d seen a TV news segment showing people protesting about the planned demolition of part of their seen-better-days suburb by dressing themselves in cardboard cartons painted as buildings and being knocked over for the camera by one of their number representing the demolition process. At the time, it had occurred to me that if they’d really wanted to be taken seriously by the general public, they should’ve presented as regular citizens rather than weirdos nobody would want to live next door to.

I based my new film script around that one observation. Drawing on my own advertising background, and people I’d known while living in Mullumbimby, I came up with the idea of a bunch of ageing hippies hiring a cynical public relations expert to help them mount a PR campaign to save a pristine nature sanctuary from private development. The twist was that nobody would take the hippies seriously unless they compromised their principles and faked mainstream credibility.

This script was shortlisted for development funding (again, unsuccessfully) by the Australia Film Commission (subsequently Screen Australia), and then ignored by the Australian film industry. So okay, I figured, if I could write a pretty good unproduced screenplay, it oughta be a snack to turn it into a pretty good unpublished novel.

It was harder than I’d expected. Ninety-odd pages of dialogue needed a narrative. And I wanted that narrative to be in the third-person voice and sounding like the hero’s inner voice, yet not mirroring the style or structure of his spoken dialogue. It took me forever to find what I thought worked and allowed me to have that third-person narrative reacting to the opposing attitudes of the hippy characters the hero has to deal with.

On the upside, the ‘novel’ form gave me room to explore what I’ve found to be a certain integrity and idealism intrinsic to the hippy lifestyle, and contrast it against the delusions and hypocrisy so prevalent in contemporary ‘straight’ society. It also allowed me to include encapsulated back stories for many of the characters, which I believe added extra texture to the story and reading experience. Certain plot elements of the film script, including the ending, rewrote themselves along the way.

When it came to getting published, despite a damn good letter and synopsis (I’m an advertising copywriter, remember) I couldn’t interest a single agent in reading the entire manuscript. The ‘first fifty pages’ highlighted my hero’s unsympathetic qualities without the hippies getting a look in, while the ‘any fifty pages’ option meant that the story’s episodic development became difficult to appreciate.

Did it deserve to find a publisher? I’m the last person to ask. Danielle would say I should’ve had it professionally assessed, and she’d be right. As it was, my partner is an astute reader and often confrontational critic, and she provided perceptive feedback whether I liked it or not. But frankly, I’d had a few years of fun writing it, was by then maybe not mad about any potential hard yards of revision, and in retrospect I think that even my attempts at interesting agents were arguably more about ‘that’s what you do next’ rather than any real personal need to actually see a book published.

So Peace & Love & All That Crap sat around for a few years until I recently decided to self-publish it for Kindle. At the token price I’m asking, I’ll never make any real money out of it even if it sells, but that’s not why I’ve put it out there.

I just figure it’s better read than dead.

Allan Lloyd

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Ah twitter, what a waste of time. It’s got to epitomise the worst of the social media – frivolous, banal, no use to anyone. Certainly not to a struggling writer like yourself.

Think again.

I’ve only been investigating social media for six weeks and twitter for two. What I’ve discovered might amaze you. While it’s true that twitter and Facebook have a lot of rubbish in them, twitter is also doing something else.

It’s broadcasting. In real time — assuming you have a phone that will take the app. I don’t have one at the moment, but after what I’ve seen in the last two weeks, I can see that, as a serious writer, just as I once had to have a computer rather than an electric typewriter, now I’m going to have to buy a phone that will take a twitter application.

For those of you as innocent as I was of twitter and how it works, the basis is this:

On twitter, you choose to Follow certain people. Other people may choose to Follow you. How did these followers find you? They found you on other social media sites. The tweets from the people you are following come up on your screen. Your tweets only appear on the screens of those who are following you.

I currently have 6 followers. Right. So what use could I possibly get out of twitter?

Twitter acts as a broadcaster. A recent survey, whose figures I can’t exactly remember, so puleese don’t quote me, said that 40% of twitter is banality; 30% is self-promotion and the rest is information — which, if you have chosen Who to Follow carefully is information that might be relevant to you. For example, last week, Pier 9, an Australian publishing house in the Murdoch empire, advertised that they were looking for an editor with 2-3 years experience in the trade.

As far as I know, THEY DIDN’T PUT THE AD IN THE NEWSPAPER, THEY PUT IT ON TWITTER.

Agents, publishers, editors are putting stuff out that might be relevant to you. And you can follow them.

Meanwhile, back in the jungle, you can broadcast your own stuff. Wot stuff? Well, recently I had a short story scheduled to be read out on BayFM, the radio station in Byron Bay. It’s not every day I get a story read out on radio, I wanted people to tune in and listen, so I tweeted this to my 6 followers.

You tweeted it to six followers! What possible use could that be to you? I mean to say, 6 people are going to hear about it this way, you’d have been better off texting them. Wrong. Because I was also a member of that powerful social media site Ecademy (the first on the scene in 1998, BTW, compared with Facebook’s 2004) I had been lucky enough to meet Sam Borrett, one of the highflyers there. I became one of his followers, and he graciously become one of mine. When I tweeted to 6 people, he retweeted my message to his followers who number around 5,000. Some of those followers have 20,000 followers.

Are you getting the picture now?

Working on the old six-degrees-of-separation theory, even if you’re not fortunate enough to have a powerful follower at first hand as I had, you can bet your boots that somewhere down the track, one of your followers’ followers has. If you’re thinking of putting out a book in the future, get onto twitter. When your time comes, you’ll have a following, who also have a following, who also have a following, and that’s how something can become viral.

Let’s suppose you don’t use twitter and you have a book coming out. You go for newspapers and a bit of radio if you’re lucky.

How many people do you think will hear about your book?

[More in a fortnight on the social media scene in general, and why, as a writer, you need to be in it.]

Follow me on twitter: http://twitter.com#!/de_valera

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