Last month I went to a Getting Published seminar. It was right at the time of the bad snow hitting the UK, but thankfully it went ahead and the trains were running. Not everyone made it through the snow, but the room still seemed packed with writers eager to learn the secrets of submitting to agents. Would this be the big breakthrough I’d been hoping for?
I went to the event with the knowledge that my two self published books were being well received, in some cases loved, by book bloggers and reviewers (although sales haven’t been good whilst I focused on writing rather than marketing). I also had the added bonus that my first book, Visions of Zarua, was being considered by Czech publishers as a Czech translation. (Cover issues have held up the contract signing, but I’m hopeful it can go ahead very soon.)
The Getting Published day didn’t go exactly as I’d hoped, but I did learn a lot and it reinforced the knowledge I’ve gained over the years from workshops, magazines and articles online. Let’s start with the positives of the day.
How to submit to an agent – Some top tips
Focus on one book in your letter
Get the agents name right
Intrigue them with a great pitch
Try and get a connection with the agent to mention in the letter.
Focus only on agents in your genre.
What I learnt about Agents
Agents are just people
Agents want the same as writers – to get great books published
Of the 450 agents in the UK, not many specialise in fantasy.
They are busy professionals and they appreciate a professional approach.
They give up their free time reading through the slush pile
It can be good to go with a new agent who is building their list, rather than experienced agents who have full lists and only take on new authors occasionally.
Other interesting facts you might want to know
Agents and publishers don’t care about your social media presence unless you have masses of followers or it is relevant to the book you are submitting.
Agents don’t care about your self published books unless they have sold 100k copies.
If you submit a self published book, agents don’t know what to do with them. They want new material.
Finally, what I learnt about me
I’m crap at mingling and talking to new people, though I’m ok if it is one to one i.e. chatting with the person sitting next to me.
I want to succeed enough to ask questions in front of a room full of people, even though it makes me feel sick.
I want this enough to keep going to these workshops.
There are lots of nice people out there, sometimes you have to be brave enough to make the first contact.
These events are worth the money and the time, even if you are shy like me. If you are willing to make the effort you can make connections with other writers in the same position as you. If you are really lucky, you might just be able to chat with an agent who represents your genre.
I can’t help but feel writing fantasy and being a self published author puts me at a double disadvantage in the publishing world. But it’s what I love and I won’t change my dreams to try to write to the market. Instead, I will keep plugging away and enjoy the freedom of self publishing, whilst I wait to find the right agent who believes in my writing as much as I do.
Have you any experience of writing or publishing workshops? Have you any advice or tips to share? I’d love to hear from you.