David Headley, who heads DHH Literary Agency and with Daniel Gedeon owns Goldsboro books, together with Clays, who print both self-published books and books from mainstream publishers, last week hosted a most informative evening, Indie Insights, about self-publishing at the Goldsboro Bookshop in Cecil street.
Andrew Lowe from Andrew Lowe Editorial gave a talk about the need for meticulous editing; Mark Ecob from MECOB design spoke about cover design – and later sent me copies of some of his fabulous covers, James Bond from Whitefox emphasized the need for a concerted publicity campaign, while David Headley finished with a talk about the advantages of being published in the more traditional way.
For me the take home messages were that self-published books need to be as professionally produced as those put out by the main publishing houses, that self-publishing requires a lot of effort and a not inconsiderable amount of money if the result is to be first class but that it can be extremely rewarding for the author who has so much more control over the finished product. Self-published books really start to make money with the first reprint since the origination costs have now been covered.
There are 38 pages of Literary Agents in the Latest edition of the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook. Fortunately most of them accept submission by email, though I haven’t yet sussed out a way of sending the same submission to several at a time without giving the game away.
So far of the 10 agents Stephanie Hale and I have approached four said plain ‘No’, four said ‘No’ but how much they liked my memoir Woman in a White Coat, two haven’t replied after many weeks and I am waiting to hear from two more.
Mind you, Terence Blacker, wrote in his The Seven Rules of Rejection in the recent issue of The Author that his First Rule is ‘Rejection is rejection’ and his Second Rule is that ‘Any compliment contained in a rejection letter or email is entirely worthless’.
It is discourteous of agents not to inform us when they don ‘t want to take us on. The excuse that they are too busy carries little weight. Even if agents have 50 emails a day, presumably they finally open them but they find it too much of an effort to hit reply with an automatic message. Some say ‘If you haven’t heard from us in 12 weeks we don’t want your stuff’ or the equivalent. Are we supposed to hang fire until the 12 weeks are up? After all, any of us that reaches above a certain level in our profession is likely to receive lots of emails, but we have to reply to them all.
In the old days we had to include a stamped and addressed postcard with our submissions sent by snail post, but at least you could be sure they had got there when your postcard came back.
Now, even if you include a polite request for an acknowledgment, many agents don’t bother to send one or answer subsequent emails. On the whole emails get to their destination but most of us have problems with our emails from time to time.
I know literary agents are busy and overwhelmed and all that, but it’s so easy to set up an ‘out of office’ type reply. Elaine Borish charts the initial failure of 33 famous authors from Jane Austen to Zane Grey to get published, but at least they did get replies!!
The Madeleine Milburn Literary, TV & Film Agency is a paragon of virtue in this matter. Their reply to a submission was by return: Thank you very much for your email.
For all writers, this is to acknowledge receipt of your work. We personally read everything that comes into the MM Agency and will respond directly within the next twelve weeks if we are considering representation. Do let us know straight away if another agent requests your complete manuscript or, indeed, if you receive an offer of representation. If you have not heard from us within twelve weeks, please take this to mean that we are no longer considering representation. Regrettably, we do not have the time to respond individually to each submission due to the sheer volume that the agency receives and the necessity of fulfilling our obligations to our existing clients. If you do not receive a response, please do not be downhearted. We receive a lot of very strong material but have to feel incredibly passionate about it from the moment we start reading in order to champion it effectively. This makes it a very personal decision, and one which might well differ from other agents. Many thanks for sending us your work, and we look forward to reading it.
With my best wishes, Madeleine Milburn
Why can’t the others do the same?? It’s unreasonable to expect critiques or advice from agents – though some agents took the time to add an encouraging explanation to their ‘No’ to Woman in a White Coat – but an automatic acknowledgment takes virtually no effort once it is set up.
We always knew the building as Simpsons of Piccadilly where you went to buy posh clothes and DAKS trousers. Opened as a clothes store in 1936, it was sold to Waterstones in 1999, and is now their Flagship Store.
I’ve had straight ‘no’s’ from four agents and two very nice rejections from two others. One said:
I’m afraid I concluded that while it is full of charm and interest, and is undoubtedly well written, I just don’t think it is quite strong enough overall to compete in the memoir market. But do try other agents, and if ultimately you draw a blank, I would encourage Abby to self-publish, as there is a lot of historical detail in her book and it would be nice if it entered the public domain. I was very pleased to have the chance to read A Woman in White and I wish Abby every success with it.
When you look at the bios on display at Waterstones it’s obvious you need to be a celebrity or maybe a villain to be certain of publication.
Waiting on two more agents and if they say ‘no’ will go for e-publishing.
Have to wait to see whether any of the agents who asked to see the whole MS of Woman in a White Coat like it. Agents can take up to 3 months to reply to submissions so I’ll have to possess my soul in patience
At my craft class we also painted on silk. It seem as if you can’t go wrong. Any squiggle looks great and the finished fabric makes exciting greetings cards. I bought a selection of triple-folded cards with cut-outs. To make these birthday cards, I cut out some circles and ovals of padding and stretched the silk over them.
Thanks to Stephanie, I now have 3 agents wanting to read Woman in a White Coat. Going to have one last editing session this Bank Holiday weekend before double-spacing the text and sending it off.
Stephanie liked my Synopsis and says she’s ready to send it out to Agents. No doubt months of waiting to come. Feel rather guilty at being abrupt with an agent who hadn’t replied to a previous submission after 8 weeks. Now realise it’s the norm to have to wait 2 or 3 months.
Blog by Dr Abby J Waterman and her new book, Woman in a White Coat