Getting Published - 6. Blind Date with a Literary Agent (Part 1)

blinddate.jpgFollowing the advice from UK literary agent Lucy Luck, I thought I would share my personal experience of the submission process for the manuscript of my first novel, The Flame Tree.

I was about three-quarters of the through writing the novel when I got a voicemail message from a friend. She had mentioned to some her friends at a dinner party that I was writing a book set in Malaysia with a Chinese heroine. One of the people there was a literary agent. The agent had said “Book by Chinese women are hot right now. Tell Yang-May to send me her manuscript when she’s finished.”

My friend’s voice crackled out of my answering machine, “So, are you finished yet?”

As you can imagine, I didn’t do anything but write like crazy the next couple of months till I had finished the book and polished and re-polished it. When the time came to submit the manuscript, though, I decided to send it to two other agents in addition to my friend’s friend. It was a risk because it might upset my friend’s friend (let’s call her Agent No. 1). But I wanted the option to see a selection of agency styles, personalities and portfolios.

So with the input of my friend, I chose two more agents. Agent No. 2 was younger and just starting to build a portfolio of her own within the agency where she had been a junior agent. She was likely to be “hungry” and work hard to promote my book. Agent No. 3 was a highly respected and influential name within the industry, specialising in high-brow literature and quality thrillers.

I sent out my covering letter, first three chapters and synopsis. And waited.

The calls came within two weeks. They all wanted to meet with me. They were all a bit miffed that I had submitted to other agents besides them. But that was good, because it put me in the driving seat. They all loved it but they all advised it needed work. “Fine,” I said, “Let’s talk and whoever I go with, I’ll make whatever changes you want.”

I made appointments to see them all, one after the other on the same day.

Who would I choose? Agent No. 1 who had come to me first? Agent No. 2 who was young and hungry? Or Agent No. 3, established leader in her field? Who would be my “Blind Date”?

Read more next week…..

6 Responses to “Getting Published - 6. Blind Date with a Literary Agent (Part 1)”

  1. Ted Mahsun Says:

    Next week!! The suspense is killing me already!

  2. Caroline Smailes Says:

    Oh come on …
    This is exciting stuff.

  3. Louisa Says:

    I was wondering though - it sounded like the Agents did like you submitting to other agents - did you mention this at the time of submission? Is it worth it even though some agents are a bit funny about multiple submissions?

  4. Yang-May Ooi Says:

    Louisa, I think some agents are realistic as Lucy is and accept the fact that authors have to make multiple submissions otherwise the whole process can take a lifetime! But I am aware that some agents don’t like it.

  5. Louisa Says:

    I guess, like you say, it puts you in the driving seat. Would you mention this in the letter to agents or only when they express interest (that you have submitted to other agents?).

    If I waited for each agent, one by one I’d be sixty before I could even get no’s!

  6. Yang-May Ooi Says:

    Louisa, I think it’s a judgement call each writer has to make. I didn’t in my initial letter when I submitted The Flame Tree but when all three were interested, I had to come clean and they were not too happy. But to be fair, everyone was business-like about it - and it is after all a business. However, that was some time ago and the agent I interviewed recently, Lucy Luck, acknowledges that multiple submissions are a fact of life.

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