“Today I was signed to a literary agency – tomorrow I shall
conquer the publishing world. Mwa-ha-ha-ha.”
Such is the battle cry of those authors who actually get an agent to read and then accept a submission. I’ve heard it several times from fellow writers in my local writers’ circle. The really interesting thing, though, is this: representation does not equal publication.
All unpublished authors should repeat this mantra 100 times whilst sitting in a full lotus position before eating their breakfast muesli.
I shall relate the tale of a man I know: he’s a university professor and a writer of children’s literature. Funny, charming and, I think, talented. More talented than me? Obviously – he’s a professor, dammit. But a better writer than me? Who can say? I certainly can’t.
When the Prof approached agencies, they had a feeding frenzy. At one point, I believe, he had four or five agents clamouring to represent him. He had his choice of agents, and understandably chose one who is reputedly top of her field. That was probably about three years ago. A while back he ditched her. He wasn’t published, despite the numerous revisions she had suggested [one wonders what made his material so special if she had to suggest revisions: what did she want – a writing credit?]. Off he went, into the arms of another top agent.
The Prof is still has no publishing deal.
The same agent into whose arms the Prof ran represents another author I know, a historical novelist, and has done for several years: but does she have that contract? No. [EDIT - Actually, YES: with brilliantly good timing, Jenny Barden, the lady in question, announced today - 13 December 2011 - that she has signed to Ebury - part of Random House. Good luck, Jenny, you are a brilliant writer and you deserve every success).
There are obviously advantages to having an agent – for one thing they are the only route to being read by most large publishing houses – but they are not gods. In the UK they seem to exist purely to suppress the majority writers, to stop them from reaching those publishers.
Coinciding with my failed attempts to obtain representation and to slip into agency limbo like my two colleagues, I observed a mini-revolution taking place. E-books were becoming a reality.
I never for a minute thought I would self-publish, and certainly gave e-books no consideration at all, other than wondering how anyone could enjoy reading a full length novel on a mini-computer. After all, back-lit text is not easy on the eye, and I like to read before sleep. Why would I want an e-reader? Why would I inflict one on anyone else?
Earlier this year, in a fit of pique, I decided to serialise Pike’s Quest on the web. For free. It was a bad decision.
I was inspired by Jonathan Pinnock’s success with Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens, but I was mistaken as to the suitability of Pike for dissection into short, digestible chunks. Mr Pinnock had written Mrs Darcy specifically for serialisation in short chucks of around 600 – 800 words. Each piece was self contained and the humour was immediate (annoyingly, it also works a novel, especially good for city commuters). Pike, on the other hand, is a 60,000 word novel in twenty-four chapters, some of which are 4000 words long, with jokes that stretch across the entire novel. An extreme example of this is a tool bag that is lost in chapter four or five. It is briefly mentioned later, but the pay-off will not appear until Book 2 is written. It’s the old comedy banana-skin technique: drop the skin in the opening scene and the clod will slip on it near the end - and rather like the opening quote at the head of Part 1.
In short, chopping-up Pike into twice-weekly sections was not good. The flow was lost. As one reviewer on Amazon states, “... it was a thought provoking page turner with a healthy dose of laugh out loud humour.” Chopping it up detracted from both of these qualities.
It was while considering my options that I realised that I was already embracing e-publishing, but in a non-user friendly way. Now I had to find out how it all worked.
To read the blurb, click HERE