Although I’ve had one book published, and another is to be published shortly, I don’t have an agent. I’m not self published (thank you Hague Publishing!), and not really in a position for agent hunting right now, due to my current publishing commitments, but I was prompted to think about the whole agent thing again this week, as a result of helping to start a writers’ group in my region.
As the seven of us chatted about what we’d like to do as a group, the question of “How do I get published?” popped up. We’ll be talking about it the next time we meet, and we’ll have a look at all the options, and those of us who have been published will tell their stories.
This is a little bit of mine.
When my first manuscript was complete, I went looking for an agent. I’d carefully read all the information that the NSW Writers Centre had on whether I should look for one or submit to a publisher directly, so I decided that the appropriate method would be to attract an agent, who would then approach a publisher.
Consequently, I went to the Australian Literary Agents Association (ALAA) page and began to look at the available agents. The advice on the page was very sound – it was all about helping authors and keeping them safe from dodgy contracts and unscrupulous publishers, but there was a problem. At the time (this was several years ago), there were very few literary agents even accepting submissions. Of those few agents who were actually accepting submissions, only two accepted manuscripts in my genre, and then only after a phoned enquiry.
I duly phoned both agents’ offices, and one asked me to post a certain amount of manuscript to them. Feeling excited, I promptly formatted my manuscript as requested, printed the appropriate bits off, agonised over the synopsis and query letter – and I do mean AGONISED – and then posted off my hopes and dreams. Eight weeks later, my manuscript returned with a polite covering letter telling me that the answer was a no. I was sad. Not sad that one agent had rejected me, because I’m quite realistic about rejection from agents (JK Rowling was rejected multiple times!) and publishers, but sad that I appeared to have no other avenues to submit to.
My now published book is Science Fiction – adventure Sci-fi. It has aliens, glow-in-the-dark cats and a dangerous planet that constantly challenges my main protagonist. Most literary agents in Australia don’t accept Sci-fi or Fantasy.
To cut a long story short, after reviewing my manuscript, editing it several more times and deciding it needed to be more than one book, I happened to be browsing the NSW Writers Centre newsletter. There was an advertisement next to “Opportunities for Writers” placed there by Hague Publishing. Hague was looking for authors writing speculative fiction – Sci-fi, Fantasy and Horror, to be published as eBooks, so I wandered off to Hague’s page on the net, had a read and decided to submit using the online submission manager. Then we went on a month’s holiday. On the 8th of January 2012, I received an acceptance email – and woke up the whole family to tell them about it.
No agent. Not how it ‘should’ have happened in the world of publishing, but still wonderful. Having said that, the information at the NSW Writers Centre and the ALAA had taught me enough that I was able to look at Hague Publishing’s site knowing what to look for in both a publisher and a contract, and all of the boxes were ticked. (Thank you.)
Today I went back to the ALAA page to have another look at what the agent situation is looking like right now, so that I’ll have the info on agents at my fingertips at the next Brook and Beyond Writers’ Group meeting.
As it stands, there are fourteen agencies listed. Ten are currently accepting submissions. Five will accept submissions from people writing Science Fiction or Fantasy. Seven of those who accept submissions will do so electronically – but only four of them want manuscript pages, the other three accept only the initial inquiry. Quite a number won’t accept manuscripts from unpublished children’s authors. Others only accept non-fiction. A number are actively looking for literary fiction.
With my interest now piqued, I’ve just gone looking to see what it is that we Australians like to read. Sadly, a cursory search didn’t provide me with much information, which I found slightly odd given the plethora of stuff that’s usually available on the internet, but I did find this article on The Conversation website. One of the things it stated was “Last year, the top most-read children’s books – at least in the UK – was almost entirely comprised of fantasy novels.” Fascinating information, and as a result I’m left wondering why more agents don’t wish to represent more speculative fiction authors. If anyone has some insights, I’d love to hear them.
The publishing scene has most definitely changed – with the rise in self publishing, eBooks (love them!), and more publishers now opening themselves to submissions directly from authors, along with more of them accepting electronic submissions, in some ways it’s now a world of greater opportunities for authors, but also a world where a new book can be lost in the more crowded marketplace.
The world of publishing is a world in flux I think. I’m reminded by a comment made at the NSW Writers Centre Speculative Fiction Festival two years ago – apparently not even the publishers are sure where it’s all going. Maybe that’s a good thing. Who knows? I’ll watch, wait, and keep writing!