While I am tending towards e-publishing there is still a part of me that wants to explore the traditional publishing route of contracting a literary agent and seeing my book in hard print. I have no doubt that writers already know how difficult this process is. In fact I would go so far as to say that it is the torture of submitting your work to a literary agent that fuels the current explosion in e-publishing.
I started submitting my work in 2011 and I have not had one favourable response. In some cases I just did not get a response whatsoever, and in one particular instance an agent wrote a rather curt “no thanks” on my own covering letter and sent it back to me in the self addressed envelope that I had provided.
Also, there is the fact that no two agents seem to want the same thing in terms of what to submit. Some, but not all, want a covering letter, a biography, a synopsis, and the opening chapters. Well that doesn’t sound so bad! It would not be except that the format is not universal. My previous experience has shown me that some want the biographical detail in the covering letter, that the synopsis can range from 1 to 5 pages, that the chapters can be the first three or just 3000 words. Also, some agents want hard copy, along with the ubiquitous SEA, and some prefer e-mail submissions; some even accept both! Very few actually give any clear guidelines of what they actually want from the author as if it were some kind of test of comprehension on their part.
Do not get me wrong, I am not slating literary agents here, just making observations based on experience. I value the role of the literary agent or else I would not be going to the trouble this week of preparing yet another submission, it is just that the whole process is so lengthy and, in many instances, so lacking in response.
I know that agents get plenty of submissions every day, I am not the only person who thinks that they have written the best thing since the last big seller, it is all a question of perspective. For the literary agent mine is just one of a large number of submissions and treated accordingly. For me my submission is a labour of love.
Could agents make it easier for themselves and writers too? I think that they could. It would be great if there was a standard form for submissions to take. It would be encouraging to know exactly what to put in the covering letter, what facts to include in the biography, for the synopsis to be of a certain length and format (line spacing, font, etc.,), and, finally, exactly which chapters to submit; I find the arbitrary 3,000 words off-putting because my opening chapter is 5,000 long and it seems silly to submit it incomplete.
I wonder if the industry did adopt a universal submissions procedure whether or not this would make it easier for the literary agent because writers, that is genuine writers who work at their craft, hone their work, and believe in what they are doing, would be able to provide submissions that meet the criteria at the first attempt. Unfortunately this, to me sensible, situation does not exist. I will have to adapt my submission for each and every agent that I want to send it to and every time I make a change in line spacing or font or word count I will have to review it all again to make sure that I get it right, which just makes the whole process tortuous.
It’s a good job, I suppose, that I believe in my work and that I am happy to put myself through this to get into print, either that or I am a masochist and never knew it?!