To Thine Own Self Be True?

literary agentSo you’ve written a book. There it is, in Times New Roman 12pt font glory. All 80,000 words of it (or thereabouts). Yum.

Now what? You write your synopsis. You write a sparkling cover letter. You attach these things to your manuscript and put them in a big brown padded envelope. Address it to, say, five literary agents to begin with. You only need one, right? So you start with five. Five is good.

And then you wait. And wait. And a little bit more waiting. And then you sort of forget you’re waiting as life trundles on and you go back to work, look after your kids, plan what the hell to do for Christmas, oh, and is that a cupboard that needs cleaning? You do all these things and then one day, your head jerks up and you feel a cold sweat pass over your brow. You realise in a flash that it’s been four months and you’ve heard nothing…..NOTHING! Not a jot or a whisper from any of the agents. You’ve never even had an acknowledgement of your letter.

You scratch your head. Maybe have a glass of wine. Go for a run. Think on it a while. Okay, you think. I’ll choose another five agents. I’ll send it to them. This time, I’ll pick better. These ones will like it. On this occasion, you email your submissions figuring that hard copy manuscripts are so 1980′s – electronic communication is where it’s at! You email your precious work to the black-hole vacuum of an email address that is You know as you do it, that no-one’s ever going to read it.

And here’s the truth. The slush pile (for that is where your beautiful manuscript has landed) is the size of a SKYSCRAPER. And the summer intern whose job it is to decide who may one day win the Booker Prize? Well, she’s a bit hungover today ’cause she broke up with her boyfriend last night and she’s earning about 9K a year and can’t afford to go skiing with her lawyer friends and, oh – ooops! Delete!

Again, silence.

As with all parodies, there is a grain of truth in the above scenario, sadly. Very sadly. The fact is, there are too many budding authors and not enough agents to go round. Or, let’s face it, people who want to buy books. So whaddya gonna do???

Talk to Joanna Penn at about it, and she’ll tell you the above scenario is crazy. Self-publishing is where it’s at. The digital book and e-book market has never been hotter. In regions such as South-East Asia, the potential reach of your book is pretty unfathomable. For a more detailed breakdown of that scenario, see my recent post on

The best part of self-publishing is the utter control you have – over your work and how it is presented. And let’s not forget the profits. All of them (barring any deal with an e-publisher like Amazon for example), will come straight to you. Awesome!

I have thought about this and debated it with my own books. But something needles in me that it would be a wondrous thing to see my book in print on the shelves of Waterstones. Nestled, perhaps, in between Margaret Atwood’s latest and Jordan’s third autobiography. I also worry that the only person who would buy my book on something like Amazon would be my Mum.

Which leads me neatly onto next time’s post – marketing! And how you can use it to sell your books and live a happy life. If any writers out there have any comments on the above, please feel free to post them. It would be great to hear your thoughts on self-publishing. We are also running a feature on where we will feature five new self-published titles a month – so do get in touch if you’d like to talk about that.

And next time, I may also mention the VERY EXCITING NEWS that I have indeed got myself an agent. A real, live one. The story involves not much sleep, 48 hours in London town, many panicked phone calls and a small amount of white wine. Till next time….

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. arranbhansal
    Nov 02, 2013 @ 07:52:35

    Good post thank you! Really enjoyed reading it.


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