Thursday, 4 October 2007

Oh God!

"Any self-respecting agent can visually tell within 20 or 30 seconds of looking at unsoliciated submissions, both the letter of submission and the manuscript, whether the book is any good or not."

Giles Gordon, Literary Agents, The Role of the Literary Agent (Artists and Writers YearBook 2008)

Now I'm going to start obsessing about the first page of my novel AGAIN!

I've worked on that page SO MANY times and listened to it using Natural Reader SO MANY TIMES that now, when I think about it, I can hear the half-human-half-computer voice reading it out word for word in my head!

Okay, time to shut the book and start editing (honest).

p.s. I thought the section "How to attract the attention of a literary agent" was very good.


HelenMH said...

That's quite a scary thought isn't it? And now I must get on Amazon - again - and order my copy of the yearbook! I love a new excuse to buy a book!

A. Writer said...

Hmmm... I picked the handbook over the yearbook but now I'm having second thoughts.


Lane said...

20 - 30 seconds is such a short time.
I do hope he was exaggerating - just a little.
In the interest of science it took me 8 seconds to read the comments above by helen and a.writer and 17 seconds to actually read your post. I think the frightening word in his comment is 'visually'.

Helen Shearer said...

Don't we all do the same thing in bookshops? I certainly do. I read the first page and if it doesn't grab me I put it down. I know, it's not fair. Some great books don't get cracking until ten pages in, but there has to be something compelling in the first page. If I like the style of page one, I'm more inclined to buy it.

Caroline said...

In my experience (from an editor view point), keep it fresh, well presented and check that first page for spelling mistakes. No gimmicks, no fancy introduction letter - keep it tight and focused.

Remeber that they're picking up far to many manscripts from people who are trying too hard and they're looking for a reason to reject.

You're also at an advantage, because of your prizes for writing.


Flowerpot said...

Yes, I look at teh first page in a bookshop and if I don't like it, back it goes.

Fiona said...

But surely it is still a matter of what agents like personally or is it now so money motivated that they all sing from the same song sheet?
Note to self: Stop using other people's great but worn out metaphors and think up some of my own.

Nichola said...

20 or 30 seconds seems about right to me. YOu can easily read one page of manuscript print in half a minute.

Also, 'visually' would include acknowledging the font, checking for coffee cup stains (has it already done the rounds and been rejected by countless other agents?), dog-eared pages, correct margins.

We all judge books by their covers. An agent giving us one page is quite generous.

You'd be astounded at the amount of people who can't follow correct submission guidelines and discerning whether or not a page is in the correct format is instantaneous. If an agent or publisher gets as far as actually reading the text, you've got further than many, many amateurs.

CTaylor said...

Helenmh - it is quite scary but I guess, as someone else said, we all do the same when picking up a novel in a bookshop.

A.writer - Does the handbook have articles in it too? If so I'm sure the same information is replicated there (even if written by someone else).

Lane - ha! Love that you timed yourself reading the comments and my post.

HelenS/flowerpot - absolutely. It's just scary when you think about that being applied to YOUR book!

Caroline - thanks so much for that useful comment (and for giving me hope about my prizes :o))

Nichola - I think you're probably right. If an agent receives a dog-earred MS with single spacing, no paragraph indents and loads of typos they're going to immediately think 'beginner'.

CTaylor said...

Fiona - from what I've read it seems to be a mixture of the two. i.e. an agent thinking "I love this" plus "I could sell this".

liz fenwick said...

Too scarey for words!!!