Archive for category Literary Agents

Futerman Rose Associates.

An example of a monetizing rejection letter I received nearly three years ago now. I wonder if they’re still sending them out. They’ve had a bit of re-branding since, though Guy’s still there.

Dear John

Many thanks for this.

The writing is strong and the storyline intriguing. I have to tell you however, that agents are finding novels, even intelligently written commercial work like this, harder to place nowadays. Publishers are so subjective and only concerned with the bottom line.

What I can do is to suggest an organisation who, for a reasonably low fee will make the full arrangements to ensure a full Kindle publication of your work.

What is more, they will edit as well – obviously not a radically comprehensive edit – to a thoroughly presentable standard . Many Kindle books are going on at a later stage to traditional publication or Print on Demand.

Their fee is just £950 and you get a free Kindle as well. Let me know if you would like me to put you in touch with them.

OR

There is a publisher we deal with now, (not vanity) who have taken some of my more worthwhile mss and I believe they will promote and publicise properly. They do charge a fee (£4,500 – refundable to you after sales of just 2,000) but I believe it is an acceptable deal as the writer enjoys a far better rate of royalties. One of my authors who has taken advantage of this, is Provost of one of the oldest Oxford colleges and is a knight of the realm. His work has just been nominated for an award for Political Fiction. My most recent was a High Court Judge.

Let me know if you would like me to submit [novel title] to them.

Very best wishes

Guy

Guy Rose

Futerman, Rose & Associates

http://www.futermanrose.co.uk

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It’s a brilliant story, but…

Have you ever been offered money to write someone else’s book? I have. Indeed, I imagine it’s fairly common. Usually, the offerer has a novel that needs a bit of EPR (editing/polishing/redrafting), but, having busy, complicated lives, they don’t have the time to do it… so would I be interested in doing it – for, say, £500 (okay, £1000)? I mean, yeah… because it’s just about a bit of time.

These askers are wannabe authors who don’t think a little thing like not being able to write should hold them back. What they know – or think they know – is that you can write. I mean, shit, you have a blog and you know how to punctuate; and didn’t you say you’d written a novel? I’m sure I heard you say something like that while I was mentioning how busy and complicated my life was – what with the divorce and kids and all.

Should you ever find yourself the askee in this situation, say no… but temporize. Say you’ll look at the manuscript without committing. The look will be instructive.

You’ll be briefly impressed. The first page will be near-perfect, though there might be a clunky sentence lurking in there that alerts the discerning to the car-crash to come. By page two, the standard will have slipped slightly, and by page three the deterioration will be marked, noticeable to anyone literate. The standard of page one will never be recovered.

This type of author will often have read writer self-help books on How to Write a Killer First ParagraphPageChapter… (you get the picture), but their efforts will generally never extend much beyond the Killer First Page, which will probably have been polished to death with the odd smear still in evidence.

Errors will be basic and inconsistent: “Okay”, she said. Or: “Okay” she said. Tenses will be mixed inappropriately as the effort to write becomes exhausting and tiresome – and isn’t it about the story, anyway? Shit, you can hire someone to sort out the clerical stuff. Except that the errors aren’t just clerical. The novel doesn’t just require the addition of appropriate punctuation; it requires rewriting. Sentences at first, then paragraphs, then pages, and then – disastrously – you’ll find yourself drowning in the realisation that their writing has entirely fallen apart. Indeed, that that Killer First Page cost them an enormous amount of time and effort. You will also know that £500 or £1000 isn’t going to cut it in terms of compensation for the work involved in effecting the necessary repairs. Notice I’ve said nothing about the story here, which (in this role) is none of my business.

Would I do it, then, for £10,000? Essentially, you’re being asked to take a scrappy manuscript and make it immaculate in terms of the writing. I can do that – and for £10,000 it would be worth the effort. The problem is the human considerations. Taking an old person’s life savings to edit, polish, and redraft the novel about their father’s experiences in WWII would not feel cool. I’d be less uncomfortable taking the money from a millionaire who wanted the treatment for his post-Cold War thriller because my only concern would be to  deliver an excellent EPR (do a good job, in other words). Whether or not the millionaire later recouped the outlay in the market-place wouldn’t be a concern. At least, he’d have something literary to sell online and show off to his friends.

This is an issue, though – the temptation to blame your editor for the the subsequent lack of success of your novel (since only they will have benefited from it in financial terms). Clearly, there are bad editors out there, or people advertising these services, who can’t do the job: novel doctors and get-your-novel-into-shape merchants willing to offer various levels of feedback and editorial input based entirely on how much you’re willing to fork out. Essentially, we’re moving into the shady world of literary bottom-feeders here – parasitical scamsters willing to exploit your dreams and take your money. Of course, there are also perfectly genuine people offering these services, who simply aren’t very good at what they do. Be careful if you don’t know the people you’re dealing with. You’re likely to come away disappointed – indeed, it’s probably safer to assume you’re being scammed.

As for me – well, I’ve had a few it’s-a-brilliant-story-but novels pass across my virtual desktop (historical romps, fictionalized rock ‘n’ roll memoirs, James Patterson type thrillers) and have offered some free editing (as I said, it’s instructive), enough to assess what a huge task it would be to treat the whole novel. Really, as you plough ever more deeply into their deteriorating writing, you’ll be glad you didn’t take the money and can return their novel telling them you don’t have the time to do it justice (because it’s such a mess), but you might want to keep the bit in parenthesis to yourself.

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Editorial services.

Imagine you’re a literary agent – all those submissions coming in, all those dreary rejection letters going out. How much better it would all be – from a bottom line perspective – to make some dosh from the rejections. Enter the editorial service – someone who will “polish” your novel for you, and “make it ready for submission”. All those rejected, disheartened writers out there ripe for exploitation.

There are a couple of ways this can work:

You submit your novel, it gets rejected, agent recommends an editorial service as part of the rejection letter. You approach the editorial service, pay money (hundreds of pounds usually), and the agent gets a referral fee.

Some agents have an editorial service they “work with” right there on their website, giving the impression that if you use the editorial services you’ll have more chance with the agency. You approach the editorial service, say where you found them, pay the money, and it’s kerching all round – oh, except for you.

Some agents simply offer editorial services as well as agenting ones.

However it’s done, it’s done simply to monetize rejections by exploiting your dreams and aspirations. Don’t fall for this. The money’s supposed to flow in your direction, not theirs.

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The Literary Agent, or Submitting Your Manuscript to the Appropriate Authorities.

The trouble is I have (or had) a fixed idea about the right way to go about this. So first the method, then the (probably flawed) justification.

You have your novel (I’m not going to drone on about it being “polished”, etc; I’ll leave that to the dreary advice sites), and now – being a denizen of that height of civilization, the free market economy – you must “market” it, or, put simply, hawk and whore it to a bunch of agencies and/or small publishers that you hope against hope will be interested in the fruits of your labour. This usually requires producing a synopsis and cover letter and sending it off with the first fifty pages of the novel to an agent of your choosing as per the instructions on their website – so usually by email these days, though some still insist on postal submissions (for fiction anyway).

There are loads of sites offering advice on writing synopses and cover letters. Most of them – the sites – have a jaunty commonsensical tone, really as though they’re preparing children for the REAL world. “So you’ve written your novel, polished it, and made it the best it can be – good! Now the hard work starts.” Oh, ha ha… You’re tuned to Radio Free Smug.

Having once submitted your novel, you’re advised to forget it, or at least not brood overly much upon it. Rejection is routine; it will hurt routinely, and diminish you in small ways. You, sadly, believe in something intensely that the world is happy to ignore. Lots of people are in this situation, and the price of rejection is not always so gentle (sometimes you starve, sometimes you die; here, usually, unread writers just go on doing their living-making thing).

So why is the agency approach a good one? Or why was I convinced it was so? I suppose because I imagined you were submitting (in some sense) to an arbiter of quality, someone who could tell the shit from the sugar. To get an agent is an achievement because it says some other someone believes in your book enough to want the privilege of representing it to the world (a younger me naively imagined this had to do with art rather than money). You’re validated; you can write. Or, at least, someone else – someone in the biz – thinks you can.

Nowadays, of course, there are many routes to get your book out there, most of them bypassing the nod or approval of another person, never mind one that knows anything about writing. Bands do this, of course: they get gigs and build an audience around their music and act. Why shouldn’t writers appeal directly to an audience and build a readership without recourse to the percenters in the middle? Of course, they can and should. And some have done this successfully, though most of them turn out to be dreadful writers. Whenever there’s a story about a writer who’s got a big advance as a result of being successful on the web, I look them up and invariably have the same reaction: Oh, yes, more shite. The vast majority of the big, bad world out there doesn’t know what good writing is (sorry, but it isn’t just what people want to read). I suppose my fear is that it’s all like that now. Despite saying that they’re looking for “unique” and “unusual”, what agents really want is stuff that will sell by the truckload – sod the quality.

Self-publishing has never appealed to me; indeed, it has, for me, something of a whiff of failure about it. This might be a limitation in my way of thinking. After all, I’m blogging here, not submitting this to a magazine or paper for someone’s approval. But, of course (and this has to be recognized and acknowledged), I’m also mostly being ignored.

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Shite’s all right if it sells.

It’s a dispiriting thought, but one that must be grasped: literary agents are looking for something to flog, and bandwagon jumping is, they imagine, one of the safest ways to go  about doing it – hence all those 50 Shades of Shite clones taking up shelf-space in your local WH Smith.

It works like this: they’re looking for something that fits easily onto their list (so you can forget challenging, difficult books – in terms of subject matter and certainly in terms of writing style), and what fits easily onto their list is stuff they’ve successfully placed onto someone else’s list: a publishing editor’s usually. Publishing editors are also interested in shit they can sell, which is why they all have their version/clone of whatever’s water-cooler hot in flogalot terms at any given moment. It’s a dumb business with pretensions. Most of them like to think in terms of working in the arts, which is, of course, bollocks. They’re middle-folk trying to turn a profit.

Which brings me to the question – the point of this post – do they know if something’s good, or just if it will sell? It’s perfectly possible to look around you, note what’s selling, project what might sell (indeed, why not have a self-important meeting about it?), and then try to turn a profit by getting your hands on more of the same. Spiv & Trotters Literary Agency: “S&M novels and religious thrillers are big at the moment, so we’re interested in those – though we’re also looking for Teen Naval Gothic love stories because we think they’re likely to be big in the run-up to Christmas.”

Novels like Animal Farm or Pale Fire or The Trial would be incomprehensible to them; they simply wouldn’t know what to make of them. We live in an age of focus groups, of audience reaction and participation. Modern agents  don’t have the temperament or discernment to take a work away, and think, Actually this is good, artistically good. It deserves an audience. What they’re after is a sense of immediate recognition, a sense that they like this, that their friends will too. Being good doesn’t come into it; potentially popular, of course, does.

Undiscerning people need discerning people to draw the distinction between the two. That statement  has a whiff of elitism about it, but that’s not the point. Girls Aloud are not as good as Beethoven, and not just because someone’s critiqued the issue for you. In your quiet space, you should be able to listen to both, and know that one is better than the other. That’s discernment. And if you can’t do that, you’re ignorant (at least in this area of life and art), and I rather fear this is something that’s true of most literary agents.

Money, of course, pollutes everything. Livings have to be made. I understand that.  I would, however, modestly request that you don’t imagine you’re doing art when all you’re doing is shifting goods to make money.

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Thoughts on submission and rejection.

When you’ve finished your novel, you’ll probably feel a touch of elation, a sense, even, of artistic achievement. Be assured, this will not last. Now you must submit your work to an agent. They have submission guidelines on their websites these days; and while they’re roughly the same, you should pay attention to the details, the minor differences. Agents like to entertain the notion that you’re submitting only to them (while mostly understanding that this would be absurd).

You’re now engaged in administration, in trying to flog a product. The more quickly you can think of it like this and come to terms with it, the less it will wound you. You do not want to find yourself in a mind-scape where you’re broken and hurt by indifference and practicality. You are one of many outside the golden gate hoping for ingress, one of many voices crying to be heard. And, of course, I know you think yours is special, the one that ought to be heard. The trouble is, I (we/they) think that way too. And for goodness sake don’t bother chafing about all the undeserving voices that get heard and richly rewarded. Bad people win lotteries, and bad books get lucky.

A suitable emotional reaction to rejection should be on a par with your lottery numbers not coming up. Indeed, the rejections themselves are about as dully impersonal as it gets. No-one sane makes plans based on winning the lottery. If you’re simply someone who’s written a (let’s assume good) novel and are sending it out like the rest of us, then you just bought a lottery ticket. You now have more of a chance of winning than those who didn’t. Of course, if your mother-in-law is Editor-in-Chief at a major publishing house, then your chances just improved exponentially. For the rest of us, there’s no use getting cut up about this lack of connection and the advantage it might afford someone less talented. Be honest; you’d use it, too, if you had it, wouldn’t you?

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