The writing industry – agents, book doctors, publishers – is a very subjective arena, something I am rapidly coming to realise, and a mantra I have heard over and over again this weekend at the Writers Festival.
(a thick skin and a willingness to absorb feedback also helps).
The first act of my story was requested by an agent a couple of months ago, she clearly liked the synopsis, or so I hope. I’m still waiting for a reply, although I’ve been told that a response can take up to three months especially if they’re a big agency, then send a polite nudge if nothing still – my mother instilled good manners in me which should come in useful for a killer email.
(note to self, DO. NOT. STALK. AGENTS. OR. POST. THEM. CAKE)
Today, at the Writers Festival, I saw another agent, one from an agency who represents some of my favourite writers, Ian McEwan, Nick Hornby. In my (unrealistic) fantasy I am comfortably lounging along side their titles, rubbling shoulders with ‘On Chesil Beach’ and ‘High Fidelity’.
He, the agent, was actually very warm and straight forward, a northerner. I picked him out as his biography stipulated that he was ‘open to reading anything’. A good choice I thought.
And he actually had some very positive feedback for me…
… A big thumbs up for my writing. ‘The prose is exceptionally good. There are NO problems there.’
… A thumbs up for the opening chapter. He enjoyed it.
BUT he had reservations about the subject matter. He felt nervous about the market appeal of my novel. He couldn’t see publishers warming to a book set in the ’90’s with a female DJ as the main protagonist, at the same time tempering his feedback, ‘although I could be very, very wrong about this.’ See, it’s but one opinion.
He wasn’t clear where my book fits within the market. My novel isn’t chick lit or literary (yet) and not quite a thriller. In his opinion, Four Gigs would only appeal to a niche audience (self-publishing here I come). But I actually think he had a valid point – I’m not very clear as to where it sits either, what genre it sticks to. High-end commercial fiction maybe? Like David Nicholls? Who knows?
He believed I have a more sellable book within me and the capability to write it. Was this subtext for scrap Four Gigs and start again? I think so.
What now? Well I am far too invested in Four Gigs to give up – to me, it’s too much of a special project, a love letter to a very important decade in my life, to a scene that buoyed me with vision and creativity and purpose. I must finish this book, self-edit, have it book-doctored and professionally edited. I will toss it out to a lengthy roster of other agents. And if it doesn’t bite? Well I will still be content to self publish. I can even see the book cover – urban font, muted blues and greys, a record flight case and earphones – so clearly in my mind’s eye…. the dream will come true. It must!
But I feel positive overall. An agent really enjoyed my writing style. And most importantly, I have a good idea now where I want Four Gigs to be when I come to editing.