Need help re: agents predilections

Published by: Hilly on 30th Aug 2017 | View all blogs by Hilly

A query for all you wonderful Cloudies. If any of you live abroad, do you put your address/foreign telephone number down on the cover letter when you send out submissions? Or might this put prospective agents/publishers off? I know the world has become smaller with emails and the internet, but can this make a difference? Has anyone any experience of this and can advise?

The next query is, I have been long and short-listed in a number of big competitions. Great, eh? The thing is, it’s for different genres and target markets. Should I only let them know about the ones in the same genre or all of them?
Should I also let them know I have written ten novels but in a variety of genres and for different target markets? Or will I simply ‘shoot myself in the foot’ and they’ll think I can’t focus on one consistently?

It’s all a bit tricky, isn’t it. I’d love to hear any views on this as I’m pretty confused right now.

Comments

33 Comments

  • Caducean Whisks
    by Caducean Whisks 22 days ago
    Hilly I think the range of writings shows tenacity and commitment and versatility and I'd definitely mention all of them. Not bang on, but mention them. The more strings to your bow, the more an agent's eyes will light up, to my mind. There's nothing fluffy in having knuckled down and written one book in one genre, let alone ten in ten. The agent you chose may only specialise in one genre, but again, may be happy to consider others if they're handed to her on a plate.
    As for the abroad bit, yes, the internet makes a huge difference. I know writers who have never met their agents and all seem happy with it. Not every writer lives in London where most of the agencies are, yanno.
    I'd say the important thing is to make it crystal clear that English is your first language and you're familiar with how things work in Britain. Say something like, 'Twenty years ago, I left England for Andalucia where I now live the Good Life, but I return frequently to visit family and friends.'
    Good luck, our Hilly!
  • SecretSpi
    by SecretSpi 22 days ago
    I would definitely mention all the long and short-listings. But as far as the novels are concerned, I would focus on the one you are submitting now, to that agent. Unless, of course, the others are already published, in which case mention them.

    I'm afraid I must be honest and say many UK-based agents prefer to represent writers who live in the UK (and preferably in Bloomsbury - sorry, joke) if they are being honest. Some even state this in their submission guidelines. But sometimes I wonder if this is more to put US-based writers off. I'm not sure. But I have never disguised the fact of living in Germany - in fact, my publisher was pleased because what with me and another author based in France they can now call themselves 'international'! And, if your book is set in Spain, wholly or partly, you'll have an advantage.

    Good luck!
  • Hilly
    by Hilly 22 days ago
    Hi Whisks. Thanks for your comment. Sometimes you get a little lost in it all. I love the 'writing' bit but hate the 'sending it out' bit. I appreciate your thoughts on this. I'm now, as ever, struggling with the cover letter and the synopsis. I've re-written it a number of times and now I have no idea what the book is about! Oh dear. Time to put the kettle on but we've run out of biscuits, so I suppose a slab of goats cheese will have to suffice. Thanks again, Whisks.
  • Hilly
    by Hilly 22 days ago
    Hi SecretSpi. Thanks for your comment. Again, great to hear your thoughts on this. Our trouble is, we haven't even got a real postal address, just a PO Box set up. It does work though. We live down a dirt track on the side of a mountain but we do have internet at least and electricity (most of the time).
    The funny thing is, years ago, I did live round the corner from Bloomsbury but I wasn't writing then, I was painting. Ho-hum!
  • Philippa
    by Philippa 22 days ago
    Hi Hilly,

    Yes, I think no harm putting your address abroad on. It adds colour, and fine I should think if it's clear you speak English and have links to the UK, e.g. so you can meet up with the agent who wants to woo you over dinner :) Make sure to include an email, as that is so easy for everyone and usually how agents these days will communicate anyway (at least initially).

    Interesting one about whether to mention the other novels. This came up on another thread. Should we say we've written previous (unpublished) novels, or not? Does it show that we are dedicated to our craft and in it for the long haul, with tenacity and passion... or might an agent see it as a sign of failure that after 10 (or whatever) attempts we've still not written anything publishable? Should we be waving our 'previous misses' under their noses, or keeping quiet about them?

    In my mind, I'd generally not mention them. Agents must surely know that we have to write lots of pages that don't get published before we write something that does. Trying to use an unpublished novel as an accolade somehow seems backwards to me, but I'd be curious to know what others think.

    I'd be inclined (in this instance) to say something like: "I write in a variety of genres, and I have previously won placings in [X and Y] competitions with my [sci-fi] / [romance] novel(s)."

    This basically makes it clear that you prefer not to be limited to one genre, that you've got a lot of writing under your belt and that your writing is 'prizewinning', without getting into the fact that you're not (yet) published.

    Oh, and make sure it's clear what genre the subbed book is, of course :)
  • JtF
    by JtF 22 days ago
    Dear Hilly,
    I would certainly create your own blurb CV mentioning your published hits in order of importance then date. Whilst looking to sign (and make money off) why would I not want to know that you are focussed (polished product completed) prolific (as before) worldly and well mannered; and that it would be great to meet you in foreign climes as I would be on expenses!!
    Remember that without your talent they got nothin . . . Best of luck JtF
  • Hilly
    by Hilly 22 days ago
    Hi Philippa. Thanks so much for your comment. Much appreciated. I agree about mentioning the other books. I've had so many near misses but not popped over that line yet and you can't really say that to a prospective agent/publisher. 'I've nearly made it a few times now...' Doesn't sound right, does it. Hmm, need to be careful here. So, thanks again.
  • Hilly
    by Hilly 22 days ago
    Hi JtF. Thanks for your comment.
    I'm not published (sigh) not through want of trying! I've had major critiques from a well known consultancy and they have always mentioned how wonderfully polite I am, even when faced with a corcker of a critique (I've had a few). I am indeed prolific but I don't stint on editing and polishing all my work, over and over. Who wouldn't want that? Ha, ha! They can come and meet me any time at the bottom of my dirt track for a large glass of rioja. Of course on expenses.
  • Jenni Belsay
    by Jenni Belsay 22 days ago
    Hi Hilly,

    Haven't subbed anything for some years but were I to do it now, even though I'd have the same fears as you, I would give them my address and contact details for France. As others have suggested, I'd make it clear that I make regular trips back to the UK (they don't need to know that translates as about 2 weeks a year). I'd also list the big comp successes even though different genres, but think I would leave it at that. At this early stage I would expect the sample chapters and past comp successes would be enough to demonstrate that I can write. If agents like what they see, ask for more and want to speak to you, then might be the time to mention the other stuff?
  • Hilly
    by Hilly 21 days ago
    Hi Jenni B. Sorry this is a bit belated, been off having holes drilled into walls etc, but thanks for your comment. I really think that mentioning all the books is a bad idea but I will definitely state all the comp successes. So, thanks again for being so helpful.
  • mike
    by mike 19 days ago
    Dear Hilly,
    Would saying you have written ten novels but they ate not published be a good idea? I know this is a bit negative. If you listen to Radio 3 and radio 4, most people have the same voice, which is female and trying not to sound posh.
  • Hilly
    by Hilly 19 days ago
    Mike, yes, I agree. I'm only going to mention the comp entries. I've had so many near misses with them all, it is getting quite frustrating. Maybe this new one might be 'the one'? I can dream...
  • Skylark
    by Skylark 19 days ago
    Do dream, and keep heading for your dream. I had over a decade of near misses and my book is being published next year. Definitely mention your comp entries because being shortlisted/longlisted in any competition is an excellent achievement. I'm not sure about the international thing, though I'm fairly sure that a few of my agent's clients are not UK based. If their submission guidelines don't specifically state UK only, go for it! And Good Luck!
  • Hilly
    by Hilly 19 days ago
    Hi Skylark. Thanks for this comment. You're an inspiration to keep going (not that I have the choice, as I love writing and can't seem to stop). I think I'm now slotting into the 'domestic-noir' genre at the moment. Willow told me about it, as I was saying my work was 'psychological thriller', when in reality, it isn't. It can get tricky, cam't it.
    Oh, and congratulation (or as we say here 'enhorabuena') on your book being published. How fantastic is that. Well done.
  • Skylark
    by Skylark 19 days ago
    Thank you :-) I've always found genre tricky. I'm still not sure entirely what my genre is though reading group fiction has been mentioned a few times. Domestic-noir is one of my favourite reading genres :-)
  • RichardB
    by RichardB 19 days ago
    That's a comfort, Skylark. We do tend to get advised to be clear on what our genre is when submitting. It's supposed to show we have nous and know the market. And I'm not sure of my novel's genre either. Like Hilly, I thought it was a psychological thriller, and like Hilly, I no longer think that it is. In fact I've been advised it's not.

    So it's good to hear that someone who's not sure of her genre can still be published. And by a major publisher, yet.

    Hilly, fingers crossed for you.
  • Skylark
    by Skylark 19 days ago
    Yes, I've been given that advice by various people, but also been given the exact opposite advice by others. Agents are all different and have different approaches, things they want a cover letter to include and things they don't and likes/pet-hates etc. and it can all get very confusing, and research is essential before submitting. I always took the route of keeping things short and simple and not trying to sell the book in the cover letter (because selling is not my strongpoint!) and then let the writing speak for itself. Others disagree (and have had success) with other approaches, so there isn't really a right or wrong answer, except that the common factor in securing agent representation is that they loved the writing, not that they thought you nailed the genre, if that makes sense?
  • RichardB
    by RichardB 18 days ago
    Yes, that's another thing we get conflicting advice about. Harry says keep your description of your book short and simple, just to give an idea of what it is, and Nicola Morgan says your letter is your chance to sell your book and you should make it sound as enticing as possible. Selling isn't my strong point either.

    And yes, research is essential.

    As for genre, I'm crossing my fingers and simply calling it a thriller (unless a better idea comes along). I've seen the book I've read that most resembles mine classed as crime, but the author was already known for crime fiction. It's not a detective-mystery-type crime story, and neither is mine, so I don't want to give the wrong impression.
  • Hilly
    by Hilly 18 days ago
    Hi Skylark. Thanks again for your comment. Research is so important. I've had my first set of cover letters looked at and they are seemingly 'proficient enough' or whatever. I embellish, depending on agency criteria etc.
    The writing should, in a way, be all. If the cover letter and synopsis draws someone in, great, but if the writing lets you down, then what's the point. Good luck to all of us.
  • Hilly
    by Hilly 18 days ago
    Hi again Richard. I'm not so good at the 'selling' part either. I think your book comes under 'thriller' but in a way, maybe mine does too. (Death and retribution and all that.) I wonder if I can call my genre 'domestic-noir thriller'? Not sure if it exists and if it does, whether it sounds right. We'll see in due course.
    Like I said to Skylark, good luck to all of us.
  • Skylark
    by Skylark 18 days ago
    Let us know how you get on :-)
  • Hilly
    by Hilly 18 days ago
    Hi Skylark. If anything good ever happens, I will be shouting it from the rooftops (and of course posting about it on here).
  • RichardB
    by RichardB 18 days ago
    I'm under the impression that domestic noir nomally deals with toxic relationships and nasty secrets, usually within a family and in a (wait for it) domestic setting. In which case, Hilly, from what I know of your novel it wouldn't really fit. Actually I think mine is a little closer to it. Domestic noir / crime / thriller crossover, maybe? Yegods, what a mixture. The editor who did my critique reckoned it was cross-genre, but didn't say exactly what genres, even when I asked her about it.

    And yes, I will be shouting too. If...
  • Hilly
    by Hilly 18 days ago
    Hi Richard. Hell's bells and little fishes! What do you think it comes under then? I'm at a loss now. But...isn't my book about toxic relationships and nasty secrets? Okay, some of it is set in Spain but the rest is London based.
    Help!
  • RichardB
    by RichardB 18 days ago
    Ooh, sorry, Hilly. It's just that yours is a fairly wide-ranging adventure, and so (from what I've seen) doesn't have that claustrophobic, ominous atmosphere I associate (rightly or wrongly) with domestic noir. Don't take my word alone for it, though. And if all else fails, simply 'thriller' covers a multitude of sins.

    And as Skylark says, the quality of the writing is more important than nailing the genre.
  • Hilly
    by Hilly 18 days ago
    Thanks, Richard. I'll go with that. Just now hope the writing is up to par.
  • Philippa
    by Philippa 18 days ago
    The dreaded genre...

    Harry Bingham pointed out in one of his podcasts that most books just fall under the category of 'contemporary fiction'. Therefore if there's no specific genre your book fits into, just give it a pithy description - for example 'a tense and intimate portrait of a Noughties marriage on the rocks' or 'a thrilling and creepy tale of a Welsh bartender who discover a legacy of gruesome crimes' (those examples are bad, but you see what I mean.)
  • Hilly
    by Hilly 18 days ago
    Thanks for this, Philippa. Now to think up that pithy description. Hmmm...
  • Philippa
    by Philippa 18 days ago
    Ps I think domestic noir is considered a sub-species of the crime / thriller genre, so it would be weird to say 'domestic noir thriller'.
    http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/features/domestic-noir-is-bigger-than-ever-top-ten-releases-for-2015-9975488.html
  • mike
    by mike 17 days ago
    Dear Hilly,
    I don’t e.mail agents or publishers, so I can’t really comment, I don’t read much genre fiction. Last Saturday I turned everything off and read a novel, I quite enjoyed the experience. The novel was by Beryl Bainbridge and what genre does she belong to?
    There is a barrier between the public and the media and this barrier approaches religious dimensions, If you belong to the media you behind the alter rail and if you are before it, you are a mere mortal, Sometimes these affairs are public and if you breach this holy division you have sinned badly. The accolytes supporting the main priest - and now, usually, priestesses -are for the most part, female, dressed in black, and police the area with mobile phones etc and all look terribly important.
    What qualifications do you need to become such an accolyte? Public schooling and Oxbridge would help. If you are not of this class, I would suggest you lie.
  • Hilly
    by Hilly 17 days ago
    Thanks Philippa. Yes, you're right.
  • Hilly
    by Hilly 17 days ago
    Thanks for your comment, Mike. I'm not of that particular class but I'm not going to lie about it. What they see is what they get. In fact, that's basically the name of my new novel.
  • Hilly
    by Hilly 17 days ago
    Also, Mike, re: your book on mass tourism. Can't you tweak it so it isn't dated? Sounds a great idea to me.
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