Monday, August 29, 2005


Recently Lynn asked us to imagine ourselves in a situation where we might be able to make a pitch to an agent. Apart from highlighting what an oddly creative bunch of people hang around her blog, the imaginary scenario she set up left me feeling slightly uneasy.

I recently had the pleasure of dining in a fine restaurant with Jane Johnson, who seems to be in charge of just about everything at Harper Collins these days. Admittedly Stuart was there too, and Agent Phil (trying to wear his cranachan), but I got to sit directly opposite one of the best editors publishing work in the genres I write.

Did I pitch her my work? No I didn't. We talked about writing - she knew I was a writer, but we also talked about climbing mountains in Morocco and many other unrelated things. I just didn't feel happy trying to sell her one of my stories.

Perhaps it was because it was Stuart's day - the launch of Cold Granite. Perhaps it was because I am very shy, particularly with people I consider to be in authority. I call it Headmaster Syndrome, and I suspect it goes back to my early school days, when I was in perpetual terror of the teachers, who would turn on me and dole out terrible punishments for misdemeanours I couldn't even understand.

But mostly I didn't pitch because the evening meal was down time. It was a bit of relaxation from the endless hussle of the job. It certainly wasn't the time to have to listen to some bearded nitwit babbling on about dragons.
I would have approached her later, when she was at work, but HC won't accept anything unless it comes through an agent first. If I can persuade an agent to take me on (and this is a work in progress), then the first thing I will suggest is that they get in touch with Jane and pitch her my novel. With luck, she may even remember who I am, and at least it was Phil making a fool of himself that evening, not me.

Am I right in this approach to selling? Or is my reticence the reason why I remain unpublished?


Blogger Stuart MacBride said...

I have to say that I agree with you – it was downtime. A nice meal out with people. Well, an OK meal out with people. But nice people, nonetheless.

The bar scenario is different; if someone isn’t interested in your pitch they can just excuse themselves and go talk to someone else. At the dinner table you’re trapped. I think you did the right thing – you know they don’t accept unsolicited, but you touched base and chatted and didn’t come off as an arse. As you say, when your agent sends in the query he can namedrop and she’ll remember you (especially if you let me know when it’s going in).

Yes, one has to keep an eye on the opportunity of a lifetime, but a permanent salesman is a right pain in the arse. Who really wants to be known as a pushy git?

I think you did the right thing.

August 30, 2005 10:08 am  
Blogger Trace said...

You're a very classy guy, James. Hats off to you.

Dragons? Wow. You are writing in a genre which is selling really REALLY well right now. I wish I had the imagination for it, but I don't.

Have you tried the American publishers?

Luna is looking for fantasy, if you don't mind making your lead character a woman :) You don't need an agent to submit.

August 30, 2005 2:28 pm  
Blogger Trace said...

Oh, and they really do read every manuscript they get. They publish lots of writers from their slush pile :)

August 30, 2005 2:30 pm  
Blogger JamesO said...

Many thanks for the info Trace - much appreciated. I know fantasy seems to be hot at the moment - I just hope that with books one and two of a projected four-part series already finished I haven't missed the boat;}#

Sadly Sir Benfro is male, and a dragon. But there is a very fiesty female (human) character called Martha Tydfil in it, although whether she's actually a dragon or not I've still to decide (the mythology and magic are all a bit complicated).

August 30, 2005 2:40 pm  
Blogger Trace said...

Maybe Martha deserves her own book *grin*

I love the Luna covers, too. They are SO friggin' gorgeous!

I'm sure you'll find a home for your fantasy series.

August 30, 2005 3:23 pm  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Handwash only