How to catch a Moby Dick

UPDATE: how truly awful, I didn’t know that Gillon Aitken has died just a couple of days ago. I can’t stop reading about him being “the true gentleman” and “literary giant.” RIP, Mr. Aitken.

If anything, the news gave me the shake I needed – life is short and I better get going. The plan still stands, although I will have to find another literary giant to help make my dreams come true.

ORIGINAL POST: I don’t know why, but after a year and a half of self-publishing game, I am once again dreaming of the elusive white whale of traditional publishing. It could be the exhaustion of all the marketing effort that has gone into promoting my books, or the recent confidence boost from finally nailing a big fat dream job. Suddenly I want to change everything: the pricing strategy, the plot of my third book, the marketing buget. It’s been a big few months and I have all the excuses to take it easy, but I just can’t. I feel like I need to take the writing dream by the collar and shake it until it wakes up and gets going again.

As previously lamented, a couple of years ago I started with an attempt to break into the traditional publishing. That time, I went with “cast the net wide” strategy. I penned about 70 applications and sent them off to American agents and a few big-name publishers. The best reply I got was “it’s funny, but we don’t know if there’s an audience for it.” It felt like a whole lotta effort for nothing and it felt like my dream of being a published author was dying. That’s when I decided to give it a great big shake by self publishing my first two books.

Now the dream once again feels like its flatlining, and I need to shock it back to life. I’m thinking adreanline. I’m thinking a big dream, hence the Moby Dick. This time, I won’t cast my net wide, instead zeroing in on one big target. Here he is:


Yes, the literary agent of Helen Fielding. And why the hell not? As soon as I had this insane/brilliant idea, I fired off an email to Gillon asking if he’d be interested in having Isa Maxwell series republished with a traditional publisher. The way I figured, he’d probably say no. This is where my strategy will differ from the previous salmon-like application spawning.

I shall not take no for an answer. I will not move onto another agent until I am absolutely sure that I have bothered Mr. Aitken enough to at least have a look at Shizzle, Inc. Here’s my multi-step plan of ever-increasing pestering:

  1. Send an email (already done).
  2. Send copies of physical books.
  3. Contact other agents in the same agency asking how to get to him.
  4. Find him on social media and fire off @ messages until he figures out how to block me.
  5. Start an online petition of “Mr. Aitken, please read Shizzle, Inc!”
  6. Start a website and publicise it on social media.
  7. TBD. Something viral, preferably.

The way I figured, what do I have to lose? Okay, so I may eventually piss him off, but is that really worse than him not knowing who I am? On the bright side, what if he finds all this nonsense hilarious and decides to check on who the hell is this mad woman Spoke? Stranger things have happened.

Anyway, that’s the plan. If you have any crazy suggestions for the mad woman Spoke, let me know. Cause I’m doing this!


Filed under Self-publishing and marketing

23 responses to “How to catch a Moby Dick

  1. Good news, you can do this.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You are an inspiration Anna! Go!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Sam 🙂 couldn’t sleep last night till well past midnight, crafted and sent an application to the biggest literary agent we have in Australia and to the biggest publishing house. Will target those two for now.


  3. Ha ha! I like the cut of you gib, my fine woman!:)

    ‘Find him on social media and fire off @ messages until he figures out how to block me.’ – This is genius …. an very funny.

    Good luck with this, Ana – as we say here in Glasgow: ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get.’
    And you’re right – stranger things have happened. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ana, with two books, you’ve got a better chance. I’m in the same boat, with the last rejection “Sounds like a great project, but…” I’m in the ‘I give up’ ebb. Good luck to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Sara. That’s exactly what happened to me two years ago, I ran out of steam. Take a break and pursue another goal for a bit – you can always try again. The thought of pestering publishers is once again invigorating to me, probably because I forgot how frustrating it is! I am very hopeful that with my two “roofs of concept” I may actually have a better chance. One thing for sure, they’ve been professionally edited – last time I sent around an unpolished manuscript.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’d strongly recommend against using this tactic. This is a classic no-no in the traditional publishing world. You would not only get blacklisted by him, but he would also make sure all of his contacts in the industry ignore you as well.

    As always, I wish you the best of luck, but I really hope you don’t try to do this with any literary agent.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, and I really appreciate your concern – I know that this is exactly what they tell you not to do. It may not be my exact strategy, as I am actually thinking of attacking a publishing house directly, but the gist of what I’m thinking is “break the rules.” I have tried asking politely and I will start there, as things have changed since the last time I’ve approached publishers, but waiting patiently never got me anywhere before. The worst outcome would be that I’m back here, in self publishing, so what’s the risk? Our society tends to reward outrageously stupid people, so why don’t I try to play that game…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Sad about the death.

    But I did want to mention, from what I read, agents and the rest of the big-pub industry is pretty tight. You’ll want to be careful about not coming off as a little too crazy or pestering, because getting blacklisted is a possibility. Not saying you are a crazy person, just saying that repeated messaging on social media, starting a petition and a website directly aimed at an agent might come off as a *tad* crazy. But good luck to you! I also have similar feelings about traditional publishing. I like the control of selfpublishing, but without the magical big break that other self-pubbed writers seem to get (many of whom don’t even write that well…), the seemingly hopeless and endless self-marketing is draining…i’d probably rather take a contract from simon & schuster or something, if they ever offer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you – rest assured I am not crazy, just ready to take on a calculated risk. I’m m well aware that this is not what they tell us to do, but he m sick of “take a number and wait” approach. I’ve taken some supposedly stupid risks before, like leaving the US to come to Australia on a tourist visa with a vision of getting a job and staying. Close to impossible, but that’s what I did and it worked out amazingly well. At the very least, I can feel the old noggin spinning it’s gears. Let’s see what it comes up with.


  7. Hey, Ana. Good Luck. Having gone through similar thoughts, feelings, and frustrations, I can almost sympathize, almost certainly empathize … as I said, good luck.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Maybe he faked his own death to foil your campaign.

    I’m coming to the conclusion that the only way to be taken on by a British agent is to marry an archbishop, go to Cambridge or retire from journalism. Completing one of their multi-thousand pound ‘creative writing’ courses might help too.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hilarious, but smart…sounds good to me! You will make him notice you through the shear force of your personality- there is no better way 😛

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Sad that he passed away.. but I appreciate your go-getter attitude and the publishing world better stand up and take notice! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thing I liked about Moby Dick was its use of factual material, quite post-modern, like WG Sebald. Faction, to use a horrible word. Maybe that’s the way we should all be going …


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