Tag Archives: agent

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 http://www.mraitkenpleasereadshizzleinc.com 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

One door closes

Well, what can you do – the agent’s assistant (the one that thought my novel is funny) emailed to let me know that the actual agent passed on the manuscript. He was nice enough to copy the response, which was: “It’s definitely funny, but I don’t really know the market for spoof-y novels like this, so I don’t think it’s for me. However, feel free to evaluate with our other agents in mind if you’re really keen on it.”

Thankfully he appears to be really keen on it, as he has already forwarded it to another agent in the same company. I guess that means another few weeks of waiting, which is getting easier to bear, maybe because I’m getting mentally ready to self-publish. In my case, the ignorance of not knowing the market truly is bliss. I just can’t help but think “If it’s funny, they will come”.

Time will tell.

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Filed under General thoughts

Lots of fish in the (American) sea

It has occurred to me that while it may be helpful to have a spreadsheet tracking your agent submissions, it may be even more helpful to know where to get the contact details to populate the said spreadsheet.

For me, it was quite the process. At first, I have applied to, and was rejected by, a number of Australian agents. It got me thinking about who could potentially be interested in my novel. While I believe in casting the net wide, it also makes sense to cast it where the fish…er, agents are likely to hang out. Since my novel is set in the US and would most likely appeal to the US audiences, it would make sense to seek representation from the US agents. This was actually the general sentiment I got from all the Australian agents who bothered to send me a rejection letter.

Having figured that much out, the next logical step for me was to find those American agents. I thought I’d have to spend hours Googling them, but luckily some wonderfully smart, hard-working, generous, and undoubtedly good-looking people have already done that for me!


The site contains literally hundreds upon hundreds of American literary agents’ contacts, including website links, types of manuscripts they seek, and even submission guidelines. On the first glance, it’s overwhelming. I’ve read somewhere that there are over 1,000 literary agencies in the US, a number which fills my heart with stupid, unwarranted hope.

So, the next logical step is to narrow down this enormous playing field to a reasonable number, let’s say 100. You can choose your own target, depending on how much sleep you need on an average night.

But how exactly do you do that? Is there a magical algorithm that can troll through the list and spit out the list of agents most likely to read your query or the sample chapters? If there is, please email it to me! Because what I had to do was to look at each agency’s website. There are good reasons to do that – you get to see which books they’ve recently published, and agents often write in their bios about which books they love to read. All that would help you figure out if there’s a chance they will read yours or at least a sample of it. There’s no point in sending your romance novel to a high-brow literary firm, and vice versa.

Another good reason to visit the agency’s website is that things change – agents come and go, submission guidelines change, some agents may be temporarily closed for queries. So don’t rely on the master list above alone, a bit of due diligence will save you a lot of time in applying and hopefully the heartbreak of reading more than a fair share of rejection letters.

Once you’ve got your list, the next step is to start firing off the submissions. There are two schools of thought on this. Some recommend sending your submission to one agent at a time. Muahaha! Seriously, not in this age of social media and the ever-increasing speed of change. The other camp mass-produces applications, often not slowing down enough to check that the agent’s name is correctly spelled, or that Mr. or Ms. is used correctly. Don’t be that guy!

My personal method consists of the following steps:

1. Send out a wave of submissions until I get tired, or bored, or both. Usually five or so. Or ten, depending on how much caffeine is circulating through my system.
2. Fantasize about getting “discovered” and signing books for adoring fans.
3. Read rejection letters.
4. Work a bit on the submission package (more on that later), until I start thinking something like “well, this just can’t get any better!”
5. Repeat steps 1-4 ad nauseum.

There you go – now go fish!

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Filed under Shizzle, Inc.