Tag Archives: literary 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

Wait better

Why does it have to be so hard? Why does it never stop? I’ve already waited for months for a response to a query letter and now I have to wait for an unknown length of time for an agent to read my manuscript.

To think about it, even if my dream comes true and the agent signs me on, there will be only more waiting to come. Waiting for a publisher to respond to query, waiting for them to review the manuscript, waiting for a decision. Even the ultimate dream of publishing will be all about waiting, waiting, waiting…

I am terrible at waiting. Which is silly, because how hard could it be? All you have to do is watch hours of TV and eat Cheetos. Trouble is, I don’t do either. So instead, I go through my days as if under a spell, constantly daydreaming about “what if?” Sometimes it’s good, sort of a barely contained giggle of “OMG, here it comes!” Other times it’s more like a monotonous drone of an air conditioner in the doctor’s office, while you wait to be stabbed with a needle.

I hate it. I love it. I’m basically addicted to it. Considering that I ain’t got no skills on how to deal with the addiction, I turned to Google for advice on how to get over it. Google suggested that I distract myself with something else. Here are some ideas of things to do while waiting for the agent’s response:

1. Go to movies. Except to that Interstellar flick. You’ve been warned.
2. Have sex. Again and again, if that’s what it takes.
3. Take a nap.
4. Call your mother and get into an argument about something. The topics are endless, like for example, why you are getting married so soon.
5. Clean scale insects off a massive house plant. Trust me, going back to aimless waiting will be a joy.
6. Miss a Coles delivery because you were having sex and get into a huge fight with the customer rep over the cancellation fee.
7. Draft a lengthy email to Coles complaining about the customer rep. Have a lengthy discussion with your partner about the reasons it was not your fault. Read the Coles customer agreement. The whole thing. Rejoice at having found a loophole and craft another lengthy email.
8. Eat strawberries in bed (any fruit will do).
9. Read a book. Hey, this is actually good advice! All decent writers swear by this whole reading thing.
10. Start writing your next book. Now, this is the best advice yet. I’m gonna go take some of it myself.

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Filed under Shizzle, Inc.

Got a nibble!

It finally happened! After four months and about 60 applications, one agent has requested a full manuscript!

A few days ago, I woke up in the morning and, as usual, reached for my phone. Before the shower or the coffee, or even being able to fully open my eyes, I had to check the email. I’ve been doing this for months. That’s the trouble with the time difference between Australia and the US – the American agents work while I sleep. It is also a blessing, as I would otherwise check the email every few minutes, and not every half-hour, like normal people.

Amongst the junk mail enticing me to attend one-day-only secret sales for super special customers, there was one from an actual person. I did not recognize the name, but the word “QUERY” in the subject line told me it was another rejection letter. I opened it, expecting a standard form.

It started as they all do. “Dear…we have received…read with interest…” Then, in the second paragraph, my groggy brain registered a few words I have not seen before, at least not in this context.

“I laughed out loud.”

Jolted into an upright position by a shot of adrenaline, I read the email over and over. Granted, it was from an agent’s assistant, but he thought the small sample I sent was funny and he wanted to read the first three chapters. I sent the chapters.

He replied the next day with more “laughed out loud” and even “told my colleague”. He asked to see the full manuscript.

This is where preparation meets opportunity. Except in my case, because despite hoping for it, I was utterly unprepared for the request. The manuscript was finished a year ago, but every attempt at editing it started from Chapter 1. The polish sort of wore off the closer one got to the ending.

I did what I had to do – called in sick and edited nearly 80 thousand words in one day. By the end of the day I truly was sick and looked a bit like the walking dead. Any sane person would probably take a few days to get ready, but that’s not how I roll.

I sent it in and, after biting my nails for two days, followed up with only a slightly desperate “hope the attachment made it through the anti-spam!” message. The assistant replied instantly, informing me that while he thought the humor dropped off a bit in Chapter 4, he still liked the manuscript well enough to forward it to the “proper” agent.

So now it’s just fingers crossed…more applications…and maybe working on that whole “preparation” thing.

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Filed under General thoughts