An Australian author living in Norway

Next steps

Things became interesting this week when I received not one, but two requests from New York literary agencies who want to read more of Amaranth. It’s both exciting and terrifying to come so close: it could be the start of something huge, or it could just give me further to fall. But what I want to be able to take away from this development is the knowledge that there are at least two agents out there who think my work is worth their time. That is HUGE.

For those of you not familiar with the traditional publishing process, here’s the basics of the agent/writer relationship in its early stages:

Most writers in English-speaking countries need an agent if they want a traditional publishing contract. And the first step in that direction is to seek representation for your work by a literary agent. This agent then acts as a go-between for the writer and potential publishers – they are there to sell your work, just like an actor’s or an artist’s agent. There’s more to the relationship than just that step, but that’s one of the mosts important parts. In today’s market, obtaining representation is hard. I mean getting to the finals on Idol hard. Except instead of one yearly competition, it’s an ongoing battle to be noticed above the thousands of other writers you’re competing against. Agents work on commission, so they won’t take on just anyone; every client is a financial risk, and agents want someone who is worth taking that risk over. They all want to represent the next bestseller.

Agents are inundated with hundreds of queries and submissions every week, and they can only afford to give each query a tiny slice of their day, so if it’s not spectacularly good, it gets the typical “Dear Author” response: a usually kind, but nevertheless cookie-cutter rejection. If you’re lucky, you might get some personalised feedback as to why they’re passing, but this is rare. So to have any of them ask to read more is a massive compliment. It means that an agent who is inevitably up to his or her ears in manuscripts has chosen yours to sit down with and give some real attention to.

This week one agent who received a query letter with a teaser synopsis asked to see my first fifty pages, and another, who has already read the full synopsis and first three chapters, asked to see the entire manuscript. I was, putting it mildly, over the moon. Of course I sent the requested pages as quickly as I possibly could; as soon as I could get my hands to stop shaking long enough to press the Send button. Now we play the waiting game – which could easily take a couple of months.

I must keep reminding myself that this is just the next step in the process, and it could still easily all end here (at least with those agents). Full or partial requests turn into rejections all the time, and that’s the sobering thought which holds me back from any real celebration yet. But it is in itself an achievement I can be proud of. It makes me a finalist. It says I’m on the right track and I shouldn’t give up (not that giving up ever actually occurred to me).

Exciting times are ahead no matter how these particular opportunities turn out. These small successes have given me such a boost and spurred me on to work even harder on the sequel, which to me already feels like an even stronger book.

I hope to have more good news to post soon.


  1. Robert Peett

    It doesn’t surprtise me and think that, with the quality of your writing, it is only a matter of time.

    Especially since I feel it is getting even better!

  2. Jackie Buxton

    Fingers and toes tightly crossed for you. The submission process is such a weird concoction of excitement and despair, isn’t it! Best of luck and keep us posted.

  3. Robert Peett

    And now at last getting closer…!

  4. Robert Peett

    … and closer…

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