I braced myself to get a hundred rejections. I didn't really but that's what I told myself I was doing. I'd read a blog about it. I wanted to ward off presumption.
I'd whittled the list of lucky agents down to six.
They were as follows:
1) After much deliberation: the honcho. He had seen something in me. He had not rejected me, his nominated agent had. I'd submitted way too early. There had been a kerfuffle. It was worth one last try.
2) A woman who had struck something in me, less about her (rather jolly and commercial) client list. It had been about her list of books she loved most. We shared one: THE MAGUS. I wanted my book to be similarly compelling. She also happened to be Agent of the Year, but that meant nothing to me. I felt in my heart it probably wouldn't work, but it was an adventure out of my comfort zone. I could be commercial.
The Agent of the Year did this curious thing of wanting to be told if another agent asked for more of your manuscript, after reading the short sample you sent with your submission. This was new – and in fact many things had moved on since I'd last tried to hawk pages round town. Before, agents asked you to tell them if another agent had actually made an offer. Now this Agent of the Year was going one stage further into the data. Cheeky.
But I had an ace up my sleeve:
3) A kind agent with a small but distinguished client list who'd liked something I'd written years before, and told me she'd be my agent. That book fell through but she'd read bits of my stuff over the years and been nice. If I now approached her with my cover letter, blurb, synopsis and thirty pages, the standard submission package, she'd no doubt want to see more, being such a fan of my work.
Then I could write back to Agent of the Year and tell her someone wanted to see more, which, strictly speaking, would be true. Then she'd get interested in my package.
I sent my stuff to my fan. She replied very promptly: she was away but would look at it when she could, which might not be a while. But quite soon after that she wrote back and it wasn't good news. My book had held her mildly compelled, until she'd encountered an obstacle:
"Churning female degradation isn't really my thing,"
she wrote, which made me laugh and lurch. She was referring to a particular sequence in my book –oh god, had I made it torrid? I hoped not. I didn't think so. It was quite visceral, but that's OK. It wasn't sexual, really. It wasn't that bad.
Curse of the fuddy duddies.
She had other objections, didn't like what I'd written, suggested I go elsewhere, had been very patient over the years. I moved on, my leverage plan for the Agent of the Year in tatters.
Churning female degradation. I laughed about it with my pals.
My first real proper rejection from an agent for my finished book.
She was a rather small-scale agent, did she even count as a real one? I looked her up to make sure.
Next: Part 5: Tear-Jerking Love Stories
Previous: Part 3: Vain Fusspots
Read my rejection odyssey from the start here.