I just spent a wonderful weekend at the Winchester Writers’ Festival. I had one-to-one meetings with over 40 unpublished writers and I offered representation to two of those. It was a very successful festival for me.
I also participated in a Q&A panel, along with another agent and a publisher, and we answered questions from an audience of writers looking for representation/publication. On top of that I held my own talk, along with Broo Doherty, an agent at the D H H Literary agency. Having participated in these kind of events for many years, questions are always very similar and rarely do we get asked anything that we haven’t been asked before. You also always get one or two frustrated writers, who want to let you know how upset they are with agents, that they feel angry that they are being prevented from publication, calling agents ‘gatekeepers’.
When I have read a manuscript I love I want to represent it and I want to get it on the road publication, finding the right editor / publisher for it. It is really that simple. (Well, there is a little bit more involved than that but that isn’t the point of this blog.) I am a businessman, an entrepreneur, with a passion for books. My world revolves around the publishing industry and I am delighted to be part of it. I work incredibly hard and I read thousands of manuscripts every year. I don’t see myself as gatekeeper preventing anyone from being published, I view myself as doing the opposite. That imagined gate, that some people feel bars their way from publication, is, in fact, an unnecessary barrier that doesn’t exist. If you can avoid putting up a ‘gate’ then the odds of securing an agent will be raised.
We need you – without authors I wouldn’t have my agency or my bookshop or my own personal collection of books which have influenced me – but we also need you to take care and avoid putting up those locked ‘gates’ from barring your way.
When you are ready to approach an agent try the following:
* Make sure you have read the guidelines and know what I wish to represent.
* Make sure your manuscript is complete and as good as the first three chapters that you have submitted.
* Send me only the first three chapters and a synopsis with your professional letter.
You really shouldn’t be approaching an agent unless you have completed several drafts of your manuscript. Ideally, you will have left it for a while, for weeks or months, so as to have distanced yourself from it. Do not submit your work until you are happy it is the very best it could be. Please take the whole process seriously and with a professional manner and you will achieve so much more.
Remember, I am sitting here waiting for something wonderful to drop into my inbox. I want to say ‘yes’
Good luck with your submission.
Follow David on twitter @DavidHHeadley
See here to view what David is currently looking for