Monday, December 21, 2009

Back to square one

After a five month wait I received news today that an agent has decided not to represent my novel ‘Saving Siobhan.’ Like the The Rule Book, this is a novel that won’t fall over the second hurdle. Of the ten or so agents I've sent this to, about half have asked to see the whole manuscript. After a few months delay they then then tell me that crime fiction is an incredibly tough market and they’re not quite sure it’s for them. For example, from this morning’s email: ‘I like many things about this novel: the quick pace, the natural dialogue, the humour. However, today's crime fiction market is incredibly tough …’ The trouble with Saving Siobhan, according to the agents, is it’s either too niche to gain enough sales or too mainstream that it’ll disappear in the pack! I was hoping for somewhere in the middle – mainstream but enough of a twist to make it distinctive.

The thing that I think I find most frustrating in these cases is not that the piece has been rejected, but that the process wasted so much time. At least a fall at the first hurdle only takes a couple of weeks, six at the most. It typically takes four to six months for a second hurdle decision, during which time it’s not possible to send the script to another agent. I wasted a couple of years doing this with The Rule Book. I was going to spend part of the Christmas break writing fiction, but this has taken the wind out of my sails. Oh well, time to hunt out the Writer’s Handbook and see who to hassle next.

10 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Rob - Thanks for sharing your experience, although I know it's frustrating. I empathize completely. I've yet to find an agent with any interest at all in my crime fiction, either, and it is extremely disheartening, to say the least. I truly wish you well as you continue your search for an agent wise and lucky enough to represent you.

Dorte H said...

It is true that the market is tough, especially right now, and I also wish you good luck and hope you will find a publisher in 2010!

If Saving Siobhan is of the same quality as The Rule Book, it certainly deserves to be published.

Rob Kitchin said...

Thanks for the support, Margot and Dorte. Of those that have read both The Rule Book and Saving Siobhan, most agree that Saving is the better book. It's certainly a different kind of book - it's a comic crime caper. I've been told one of the problems is that it's too 'American' for an Irish or British audience (as if that's a problem for American authors!). The kinds of authors who inspired it - Janet Evanovich, Carl Hiassen, Joe Lansdale, Tim Dorsey, Katy Munger, Lawrence Shames (as well as the Irish, Colin Batemen and Scottish, Christopher Brookmyre) - seem to do okay in that market. Perhaps I need to try for an American agent?

Donna said...

Aw, damn. It sounds right up my alley too. I wish you much success in 2010 with it.

Bernadette in Australia said...

There have been several similar stories this year and it makes me sad as a reader to hear them - and also grateful that anybody at all goes to the effort of putting themselves through such a horrid process just so people like me can be entertained. I wonder why you don't all take to the bottle.

I have no contacts or secrets that could help you but I can send positive thoughts across the seas and wish you more luck with it next year.

pattinase (abbott) said...

So sad to hear this. Is this the end of a literate society? I fear so.

Rob Kitchin said...

After my initial frustration I'm back to being sanguine about this. There are thousands of people submitting to stuff to agents, 99% of whom don't get past the first hurdle. At least I'm getting as far as the second hurdle before falling, which shows there was at least enough promise to tempt them to read the whole thing. And on the academic side of things I'm now at the privileged stage where I can pretty much get most of my book ideas commissioned. I would desperately like to see Saving Siobhan published with a mainstream publisher, but if someone like Declan Burke suffers the same fate as me then I'm in good company. Hopefully my time will come at some point. In many ways 2009 has been a stellar year for me, so I can't complain too much.

critical mick said...

Hey Rob, I admire and recommend TRB and can't wait to see Saving Siobhan. Keep kicking away and with luck 2010 will bring more of your excellent fiction to a wider audience.

Thanks and best regards from king lurker,

Mick Halpin
(PS Oh, Happy Christmas as well!!!)

Barbara said...

Sorry to hear about this. But are you sure you can't query multiple agents at once? You certainly can in the US. Let them fight over you....

Rob Kitchin said...

Hi Mick, thanks for the encouraging words and recommendations. Happy xmas to you as well!

Barbara - in my experience, agents in the UK and Ireland will only look at your full script if they are the only ones in possession of it. They explicitly ask you to state that. I try and play by the rules, but it can be damn frustrating sometimes. A fight would be great, but I'll settle for a bite.