Saturday, 31 March 2012

Approach Letter to Agent

After my last post, some people have expressed an interest reading the letter that I originally sent to my agent, so I've decided to post it here (slightly edited, of course!).

Please note that the novel I first approached him with is not the one we recently sold! The brief outline given in the letter is for a geopolitical action thriller, which we eventually felt was not a genre that is terribly popular at present (but it's there on the the shelf waiting to be sold when such thrillers make their inevitable comeback!).

The novel that is coming out in November is a different story entirely. It is still an action thriller, but is a bit more 'high-concept' - the press release is out next week, so more will be revealed then!

In the meantime, however, here is my original approach letter:

Dear Mr Bonomi,

I am writing to you in the hope that you will choose to represent me. Your name was given to me by ******** *******, who advised me that you have an expertise in the particular genre within which I write.

***** *** ****  is a geopolitical action thriller that mixes the scale of Tom Clancy with the realism of Andy McNab. The story centres on the threat of nuclear conflict between the United States and a newly created military alliance of ****** and ******, and the role played by **** ****, a deniable operative for the British government.

I am currently self-employed as a karate and reality-based self-defence instructor, and also write academic essays for various companies. I have had a number of film reviews published in national magazines, and have started to write articles for the website ***** ***.

My contact email address is **************.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours Sincerely,

J T Brannan

As you can see, it is business-like and professional. All an agent generally wants is a feel for what the book is about, and a bit of information about yourself - as per the recommendations in the link in my last post. 

So when writing an approach letter, keep it professional - remember that you are wanting to enter into a long-term business relationship!

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Finding an Agent

I know there is a great deal of debate as to whether aspiring writers should try and get an agent, or try and go it alone. There are good arguments on both sides, but I personally feel that having an agent is absolutely invaluable - not only do they know their way around the publishing industry much better than do writers (this is their job, after all!), but if you are fortunate enough to get a publishing deal, they will ensure you get the best one possible.

And the fact remains that many 'bricks and mortar' publishers won't accept submissions unless through an agent.

It is true that they will take 15% of your earnings, but it is also true that they will be much more likely to sell your book, and (if you decide to go it alone) remember that retaining 100% of nothing will still leave you with nothing!

It is, conversely, not true that you need a finished manuscript before you seek representation. When I sent my initial submission, I had only written about a third of it. If they like what they see, they will be happy to wait for the rest.

So how did I go about it? A family friend recommended an agent that was very successful in dealing with novels in the action/adventure genre, and I did some further research myself.

This point is crucial, actually - only approach agents who represent the kind of work you write! If you write historical romances, there is literally no point whatsoever approaching an agent whose success has been with techno-thrillers.

So research is key! Check out the Writers and Artists Yearbook, find out which agents might be suitable, and then double check their websites and lists of authors to make sure that they do in fact represent the kind of books you want to write.

Luigi Bonomi was the agent I approached (I only approached one at first, although there are again conflicting views over single or multiple submissions), as my research had shown that he was in fact one of the best around in my particular genre (and was Literary Agent of the Year in 2010!).

I wrote a simple, business-like letter, a synopsis of the entire novel, and the first thirty pages or so.

Please see here for Luigi's advice on making a submission - invaluable stuff!

I followed the guidelines in this article (research is important!), and fortunately he liked what he saw, and he then asked to see the rest of the manuscript. It was at this stage that I said it had yet to be finished, but he was happy to see what I had done so far.

Again, I was fortunate enough that he liked the rest, and was therefore willing to wait for me to finish the whole thing. We set a date for the completion of the first draft, and I set to work!

It is amazing what a little incentive can do - it had taken me about ten years to write the first two hundred pages, but when I knew an agent was interested, I suddenly (magically!) found the time to finish the rest in about two months!

When he read the complete first draft, he invited me to his offices in London for a chat, at the end of which he offered to represent me - a very exciting moment indeed!

I realise I am extremely fortunate to have secured representation from the only agent I approached, and that this is not a regular occurrance, but I believe that - if the work is good enough - researching the right agents to approach, and then following their submission guidelines to the letter - is half the battle.

After the contract was signed, we then set about editing and revising the manuscript, before trying to sell it - a process that was a lot more problematic, and which I shall describe in my next post!

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Upcoming Press Release

Just had a request from my editor for a photograph for a press release which should be coming out next week - very exciting!

He also wanted suggestions for 'shout-lines', which are the very short, snappy phrases used on a book's front cover to try and encourage people's initial interest. Writing these, as it turns out, is much harder than it sounds!

I will share the press release as soon as I have it!

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Selling my first book!

Hi all,

I had the absolutely fantastic news this week that my agent Luigi Bonomi ( has managed to sell my first novel (an action thriller with a sci-fi twist) to Headline Publishing!

Because I found writers' blogs so useful (in terms of what to expect when approaching agents, how books are sold, etc) when I was going through the process, I thought it might be nice for me to throw in my own 'two penneth' and contribute something about my own experience.

I'm still awaiting the contract to be sent through, so I won't go into too much detail yet, but my aim will be to lay out the exact process I went through, from the creation of the intial ideas, through to getting an agent, until ultimately securing a book deal.

I know how tough the market is, and how many aspiring authors there are out there struggling to break through, and hope that this 'insider's' blog may help in some small (probably very small!) way.

Comments are welcome, and I hope to update the blog regularly.

And of course - look out for my book when it's released later this year (more details to follow!!)!