I’ve been so busy preparing for Wednesday’s reading that I haven’t had time to blog about other events that may have more eventual significance.
I went to the Winchester Writers’ Conference last Friday and had three appointments — two with agents and one with a publisher.
The agents had both read work that I’d supplied in advance and gave me useful feedback. I sent the first fifteen pages of The Angel (about 5,000-6,000 words) to someone from one of the biggest literary agencies in London (A.P. Watt). She was very complimentary about what she read — said she’d ‘really enjoyed it. She praised the evocation in the sense of place as she lives in the Hackney/Shoreditch area herself. She gave some constructive comments about perhaps changing the opening around a bit — which were quite intuitive in a way as what she suggested was the original way I’d opened the novel before changing it to reflect what I read at our showcase on Wednesday. It was a bit too late for me to change the reading. The two points of view worked well for her and also the genre — which she described as on ‘the border between literary and commercial fiction’ which is a good place to be apparently. I asked if this was the type of novel that she would represent and she said that it was. I seem to remember her complementing me by saying I ‘could write’.
I also pitched the novel completely cold to an editor from a huge publisher (I happened to get a spare slot in her schedule on the day). I had to show her my blurb and my reading for the City reading as that was all I had available. But she was also very encouraging — saying it was ‘funny’ and something that people would definitely want to read. In the end she took away all the improvised material I showed her and it’s now at the publishers.
The other agent I saw only asked for the first ten pages and he had a different take on the novel which, I suspect, might have been influenced by not seeing the missing five pages that the other agent had read. While she thought it would appeal very widely as it was, at heart, a love story I think that’s because the extra part had a lot of Kim and her interior. The first agent complemented the quality of the writing but wasn’t sure where it would be positioned in the market — although one of the other delegates later told me that this agent wasn’t a fiction specialist — but perhaps that was because he hadn’t seen enough of the book? Certainly, the majority opinion out of the three was that it was very marketable.
After these sort of events, it’s probably natural to wonder if the agents really meant what they said or were they just being polite but it’s not really in their interest to say something’s good if they don’t like it — it just means wasted time for them in the office. So I think that’s pretty encouraging — everything was read and submitted as it would be for a proper agent submission when a novel’s finally ready and they were quite lengthy samples of the book so weren’t taken out of context.