Newly Agented Author – Think of it as like a racing stable

I don’t want this blog to turn into a look at my writing journey thing because honestly I’ve been writing Being Koy for more years than I care to remember and it has always had loads of variety; recipes mixed in with a little advice on living and working abroad, scuba diving and travelling, and a lot of pretty pictures of Turkey and Pembrokeshire. I’m happy to leave it like that, it works, and it suits my grasshopper mind. But there will inevitably be a few posts about writing and this is one of them.

I have made myself a few rules though; I’m only going to blog something about writing if I genuinely think I have something interesting to say. If it’s a topic that has been done to death or you can easily find the same thing elsewhere I won’t bore on about it. The internet is crowded enough!

I have writer friends who spend a lot of time and energy and often money in trying to acquire a literary agent and when they finally get one, glassy eyed and exhausted from the strain of it all, they struggle to adapt to the change in their situation.

Either they think the worst is over, success is mere moments away and a deal is now within their repetitive strain injured grasp. Or, if they don’t think that, their families and friends will. Newly agented authors often struggle to point out that their excessive celebrations on getting signed up are not a carved in stone announcement (look how badly those work out!) of imminent riches/book deal/film rights sold to Working Title Productions and Blake Lively playing the lead – not sure who she is but daughter is assuming it’s a done deal. Rather they are just a gasp of relief that they are on their way.

If it helps try to think of it like this, being signed up by a literary agency is like being part of a racing stable.

Imagine a yard of loose boxes with a host of bright eyed, prick eared, glossy heads peering out over their stable doors. There are the stars of the yard, the big winners and the long time runners who have shown their form. There are game young fillies groomed from birth tossing their heads eagerly and there are the solid racers with a lot of mileage under the girth. Hell there may even be a grand dam with 70 winners to her credit.

Down at the far end, is me, the newest horse in the yard, just in off the field, mane full of burrs, rough coated, slightly porky and not yet race fit, but I’ve got good conformation under all the mud. I’ve got the springy hocks, the strong back and the bold eye of a jumper; I could go far, with the right training and if I work hard on the gallops.

Why do I make this analogy? Mainly because getting an agent is the start, you go from being alone (in your field) to being part of a team who are there to work you hard and enter you in the right races at the right time to bring you on.

The vast majority of new authors want an agent, and getting one is hard and getting one is joyous, but it is just the start of a process that, like horse racing, may never pay off no matter how perfect your potential. That’s the chance race horse owners and literary agents take, it’s an educated gamble that they stake their income on.

The new horse on any yard is often unsettled, endlessly pacing its box, squealing over the door for attention, glaring balefully at stable mates as they go off for adventures and come home wreathed in laurels and smelling slightly of champagne. Which leads me to my second point, you have to learn why the yard operates the way it does and why your trainer (agent) isn’t stuffing you full of carrots, filling in the entry form for the grand national and telling you how brilliant you are a hundred times a day (although to be fair my lovely agent at DHH Literary Agency does tell me things like that because she is so nice!).

Whilst you are out on the gallops getting fit and in the yard being fussed over and polished there are also all your stable mates to be considered. Your agent, like a horse trainer, doesn’t just look after you, they look after a whole yard and the successes in the yard allow them the time to work on you and your career.

If you’re getting upset at this analogy don’t because good authors in good agencies let the agent do their job, they trust the agent, the agent tells them when they are ready to go on submission because again, like with racing, if you enter an unready horse in an inappropriate race you will not only lose but you may ruin the career of a possible champion.

(I’m flogging this analogy like a desperate jockey at the elbow in Aintree!)

This is how it is in the business of books, all the graft is hidden away in the day in, day out hard work of getting a new writer to the point of maybe, possibly being a traditionally published author. The consoling thought – the agent pushing you hard now, they have done this before, they have had winners, and they can make you a winner too.

Now I had better head out to the gallops, my fitness isn’t that great, I get winded after a few furlongs but there is a huge beach hedge at the bottom of the garden that I am going to try and jump.