Saturday, 12 November 2011

Location, Location, Location

As I enter the seventh month of my gruelling and action-packed Death-Defying Mountain Climb to Publication, I find I have hit an interesting question. This one applies to a lot of people out there. Maybe even you:

Does your nationality matter when querying literary agents around the world? (Should you stick to your own nationality or should you try agencies in other countries?)

Case in point: I have come across one agent a couple months ago who rejected my initial submission (something like the first couple chapters) because the story is set in Indiana, and she's a literary agent based in England (ironically, she is American but lives in the UK like me). She said I'd be best sending to an American agency as my story is better fit for an American market.

Part of the reason I came to live in England (five years ago), is that I thought this would be an easier task to get interest from English literary agencies.  I thought, it being England, there would be way less competition, and perhaps more personal attention from agents, rather than ones based in the hustle and bustle of New York or Chicago or Los Angeles. (Why was I so naive? She thinks to herself, frowning.)

And yet this may still be the case. I've had four agencies ask for more: Two in the UK and two in the US. Now I am down to two who are still interested: one in the London and one in the Boston, Massachusetts. (And before you think I am at the end of my rope, I still have twenty-three agencies pending, most of which are in New York and take email submissions.)

But I can't help but get something from this blog post by Miss Snark, Literary Agent. This one introduces sort of the opposite of what I'm doing, and yet not quite opposite. She's asking why an American, living in America, would query a Canadian or UK literary agency with his or her story. She's never heard of an American author being represented solely by a UK or Canadian agent. However, later in the blog comments, there is I believe an Australian author who sold his book to a UK agent, simply because the Australian literary agency market is not very big. Also I've read that Canadian literary agencies tend to go for only literary stories, and if you have a good strong romance, thriller, horror, vampire bloodfest, or something of that ilk, you're best going for the glitsy, hard-to-get-into American literary agencies, even if you live in Canada. There are good and bad points, however the biggest to me - at this point - is simply postage.

So many agencies still take hardcopy submissions only, which is not only not tree-friendly, but costs a hell of a lot in postage that I for one (being my usual frugal self) don't want to pay, when there is such a thing as email.

(And then we open a whole other can of worms about the way the publishing industry is headed, whether Kindle readers or Nooks or Ipads are the way forward as far as reading a "published" book, and the way electronics kind of devalue the written word....but that's another blog post.)

This forum is also helpful: Absolute Write Water Cooler. Here is someone else who posted the question and got some tasty food for thought.

And then there is this one, on an excellent website called Writer Beware. Author Victoria Strauss asks the question in relation to Peter Buckman, who, as top agent of the Ampersand Agency in London, puts a caveat on his website that he strictly does not accept submissions from American writers, as usually they need American publication first before they will attract interest from a British publisher. (I sent my submission to them anyway. There's always an awkward one.)

Penny pinching aside, it's probably good of me to keep sending out those intermittent postal submissions. I mean, if a dream really is that strong, then I guess I can afford to spend £1 (to London) or £5 (to the US), along with the £1 International Reply Coupon that I have to put in as well, and the return postage.

Because I'm in England, I thought it would make more sense as far as logistics to submit to only (or mainly) UK agencies. Long-distance phone calls, postage, and travel costs would be pretty much no problem because I am only a matter of a couple hours' train ride from London, so visiting with a London-based agent (I get hopelessly giddy just thinking about it) would seem like the way to go. Flying across to New York would be time-consuming, expensive, and well, not as easy.

But I guess I shouldn't complain too much. Getting an agent is my goal at the moment, and probably I should spare no expense. And no matter where he or she is, I'm sure eventually someone, some agent out there, will see the novel for what it is, and fall in love with it, and want me to board a train or board a plane to visit them.

I still believe that good writing sells itself, no matter where you are.

Happy Saturday everybody!

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