Saturday, 15 August 2009

Double agents?













I don't know how wise this is putting this up here, but still, this is supposed to be a journal of mine and Aliya's experiences, as well as detailing books with vegetables in them, so...

As regular readers of the blog will know, a while back I completed a short literary novel that weighs in at around 200 pages. Scanning the shelves of any bookshop will show you that these books aren't an extinct species, but they're not exactly reproducing at a bunny-like rate, so I know this one's going to be a tough sell.

Shortly after completing this book, I was kindly introduced to an agent who was willing to take a look. Her feedback was encouraging and useful, but still resulted in a no in relation to representation.

Regular readers may also be aware that sometime ago Aliya and I finished writing a SF novel together. I asked the agent if anyone at the agency would like to take a look at this, and lo and behold, yes there was someone interested. I sent over the co-authored manuscript, along with a short sample of a new SF book I've been working on--one inspired by a story Aliya and I wrote together that didn't end up going anywhere--to this second agent and in the meantime I set about addressing the concerns with the literary novel.

A little while later this second agent got back to me with an email of two halves. It was a no on the co-written novel, but a probably on the new SF novel, if it lives up to the expectations raised by the opening. Good news.

A few weeks later I finished my revision of the literary novel, but the agency isn't interested in that anymore. They want me to concentrate on the SF. Within the next week or so I'll have the SF work in progress to the stage where they'll hopefully be able to give me a firm yes or no on whether they'll be willing to represent this new book.

I firmly believe I can juggle the demands of building up a writing career that traverses two genres, and have invested so much in my literary novel--yes, even though it's only 200 pages--and a follow up to abandon them. In all honesty, I think they're a bit special.

So I've been weighing up my options for my more literary novel. Obviously the best result would be to have a publisher take it on. If this happened I imagine my potential agent would be willing to reconsider representing me for both genres. The more likely route to publication though appears to be finding a second agent to represent the literary me. In fact this is the option suggested by the original agent, but only after I had pushed for an answer.

My issue though is, say I find this second agent, and they're interested in representing both my styles of fiction. From the little I know already, I am very keen on my potential agent. Firstly, they came with a recommendation from a pretty successful author, and so far have been rather pleasant to deal with. I know from the experiences of others this isn't a given. Secondly, I can imagine having two agents could well be more trouble than it's worth.

I know I'm getting ahead of myself a little bit here, but has anyone had any similar experiences? And if so, what decisions were made and what were the outcomes?

4 comments:

Alis said...

No relevant experience I'm afraid - like your other informants, my experience of agents hasn't been altogether positive, though I still wonder about putting a toe in the water.

But I just wanted to say THE VERY BEST OF LUCK with the solo-SF project - that sounds really promising.

Tim Stretton said...

Neil, this is a tricky one!

In principle there's no reason you can't have two agents, and if you're planning a regular output of literary fiction it looks like your first agent isn't going to be able to supply everything you need.

If you have a deal in place with the first agent - particularly if they then manage to sell the book - you're in a much stronger position to bag a second agent if that's the way you want to go.

Neil said...

Thanks, Alis. Fingers crossed. It's unusual for me: pretty big in scale.

Tim, I'll keep you posted.

David Isaak said...

I've known someone who ended up for a while in position of having an agent for one sort of book and negotiating with another agent for representation of a book in a different genre...

The upshot of the whole thing was that he ended up with a third agent representing all of his work.

The two-agent thing isn't unknown, but it strikes me as a metastable arrangement.