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June 03, 2004

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Comments

Jenny

That is an excellent post! I totally endorse what Sarah's written, with one addition. I found getting an agent the hardest thing I ever tried to do (writing a dissertation and getting a good academic job were a breeze in comparison, so you see I know what I'm talking about here...), and finally ended up publishing my first novel with an independent press that accepted non-agented submissions. And where a good friend of mine worked... If I'd known this was possible, I'd have tried that route sooner. My second novel is much, much more marketable than my first; with a query letter and 2 chapters, plus the first book & positive NYT review, I was able to get my dream agent. So the other advice is be persistent and think long-term.

Kevin Wignall

Agreed, Sarah. It is very much a perception rather than the reality. Yes, contacts help, but I know from first-hand experience that many agents are out there looking for new writers. And I secured Jonny Geller, probably the most sought-after agent in the UK, simply by approaching him. One extra thing I tell writers - always be prepared to accept that your book might not be good enough. A lot of writers like to believe they're the great undiscovered novelist of the century, but the best writers are those who doubt themselves and constantly strive to improve.

karin

And there's the instances in which you know no one in the pub biz and still get published. If it happened to me, it can happen to anyone.

Ray

Fantastic post, Sarah, and absolutely spot on. Speaking as an up-until-recently unpublished writer, I can honestly say that what you've posted is exactly how I became published. All the contacts in the world can't help you get your book out there, of course, but the right contacts can help turn you into a real writer. First and foremost, I would say cultivate those people who'll tell you if your work needs to be burned and then give good reasons why.

Kevin's comment is a great reminder too. The best writers I've met or talked to are those who know for a fact that they're still learning their craft. The ones who need to make the next book better to satisfy themselves. Those that don't end up being quite dull and arrogant. Thankfully, I ain't met them yet, but having read a lot of bad books, I know who they are...

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