Sunny and beautiful at Swanwick Writers’ School near Derby. Having given an after-dinner talk last year, I feel privileged to be asked back to give a couple of sessions and do a day of 1:1s with writers.
Agents always get asked to talk about How to Get an Agent. It’s quite exciting when you’re asked to do this early in your career, but since the principles don’t change much, it gets a bit daunting after a few years: you don’t want to repeat yourself, you don’t want to repeat other people, and you don’t want to bore yourself to sleep mid-sentence.
But it makes a good framework for smuggling in other tips from the front line. The writers at Swanwick have a very professional attitude, and welcome the raw, dirty facts. They indulged my story about a writer who, very late with a historical novel, sent me a book narrated by a dog – that had dog sex in chapter 3 – and how sorting out this kind of problem illustrates the importance of an agent’s good relationships with publishers. They’ve asked some very interesting questions about what to do if your agent insists on doing everything on a handshake and won’t issue the (now normal) letter of representation. They’ve asked about the balance between asking reasonably for information, and harassing an agent. How long does an agent take to read something? Does an agent consider themselves to represent a book or an author?- in other words, if they don’t sell the first book, will they sack the writer or carry on with the next?
Last night’s speaker was my excellent client Stephen Leo Davis, whose talk was on the changes in TV while he’s been writing for the medium, which everyone loved until they realized he had even more interesting things to say about his experiences as a writer in Ireland and the States. Tonight it’s the publisher Alan Samson, who will probably be his usual mix of being urbane and irreverant. Latin and Ballroom dancing follows, and then buskers’ night. I’m really hoping this won’t be inspiration for an unwise late night blog…