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How I Got My Agent: Benedict Jacka

Categories: Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents Blog, How I Got My Agent Columns, Urban Fantasy Agents, What's New.

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Benedict Jacka, author of CURSED: AN ALEX VERUS NOVEL. These columns are great ways for you to learn how to find a literary agent. Some tales are of long roads and many setbacks, while others are of good luck and quick signings. If you have a literary agent and would be interested in writing a short guest column for this GLA blog, e-mail me at literaryagent@fwmedia.com and we’ll talk specifics.

GIVEAWAY: Benedict is excited to give away a free novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: acoywriter won.)

 

       

Benedict Jacka became a writer almost by accident, when at 19
he sat in his school library and started a story in the back of an
exercise book. Since then he’s studied philosophy at Cambridge,
lived in China, and worked as everything from civil servant to
bouncer to teacher before returning to London to take up law.
See his website here. Benedict’s latest novel is CURSED
(Ace, May 2012), an urban fantasy.

 

 

REAL LIFE ISN’T AS NEAT AS STORIES…

I started writing novels in my last year of secondary school. My first novel was a children’s fantasy, set half in our world and half another. I finished it in my Gap Year, bought a copy of the Writer’s Handbook, and started sending out submissions. Agencies #1 through #3 said no, but Agency #4 was interested. I went in to see them, met a very nice agent lady, and plans were made for an editor to take a look at the book with an eye towards making it publishable. I’d gotten an agent . . .

. . . except that as things turned out, I hadn’t. Real life isn’t as neat as stories – it’s slower and it’s messier. The report from the editor took a long, long time to get back. In fact it took so long that by the time I got it, I’d started and finished a second book.

The editorial report was on the ambivalent side. It wasn’t quite sure whether my first book could be published or not, but it was leaning towards “not.” I sent them my second book to see if they were more interested in that one, but it was quite different from the first and after another long wait they decided they didn’t want that either. In fact, they decided they didn’t want me after all.

(Book Payments and Royalties — Your Questions Answered.)

BACK TO THE SUBMISSION PROCESS

At this point I made one of those minor, didn’t-seem-important-at-the-time decisions that end up having a major effect on your life. I was a bit annoyed at the agency for stringing me along for so long, but the agent I’d dealt with had always been nice to me and so I got in touch with her to thank her for at least giving me a try. She told me she was sorry things hadn’t worked out, and gave me the names of eight agents who she thought might be interested in my second book.

I started making submission packs – one cover letter, one chapter from my second book, and one SAE – and sent out eight of them, one to each of the names. Six returned rejections, while numbers seven and eight didn’t reply. By this point I figured I might as well speed things up, so I trawled the Writer’s Handbook for every single agency that didn’t explicitly say they didn’t take children’s fantasy novels and that I hadn’t written to already. I came up with a list of 41 agencies, and sent a submission pack to each and every one of them. Then I sat back and waited for replies, working on my third book in the meantime.

The replies started to come in. About 20 gave some variation on “Thank you for submitting your manuscript; we regret that it does not suit our present needs.” Eight told me that they were sorry but their agency no longer accepted unsolicited applications. Seven didn’t reply at all. Four told me that they had as many clients as they needed and were full, one said that their agency had ceased trading, and the last one was returned with a note on the envelope saying “Not known at this address, please try elsewhere.”

(Agents get specific and explain what kind of stories they’re looking for.)

AND WHEN ALL CHANCES WERE ALMOST GONE

However, just as I was contemplating taking another book, going back to the beginning of the agent listings, and starting all over again, I got a letter from the seventh name I’d written to all that time ago, from the list the first agent had given me. Her name was Sophie Hicks of Ed Victor Ltd, and she told me that she was interested and would like me to send her the first five chapters of my book so that she could make up her mind. I did. After a while I got another message asking if I could send her the whole book. I did. After another wait I finally sent her an email . . . and the reply was “yes.”

That was 10 years ago, and I’ve been with Sophie and Ed Victor ever since. My first book to be published wasn’t the one that convinced Sophie to take me on, nor was it the one I wrote after that. In fact, it was in a whole different genre . . . but that’s another story!

GIVEAWAY: Benedict is excited to give away a free novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: acoywriter won.)


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9 Responses to How I Got My Agent: Benedict Jacka

  1. DanielAdams says:

    Thanks for the story of perseverance. It can be a rough road finding an agent — I’m still fighting that epic battle — so I appreciate you sharing your experience.

  2. acoywriter says:

    Second story I’ve heard where an agent given up on, contacts after an extended time. You never know.

  3. krislovesyou13 says:

    Thank you for this article! It was extremely entertaining to read. I can’t wait to read your book. You write exquisitely. This encourages me to keep trying to get published. I have a novel and a poetry book and a series stemming from the first novel in the making. Ah, the uncertainty of authoring. Mais c’est la vie.

  4. mickcirceo says:

    Good stuff. Current waiting on a report from a request for full MS. Is waiting not the worst?

  5. denysecohen says:

    Writer’s should not be discouraged by rejection letters, there are many venues out there to get their work seen, including self-publishing. Amanda Hocking is a great example of someone who decided to take charge and publish on her own; then, agents came after her.

  6. Eli_13 says:

    Most important aspect to me from your article is determination. You definitely need determination to be in the business!

  7. Tammy Denton says:

    Wow! Even this article has a voice. If your novel has the same kind of flow I can’t wait to read it. My hope has been renewed. I’ve been waiting (seemingly forever) for a reply from an agent who read the 1st five chapters then requested the full ms. I figured it went to the slush pile with a changing of the interns. Maybe not. I can still nurture that tiny bit of hope.

  8. Michael G-G says:

    Submission packets with sae. How things have changed in the last ten years! I enjoyed this walk back in time.

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