So now that I’m submitting again, I’ve also restarted querying for my two novels. One of them is a historical fiction that takes place at the beginning of World War I, in Paris. It’s a rollicking tale about three American entertainers caught in the events of the time, revolving around the assassination of a French leader who led the effort to stop the war before it started, as he did two years before (all true, btw).
The fact that the 100th anniversary of the war begins in 2014 so far hasn’t appealed to the agents I’ve contacted regarding Curtain Calls, however. But recently it dawned on me that perhaps a European market would be better for the book.
Sometimes I think most Americans know there was a World War I only because they’ve heard there was a World War II. Europeans, however, have a different perspective, having suffered much more through what they call The Great War, and may better appreciate the appeal to that history.
I started researching British agents, and was immediately surprised—make that shocked. Those of you who have queried in the U.S. know that the average agent expects you to condense the description of your 300-page novel down to a paragraph or less. It feels like writing copy for the side of a box of kids’ cereal.
But here’s what one British agent asks from authors of fiction:
- 1 page synopsis outlining the premise and overall narrative structure
- 1 page author profile
- 1 page with a few lines on five comparable books giving author, title, publisher and date of publication together with a note on how the books compare to the author’s own book
- 1 page on marketing opportunities, including the author’s particular expertise, contacts and profile (including social media), and any specialist marketing outlets such as websites, organisations or magazines
- Brief synopses of each chapter, about half a page each
- Sample chapters, preferably the first three
Really, this is for fiction. Nonfiction guidelines are different. I triple checked.
Other UK agents I’ve found aren’t as elaborate, but still give writers ample opportunity to present their artistic vision, rather than asking them to turn it into something that would fit into a fortune cookie. Could it be that the Brits actually still value literature enough to spend time finding good stuff? I sure hope so.
In thinking about it, I also realized that these guidelines are a great way of separating legitimate authors from the thousands of wannabes out there—a good writer has a platform and a vision for the book, which usually includes where its potential lies in the market. An amateur may look at these requirements and realize he may not be ready for the big time. This agent may receive fewer queries, but of higher quality.
I was so pleased with the first agent’s approach that I thanked him for making me do the extra work (although not in those exact words).
So now it’s up the British! I’m all about this new overseas possibility. To paraphrase an old tune from WWI: I won’t stop querying ’til I’m over, over there!