Sunday, 5 December 2010

This week's word is: ED

Hello, dragon fans. As promised in last week’s blog, here is a picture of the author’s literary agent, fondly known as Agent Ed!! This is not a disguise. This is how he always looks. No wonder unruly publishers fear him! Ed took some time out from his busy schedule to come and speak at the author’s writing group in Leicester a couple of nights ago. I can reveal that he did take off his hat and glasses, which produced an audible gasp around the room. For Ed is really no other than… no, sorry, I’m not allowed to reveal that. He also arrived at the venue in a splendid pair of green wellingtons, which sadly he changed out of before his talk began. He seemed to think shoes would give a better impression of London literary life, though we think the wellies just added to his charisma.

So what did Ed talk about? Well, all you wannabe writers would have been glued to his every word. First up, he gave a lot of sensible advice about the publishing industry and reassured us all that the book is ‘not dead’. This may have been prompted by the sight of an elderly lady on the front row who was taking notes on an Apple iPad. More about her in a moment. The work of an agent is to be a kind of buffer between an author and their publisher. An agent will not only read and suggest changes to an author’s manuscript (hopefully to make it more saleable) but will then make sure it is seen by all the right editors. But the work doesn’t end there. Once a book is accepted for publication there is a hefty contract to be sorted out. Plus there may be overseas sales or even film rights to negotiate. An agent often handles all of that. So they are indispensable really. But getting one can be as tricky as trying to fish a coin out from the depths of the sofa with a knife blade (as I watched the author trying to do the other day – why didn’t he just ask me? A dragon’s tail is very versatile…) Here again there is no mystery. Many children (and adults) write in asking us how to get a book into print. And we always say, “Write the best story you possibly can and send it to a publisher – if they like it, they will buy it.” In truth, a prospective author would probably be best to seek out an agent first i.e. send your story to them. If an agent likes your work, your chances of publication are far, far greater. And here is our favourite piece of advice from Agent Ed: when you’ve sent in your story, don’t sit around waiting for the agent to respond, get on and write something new. I had to do this many times with the author at the start of his career. He all but erected a tent beside the letterbox at home while he anxiously awaited news of his early story submissions. Don’t. Go back to the computer (or in my case the notepad) and WRITE.

Finally, at the end of Agent Ed’s talk, there was the inevitable debate about how much of the market eBooks were going to gobble up. Enter the lady with the iPad – the oldest person in the room with the youngest piece of technology. She was quick to tell Ed how much she liked reading books on her pad. “Ah, but have you tried it in direct sunlight?” Ed said, thinking he might have highlighted a disadvantage of the electronic format. “No,” said the lady, “but I can read it in the dark!” A fair point.

Happy reading (in whatever format you prefer) – and don’t forget, there may only be nineteen shopping days to go before Christmas, but more importantly there are now only THIRTY-THREE days until FIRE WORLD makes its UK appearance. Hrrr!

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