How to Hook an Agent: Jargon Busting

I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.

― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

I submitted to four agents earlier this week and, much to my surprise, I had the first response yesterday.  Too quick I thought… expecting… ‘thanks, but no thanks,’ letting me down with a thud response, but what I actually got was ‘I just wasn’t hooked enough.’  Letting me down lightly by suggesting I might like to try one of the other agents in the firm.  Which I will for sure, but not before I tweak the bait to make sure that it will hook a potential agent enough to take me on.

I haven’t submitted to a publisher since 1998… yes, I’ve been lying dormant since that time and I’m not sure that the phrase ‘I just wasn’t hooked enough‘ even existed in 1998. So, I confess, I’m a little out of touch.

This week was a first for me, approaching a scary agent for the first time and some of them weren’t even born in 1998.  Now, barely out of University, with their dynamic wish lists, eager to discover the next J. K. Rowling and an enduring character, such as Harry Potter… who they’ve grown up with.

As a much-older-than-I-would-like debut novelist, my bittersweet story is about the life of a forty-year-old woman born in 1959, who grew up with the non-PC tales of Noddy and Big Ears.  So, many baby-faced agents might consider that my first foray into Women’s Fiction would be better suited under the heading Historical Fiction.  Now I sound like I’m being young-ist.

It’s such a minefield out there, trying to match yourself up with the right agent, as well as the added complication that all submission instructions are different.

  • The first three pages or the first fifty pages of your MS?
  • Should the synopsis be included in the query letter or as a stand-alone document?
  • All of the above as emailed attachments or bundled into one email?

It all adds to the confusion of an ageing virgin novelist.  Did I waffle too much in my query letter?  Are the first three pages of my novel just not strong enough?  Did I get carried away and not follow the submission instructions to a T?  Only the agent knows, but for now, I am happy with ‘I just wasn’t hooked enough,’  and I’ve got plenty of time to jargon bust rejection parlance because I’ve only just started.

In the meantime and before I submit to other young, dynamic agents, I need to do some more reading, after all, the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook is not just on my desk for decoration.  That staunchly reliable, blockbusting tome that attracts readers of all ages.


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Thank you very much for visiting my niche-less blog! If you have time before you leave, would love you to tell us what you think. All the best, Tessa Barrie

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