Saturday 15th April 2017
Two Years ago, Eastercon was held in London. I remember chatting to Cameron and Rob about their novels. Gollancz had an open submissions window and so I lambasted the pair of them for not submitting. They in turn, took issue with me and the manuscript with Black As Knight that I’d been sitting on. So to appease them I submitted my manuscript to a number of agents: new UK agents, agents for authors I felt I was on a similar career path to, the best UK agents and the best worldwide agents.
And so it was I ended up with an awesome agent.
Fast forward to Fantasycon last year and Cameron mentions that following a number of personalised rejections that he’s just submitted his manuscript to Amanda Rutter, a friend who dates back 7 or so years back to when she was a book blogger. So I speak to Amanda about him in passing and it ends up with the pair of them meeting and getting on. Amanda then reads his manuscript, loves it, and signs him up.
So this weekend has been the first where both Cameron and I are agented authors. And of course, we want Rob to do well. Given the level of banter this Eastercon it’s not as fun if one of your friends isn’t partying. He too has submitted to Amanda. I’ve also got a friend from Cake Club that I think would be an ideal match for Amanda.
It’s very strange recommending writer friends to friends who are agents. Art is subjective and so I find that instead of talking about the quality of the work I talk about the quality of the person. Being easy to work with is very important to the agent / writer relationship and whilst it will never trump the quality of the work, it certainly goes a long way to equal it.
I have the interests of my friends, both as agents and as writers in consideration. I want my friends to have a brilliant agent, I also want my agent friends to find some excellent clients.
So I don’t recommend friends lightly. Many people make the mistake of saying “I bet that agent is pissed off now” when something they passed on is now a big hit, but the thing these people forget is that unless the agent knew how to sell that novel, that hit would likely never have happened. So it’s always about matching both agent and author, so that the agent knows how to champion a book to publication.
There was a lot of industry chatter today, and it made me realise just how real all this shit is getting.
Rob got to have a chat with Amanda, and even if the novel is something she passes on, Rob has progressed his career to the stage where agents are taking notice of him. Rob’s got the right attitude (something that so many people seem to be missing). Even if he gets rejected then he’ll just knuckle down and work on the next thing. As I said to Cameron, this is the stage where some authors take their foot off the metal, but the ones that really succeed use this time as the moment to punch it to the floor.
I got to witness Amanda pitching Cam’s book to a publisher. Of course, I’d expected this given she is his agent, but what really surprised me was just how genuinely passionate she was about his book. I guess I’d expected professional passion, but this was something more, like a friend talking about a treasured book.
Steve was around as well today and we’ve all been talking about his plans for his next three books and beyond. All very interesting and very enlightening.
Cameron is roughly at the same stage as me and so we are likely to go on submission at the same time. I like it that there’s someone I know going through the same experience as me, and I hope Rob isn’t too far behind.
Steve and I popped to Subway to get lunch. There’s a gaming convention going on at the NEC and as a result food queues are horrendous. It was interesting to see a number of vloggers in the queue. I should have asked for their channels.
I’ve struggled with vlogging at this convention and if I come away with any disappointment it’s that. It’s one thing to record yourself talking but recording your conversations with others, no matter how much you edit in post-production, just feels a bit wrong. I wouldn’t know how you even begin to approach that conversation.
Seeing the number of vloggers was an validation that it’s something I need to be doing. Sometimes, it’s easy to come up with an idea that puts you outside your comfort zone but it’s another thing entirely trying to put it into practise. I’ve come to the conclusion that the problem I have is that I’m not sure how I should vlog. I have The Climb and as people understand, the real traction for it will come after I get a deal. I don’t want a vlog to just be a video edition of that. It needs to have a cadence of its own… and that’s what I’m struggling with.
Steve and I chatted a little about this and my social media strategy sat eating our subway. Steve’s got a few side projects that he’s working on that are in an entirely different direction to mine and it was interesting to hear them. This weekend has actually been quite nice for that. I’ve been able to explain my strategies to other people and have them completely understand it. We’re all trying to get the same result: attention for our books, and I’ve not found a person who’s listened to my strategy this weekend and dismissed it. Likewise, where Steve is taking an entirely different direction to me, I found it really interesting hearing his plans.
I posted a picture to Facebook today that was of Steven and myself from 6 years ago when Eastercon was last held here. Amanda took it and it’s amazing to see just how far the three of us have come in those years. Steve was still smarting after his thriller rejection, I’d not yet sold The Four Realms, and Amanda was still book blogging.
I think to two years ago when Cam, Rob and I didn’t have agents and were busy encouraging each other to submit.
And I think about where we will all be in two years from now.
Make no mistake: this industry is tough. But controversially I’m almost certain that most authors don’t work as hard as they should. They take their foot off the pedal instead of stomping it to the ground. Admittedly, I don’t have the benefit of experience so may come back in a year and change my view. But as I see it currently, now is the moment that Cam and I need to be stepping things up, rather than relaxing.
We spent most of the day in the bar area. I left my lanyard in my room and didn’t need to retrieve it at any point. The day was filled with a lot of industry gossip, discussion about our books, our worries and our hopes. Whereas yesterday was more about taking the piss out of each other, today was more about helping one another.
We’re all at very exciting stages, and whatever the outcome, I think we’re all ready for the journey ahead. It’s such a marked difference to a couple of years back. There’s a momentum you can really feel and whilst the outcome is always uncertain the fact that there will be some outcome seems a given. That makes it all very exciting.
We managed to get into Nando’s this evening. Took a 45 minute wait but I was aware of just how much business was going on. I chatted to Amanda about the short story I’m writing for her, Rob and Amanda chatted. A few years ago, we’d be chatting about books we love, and whilst that certainly happened, we’re now the professionals we always used to look over and see discussing business.
We came back and drank into the early hours, but the conversation seemed so much more serious than yesterday. I think we’re all aware of our progress. Seeing it in the others helps validate it for you.
Cam helped out sort out a major plot knot for me. My next chapter is the greatest swordfight ever and as such I’m having a specific problem in how I convey that. Cameron swordfights a little and so I explained it to him (including spoilers) and he made a suggestion that perfectly fits. I now need to work back from that to sort out the choreography but I think now I’ve got the missing piece of the puzzle it’s just a case of sitting on my own with some music on to create this epic action scene.
This is one of the nice things about hanging around other professionals as you can bounce the craziest of ideas off each other without anyone batting an eyelid. Whilst I’ve not done much this weekend apart from being sat in the bar, you can sense the forward momentum.
As we said tonight before heading to bed, Shit just got real. All of our careers are moving forwards and even if we can’t see the progress in ourselves, we can see the progress in others. This makes it very exciting times and I think the next couple of months are going to be very interesting indeed.
If you want to follow more of my journey, then be sure to check me on my social channels. Likewise, if you’d like me to expand on any point mentioned above, please say so in the comments.
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