Please help a poor newcomer...

BT Jones

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Hello all at the SFF Chronicles forum. I joined today in the hope that one of you fine, like-minded SFF fans and writers (or wannabe writers, like me) could help guide me onto the next step.

I live in Australia and have been working on my first novel since 2015. It is an elephantine, immersive, character-rich sci-fi adventure currently sitting at 300,000 words. Since mid-2019, I have have been getting Read Reports from a professional editor and also two beta readers; one of which is also an editor. The feedback I have got has been very heartening and I like to think I am on to something here, but I obviously need to break the ice and get some kind of representation.

Does anyone have any recommendations for a UK agent? (Australian agents are few and far between).
I have send off to Zoe Plant @ The Bent Agency (rejected), Sandra Sawicka @ Marjacq, Juliet Mushens @ Caskie Mushens, and Jamie Cowan @ Ampersand.
It's quite a daunting step and very disheartening at times. It's making the writing feel like the easiest part of the process.

What have been people's experiences with getting agents? I've been recommended by the Editor & Beta Readers to try and get representation and go for traditional, but I'm feeling like what I am doing is better suited to self-publishing on Kindle or something.

I would greatly appreciate any help and encouragement.

BT Jones
 

Dennis E. Taylor

Destroying Worlds Since 2015
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At 300K words, consider that your book may be a hard sell. Agents definitely look at the writer's style and story-telling ability, but they are primarily looking at the work under submission. If you can get an agent to give you an opinion on that, it would be worth the effort.
 

Steve Harrison

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I'm also in Australia and after years of trying and failing to get an agent here, in the US and the UK, I went direct to publishers and eventually (after a lot of years) sold a couple of books to a small UK SFF publisher.

A lot of major agents don't want SFF and 300k words for a first novel may put off some of those who do. But you can only find out by querying.

You can still find plenty of agents by a simple Google search such as, 'science fiction literary agent UK' or by checking out sites like the one suggested by Jo Zebedee above or by going to your favourite or similar author's websites, as they often list their reps on their contact page.

This can be a discouraging and frustrating process, but it is what it is and if you are determined to keep going, there's always a chance of success. Self-publishing is certainly an option, too.

Good luck.
 

BT Jones

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Australia
At 300K words, consider that your book may be a hard sell. Agents definitely look at the writer's style and story-telling ability, but they are primarily looking at the work under submission. If you can get an agent to give you an opinion on that, it would be worth the effort.
Yes, Dennis, I was anticipating that. Currently on my 4th and final draft, aiming to get it down below 250k. All I want is for an agent to read it to begin with. I'm convinced they will like it. Thanks for the reply.
 

BT Jones

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Location
Australia
I'm also in Australia and after years of trying and failing to get an agent here, in the US and the UK, I went direct to publishers and eventually (after a lot of years) sold a couple of books to a small UK SFF publisher.

A lot of major agents don't want SFF and 300k words for a first novel may put off some of those who do. But you can only find out by querying.

You can still find plenty of agents by a simple Google search such as, 'science fiction literary agent UK' or by checking out sites like the one suggested by Jo Zebedee above or by going to your favourite or similar author's websites, as they often list their reps on their contact page.

This can be a discouraging and frustrating process, but it is what it is and if you are determined to keep going, there's always a chance of success. Self-publishing is certainly an option, too.

Good luck.
Thanks Steve. It's especially disheartening to hear of people like yourself you have that have been on this treadmill for a lot longer than I have! But I guess persistence is the key.
 

Jo Zebedee

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blah - flags. So many flags.
Yes, Dennis, I was anticipating that. Currently on my 4th and final draft, aiming to get it down below 250k. All I want is for an agent to read it to begin with. I'm convinced they will like it. Thanks for the reply.
so to break this down (I’m sorry, this business is so tough, it’s best to hear this sort of thing on a forum)

1. the first line of your query will state the word count. The length of yours will make an agent less inclined to take a risk - so you already have a reason to reject. You have 250 words to hook them and your first 5 will gave them wondering how this can be sold.

2. why are you convinced an agent will like it? And, even if they do, why do you think this will make them represent it? Agents take what they see as marketable. Your post above does not sell a marketable book. Forget what it is - elephantine and immersive tells me nothing except what you think it is - tell me the story. The tag line that someone can sell.

3. Your query letter. Have you read Queryshark’s blog? It’s great. Have you had it critiqued? What’s your elevator pitch?

feedback on your mss is one thing (although I think putting up your opening on crits here, once you have 30 posts, might be useful - guidance on the business is another altogether. And 250000 word debut novels get an agent very, very rarely.
 

Brian G Turner

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Firstly, welcome to chrons. :)

Secondly,

The feedback I have got has been very heartening
I don't mean to sound negative, but my first book experiences involved an editor as a beta reader and a paid-for editor for the intro and both were positive - not because my book was great, but because they wanted to be encouraging. The book itself was unsaleable, and looking back, nothing more than a poor first draft.

Lets face it, even regularly published authors routinely complain that their editors leave red marks throughout their manuscript, so a very first book the balance of probability is that you will have needed to make major structural changes and have redrafted it multiple times. Maybe that's what happened for you, but I just wanted to raise the possibility that you may need want to get more feedback on this before pitching it.

This is especially underlined by your wordcount - 300k is routinely dismissed as unsaleable, and even 250k for a science fiction novel still seems unusually high to me.

Of course, you may be bucking the trend, but I'm simply urging caution here - people tend to be supportive and encouraging around new writers, but the industry isn't.

I'm feeling like what I am doing is better suited to self-publishing on Kindle or something.
Self-publishing is a route to take if you have multiple books being published and you have a marketing campaign to put behind them. If you don't then you will find it very difficult to stand above the millions of other self-published titles already out there.

I'm not trying to be a downer about this - I truly do wish you all the best - but it's not a business for the unwary.
 

dannymcg

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This is especially underlined by your wordcount - 300k is routinely dismissed as unsaleable, and even 250k for a science fiction novel still seems unusually high to me
Solely as an avid reader, I'm getting tired lately of slim little books posing as full sci fi stories. They don't last three days.
Gimme a Hamilton mega tome instead!
Soz, I know this is not relevant to your thread :)
 

-K2-

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@BT Jones ; as a question, would it be possible to split the MS into two manuscripts? Perhaps even three? In other words, say you split it into three novels, where each ends at a solid point, finishing that story and leaving the reader wondering about the next to come. I say that, NOT as a published author, which I am NOT, or even as a successful writer, but from what I've seen as to standard lengths of various formats. Believe it or not, anything over 40k is considered a novel from what I've read. Many publishers look for works/novels in the 80-120k word range as standard (from what I've read).

Point being, if you could split it up into two--three better--stand alone novels, then try to sell them on the first--only--it might improve your responses. If you can sell that first one, then parts 2 & 3 should not be an issue. Plus, in the long run, the publisher and YOU, would end up profiting much more in the end. Just something to consider.

K2
 

BT Jones

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Australia
so to break this down (I’m sorry, this business is so tough, it’s best to hear this sort of thing on a forum)

1. the first line of your query will state the word count. The length of yours will make an agent less inclined to take a risk - so you already have a reason to reject. You have 250 words to hook them and your first 5 will gave them wondering how this can be sold.

2. why are you convinced an agent will like it? And, even if they do, why do you think this will make them represent it? Agents take what they see as marketable. Your post above does not sell a marketable book. Forget what it is - elephantine and immersive tells me nothing except what you think it is - tell me the story. The tag line that someone can sell.

3. Your query letter. Have you read Queryshark’s blog? It’s great. Have you had it critiqued? What’s your elevator pitch?

feedback on your mss is one thing (although I think putting up your opening on crits here, once you have 30 posts, might be useful - guidance on the business is another altogether. And 250000 word debut novels get an agent very, very rarely.
Thanks again Jo. Some harsh realities for me, I think. I will have a look at the Queryshark blog.
 

BT Jones

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Messages
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Location
Australia
Firstly, welcome to chrons. :)

Secondly,



I don't mean to sound negative, but my first book experiences involved an editor as a beta reader and a paid-for editor for the intro and both were positive - not because my book was great, but because they wanted to be encouraging. The book itself was unsaleable, and looking back, nothing more than a poor first draft.

Lets face it, even regularly published authors routinely complain that their editors leave red marks throughout their manuscript, so a very first book the balance of probability is that you will have needed to make major structural changes and have redrafted it multiple times. Maybe that's what happened for you, but I just wanted to raise the possibility that you may need want to get more feedback on this before pitching it.

This is especially underlined by your wordcount - 300k is routinely dismissed as unsaleable, and even 250k for a science fiction novel still seems unusually high to me.

Of course, you may be bucking the trend, but I'm simply urging caution here - people tend to be supportive and encouraging around new writers, but the industry isn't.



Self-publishing is a route to take if you have multiple books being published and you have a marketing campaign to put behind them. If you don't then you will find it very difficult to stand above the millions of other self-published titles already out there.

I'm not trying to be a downer about this - I truly do wish you all the best - but it's not a business for the unwary.
Thanks Brian. I know there’s a long way to go and it’s a very crowded field. I’m on my 4th draft and I think I’m on course to resolve what structural issues there are. I will definitely fall short in the self-promotion part of the self-publishing route as I’m terrible at blowing my own trumpet.

I appreciate the advice.
 

BT Jones

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Messages
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Location
Australia
Solely as an avid reader, I'm getting tired lately of slim little books posing as full sci fi stories. They don't last three days.
Gimme a Hamilton mega tome instead!
Soz, I know this is not relevant to your thread :)
Thanks Danny. It’s actually good to know. I think there is definitely an audience for long-form work that you can soak yourself in, but it’s obviously the quick fire popular ideas that agents will be looking for first and foremost. It’s heartening to hear that there are people out there that would potentially be looking for the kind of story I want to tell.
 

BT Jones

Active Member
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Messages
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Location
Australia
@BT Jones ; as a question, would it be possible to split the MS into two manuscripts? Perhaps even three? In other words, say you split it into three novels, where each ends at a solid point, finishing that story and leaving the reader wondering about the next to come. I say that, NOT as a published author, which I am NOT, or even as a successful writer, but from what I've seen as to standard lengths of various formats. Believe it or not, anything over 40k is considered a novel from what I've read. Many publishers look for works/novels in the 80-120k word range as standard (from what I've read).

Point being, if you could split it up into two--three better--stand alone novels, then try to sell them on the first--only--it might improve your responses. If you can sell that first one, then parts 2 & 3 should not be an issue. Plus, in the long run, the publisher and YOU, would end up profiting much more in the end. Just something to consider.

K2
It’s funny you mention that, K2, as it is distinctly a 3 act story already and it was in that breakdown that I gave it to the editor and beta readers. Originally, it was about 80k, 100k and 120k respectively for the three acts. I’m looking to get it down to 60, 70 and 100. One of my ideas was to potentially release Act 1 for free on kindle and then have act 2 and then 3 as pay for purchases, for people were interested. But I’ve been told they are possibly not stand alone enough and leave too many unanswered questions for people to want to continue reading. I’m not convinced readers want to be spoon fed mystery answers, but this is the advice I’ve been given.
 

Ashley R

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Messages
52
It’s funny you mention that, K2, as it is distinctly a 3 act story already and it was in that breakdown that I gave it to the editor and beta readers. Originally, it was about 80k, 100k and 120k respectively for the three acts. I’m looking to get it down to 60, 70 and 100. One of my ideas was to potentially release Act 1 for free on kindle and then have act 2 and then 3 as pay for purchases, for people were interested. But I’ve been told they are possibly not stand alone enough and leave too many unanswered questions for people to want to continue reading. I’m not convinced readers want to be spoon fed mystery answers, but this is the advice I’ve been given.
If you're set on going with tradpub then I would advise that 80k is pretty much at the bottom end for the length of a novel; there's a sweet spot between 95K to 115K for first time authors.

However, if you go independent, then splitting the novel would still make sense as you would gain more traction by releasing the story at one month intervals.
 

-K2-

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Originally, it was about 80k, 100k and 120k respectively for the three acts. I’m looking to get it down to 60, 70 and 100.
This says something in and of itself. If you're wanting to lean up your 'acts' by 20/30/20k words, 25/30/20% respectively, 23% overall (300k words)--massive portions of text--then you likely shouldn't be sending these to publishers or agents yet. Again, I'm not published or experienced by any means. But, they'll be wanting something closer to ready to print. Their own editors, I suspect, are not there to refine 'your story,' yet only adjust it to their guidelines.

My inexperienced gut says, perform your trimming down first and see how that changes the story, the start of each part and ends. Then see where it sits. What could you then shift or add to give you better three-part/novel-endings, and bring it inline with preferred lengths as @Ashley R makes note of.

This is something I've had to consider myself.

K2
 
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