Arthur Hailey wrote:
“There are people whom you meet in life who have a tremendous influence on you, and my agent was one.”
Almost everyone who teaches writing or is connected to the publishing world will agree that the best way to meet such influential people is by attending writers’ conferences. Each year there are hundreds of writers’ conferences throughout the United States and Canada.
“Every author of course, has a ‘beginning’. It starts with someone in the world of publishing believing in, or liking, your work. In my case, it happened to be an agent.” Robert Ludlum
If you as a writer do not have any contacts in the publishing world, the writers’ conference is where you meet agents, publishers and other professionals in the field in person and get to talk to them about your story idea, your proposal or in some cases if you’re lucky secure your finished manuscript in the hands of an agent or editor.
And in the words of Richard Joseph:
“It is surprising how many successful authors have close links with the publishing world.”
“Had I not met C.S. Forester I would never have dreamed of writing.” Roald Dahl
Jilly Cooper wrote:
“I went to a dinner party and met Godfrey Smith, editor of The Sunday Times colour magazine, and started talking. Godfrey asked me to write a piece. I wrote it and The Sunday Times colour magazine accepted it. That week I was offered nine jobs and one of them was a column on The Sunday Times, another to write my first book.”
Occasionally publishers will commission novels even from relatively inexperienced authors, but you still need someone to introduce you or your work to the publisher, since most publishers and agents do not accept unsolicited material.
“Then my agent introduced me to an editor at the paperback publishers, Futura. She was looking for books to commission for their Troubadour imprint, which was Futura’s new line in ‘hot historicals’.” Sarah Harrison
Barbara Cartland when asked if she thought anybody could write a book and have it published replied:
“I can’t remember what it was, but I think it was called Wings of Love. I finished it, and sent it in under a false name, and with false details about myself, to a publisher. They returned the manuscript, saying that I ought to go on writing and perhaps I would have a chance in the future. I then changed the author’s name back to mine, and sent it to my usual publisher, and it sold enormously well, like all the others.”
Perhaps the most defying story for me is that of Clive Cussler. His book, Pacific Vortex, based on the idea of a series with the same hero like James Bond and Dean Martin, was turned down several times. What’s more, the publishers told him at the time that no one would buy an ongoing series with a single hero and that his style was outmoded. He ignored their criticism and wrote his second book, Mayday! in the UK and Mediterranean Caper in the US, based on the same idea. He writes:
“At this point I figured I needed an agent. I contacted some friends in Hollywood; I knew a lot of people in the public relations business, and they gave me names of literary agents in New York. I got devious. So rather than just sitting down and writing the usual letter of query and the sample chapter, I went out and printed five hundred sheets of stationery and envelopes as the ‘Charles Winthrop Agency’. I used to live on Winthrop Drive when I was a kid, and I always thought that it was a classy name. I used my father’s address in Laguna Hills and wrote to the first name on the list. He happened to be Peter Lampack, then a junior literary agent at William Morris Agency. I wrote:
“Dear Peter, As you know I primarily handle motion-picture and television screenplays, but I’ve come across a couple of book-length manuscripts which I think have a great deal of potential. As you’re aware, I’m retiring, would you like to take a look at them?”
About ten days later, Dad says;
There’s a letter here from a man called Peter Lampack. It read:
“Dear Charlie, Sure, if you say so. I’ll take a look at the manuscripts.”
So I mailed them off. A few days later another letter came. “Dear Charlie, the first manuscript, Pacific Vortex, is pretty mediocre, the second one, Caper, is pretty good. Where can I sign this guy Cussler?’”
“It just goes to show that the whole thing is hocus-pocus.” Barbara Cartland