It has been almost a week since my last confession.
This is due, in part, to the fact that though I do have sins to confess, there's scant chance of me coughing them up here, and so I'm silenced, struck dumb by discretion which, by nature, I'm not good at. All this leaves my weekend a bit of a crime scene which I dare not approach - much like my sitting room in which there is still a large bite missing from the ceiling, protected by a milimetre of polythene and supported by black gaffer tape which is apparently supposed to stop the rest of it falling down. It seems safer to keep away from both areas altogether. I can't sit down in comfort and I can't spill the beans. Damn it, it's annoying.
So, instead, I turn to my postbag and my speciality - unsolicited manuscripts which, despite the website disclaimer, people continue to send in to us, usually addressed to the Senior Editor, The History Editor, The Fiction Editor or even The Editorial Director.
Dear Prospective Writers,
I am sorry to disabuse you of the notion that your manuscript will ever reach these people who, in some cases, don't even exist. If you are going to submit an unsolicited manuscript and clearly haven't bothered to take the time to look at our submission criteria, wouldn't it occur to you that if we were indeed to go to the trouble of plucking your work from amongst the many tales of alien abduction, sexual abuse and gay bear/twink erotica, and publish it, then it might behove you to invest the effort to find out the name of the person you should approach?
Of course, the people who are pay-grade appropriate with the power to publish your book don't often open their own post and so still wouldn't see it, and if you did ring up to ask their name you with would only hear me tell you, with real sympathy, honest, that there was no point in sending in an unsolicited manuscript because we don't accept them.
However, the point still stands. Poor research already handicaps you and my way, you'd save yourself the postage, at least.
'But I'm a published writer,' you might say.
'So, you must have an agent?'
'No, but I have written several books for East Kent County Council.'
'I'm afraid you still need to try and find an agent.'
'But I can't get an agent.'
Yes, I know, it's horrible. I have been you. Finding an agent is not easy. But just because one turns you down, it doesn't mean they all will. A friend has been trying for years and on her third unpublished novel found a wonderful girl who took her on immediately. I myself was told by the first agent I approached that I should just give up and not bother. Nobody would ever publish my book, he said. It had nothing going for it, no plot and no voice. I cried for three days. Unhappily, it was not the last time I cried. And when I did find an agent, Praise Be Her Name which, no, don't bother asking, I'm not sharing, I was turned down by absolutely everybody, and their assistant assistant's work-experience A level student (a weekend sobbing on the bathroom floor in a posh hotel in Oxford) and - read this and weep with me - this included Pedantic Press itself, who said no twice.
This fact my agent felt driven to reminisce with me over lunch today as she raised a glass of champagne to my imminent publication: 'All those rejections!' she said gleefully, and then her lips started to move but since I had my fingers in my ears whilst humming softly to myself and rocking, I didn't hear her elaborate.
Agents. You can't live without them and you can't shoot them in the head, however, getting something published without one is almost impossible.
And pretty *ing difficult with one.
Believe me, I feel your pain.
I also realise, as a recent correspondent, pointed out (in this somewhat unequal salutation in which a Sir is the equivalent rank of a Ms) that with the policy of only accepting manuscripts from literary agents that we are also: