Bombed Out: The Hassles of Finding a Literary Agent, Versus Doing It Yourself.
Mathew St, Liverpool. Home of Eric’s Club and epicentre of a big slug of Bombed Out!
In light of the many excellent reviews Bombed Out! has so far received from readers (see other articles on the site) I’ve been asked by a few people why I didn’t try to find an agent for the book and have it published, instead of going it alone.
While I was writing Bombed Out!, I did contact a few UK agents, although it’s hard to be positive about the process of having an unsolicited manuscript picked up when you read on agency websites things like, “If you don’t hear back from us within THREE MONTHS then assume we’re not interested.” Of course, some came back within weeks, but others didn’t respond at all.
All of which is a long-handed way of saying nobody was interested in the slightest when I sent early drafts of Bombed Out! to them.
Also, given my low tolerance threshold for writing hopeful begging letters and waiting a long time for replies (or for no replies), in the end I decided to just fuck it and do it myself anyway. Life’s too short.
And of course that decision has been totally vindicated in sales, positive feedback and a lot of publicity I have had through readers of the book recommending it to others.
The only person who really impressed me during the whole agency submission process was a guy called Andrew Lownie, who runs his own, upmarket literary agency in London.
I knew Bombed Out! would probably sit ill with some of his other offerings, which include ‘Norma Major’s Guide To Chequers’, although I believe it’s a fuckload more interesting than Sam Faiers’ ‘Living Life The Essex Way’ (although probably not as commercial).
Astonishingly, on a Saturday afternoon, when most agents can safely be assumed to be making hay in Hay-On-Wye, boozing in Burford or bounding over the Brecon Beacons, Andrew Lownie responded within two hours of my initial email.
He said he really liked Bombed Out!, but that the book wasn’t right for his agency. He then helpfully suggested two other music book-related agencies who might like it (they didn’t).
Other than him, I found approaching agents with unsolicited work to be a thankless process, but one I felt it was important to go through.
I knew in the end I would be more than happy to do it myself, to my own timetable and using the internet and social media to support the book, as I had successfully done previously with BACK, my Backpackers-Meet-The-Vietnam-War novel.
It’s not easy doing it yourself, but it is fun, and it’s a fantastic way to engage with readers, often while they’re reading the book, which has been a real pleasure. It has challenged me to think about aspects of the book and the story in different ways, when seeing it through the eyes of others – often as they are actually reading it.
Buy a signed copy of Bombed Out! here: http://www.bombedoutpunk.com/buybook.php