The Holding Pattern

This is the sucky bit. The first three chapters of my manuscript are with an agent. I must wait.

Back in the day, agents were used to being approached on an exclusive basis but this is no longer the rule. That said, I have approached this agent on an exclusive basis. They don't know that but I doubt it would give me much of an advantage even if they did. What I need to decide is whether to leave my book with them for six weeks before approaching another agent or whether I should just get to work sending parcels to agents every week or so. Any thoughts?

If I were to take this approach, it would probably make sense to send out three submissions every couple of weeks. Small problem: I can't afford the postage.

Operation Sh*tstorm Returns

The need to get a publishing deal is huge. This is the main factor in my wanting to send out work to as many agents as possible.

The full-time job that Mr W was offered still hasn't started. Meanwhile, he's had to give up part-time work elsewhere because the council fined us for it (the work was all above board. He told them about it in advance.) He earned a little over £30 and they fined us £90 for it which has to come out of our budget every week! Our housing and council tax benefits have also been reduced. The upshot of this is that we now have enough coming in to pay for rent, insurance, lighting and council tax but no money for food, heating or anything else.

'Heating?' I hear you say 'but it's June.' Well, yes it is but the heating - as long-time readers of the blog will know - emanates from an oil-filled tank behind the house. This oil is responsible for heating everything - including the water. No oil: no hot water. If you click on 'Operation Sh*tstorm' you can follow the drama so far on this front.

The oil monitor has only two bars left. The cost of oil has gone up. The cost of a minimum drop of oil will be about the same as a month's rent. Can't be done.

In all likelihood, we won't be able to buy any food this month but my stockpiled rice is doing well and we have many peas. Hubby has made some chicken stock too so we won't starve. Calories are surprisingly easy to come by. Sugar's cheap. It's entirely possible to maintain your weight on not much money and we're both well-cushioned enough to sustain a drought. Starvation's not a worry. The worry is malnutrition. We're almost definitely both suffering vitamin and mineral deficiencies and we can't afford multi-vitamins. There's hardly any iron in our diet for instance.

Right. I'm going to stop talking about that before I get depressed. The point is: the money I spend on postage, paper, ink etc should be going towards food and oil. It comes straight out of our food budget. It's a huge gamble. It feels so arrogant and selfish of me to think that I can somehow work us out of this poverty with my writing. How the heck do I know whether it's any good? It just seems like the only option. How did J K Rowling afford to sit in a coffee shop all day writing? I'm a million miles from being able to spend money on something as frivolous as going out for coffee.

Could be Worse...

Thank goodness we moved house. The last place we lived in was fire damaged, had wood worm and there was a black bucket at the end of the bath which supplied the water. The place was constantly damp and generally falling to bits. The place we moved to had no carpets or curtains but it's gorgeous. It's really hard to believe how poor we are when you walk round this place! It was pretty easy to believe at the start as we couldn't afford carpets and I had to make curtains. Since we couldn't afford proper fabric, the curtains I made were not impressive. Eventually, we resolved our floor and window issues with the help of some astounding bargaining tactics and lots of free carpet fitting thanks to my husband's step-dad. Now it's amazing.

Back to the point. Given our financial constraints and the long cold-bath summer which stretches ahead of us before the onset of another hypothermic winter: should I send chapters to other agents or just wait?

Angie Ledbetter  – (5 June 2009 at 12:44)  

I think I'd cast the net as far and wide as I could to hopefully speed up the process. You'll be in my prayers to find THE perfect set of eyeballs quick.

Please email me when you get a chance. I want to send you a good multi.

Alissa  – (5 June 2009 at 12:58)  

Hi Rebecca,
As a fellow struggling (wannabe?) writer I am enjoying following your blog, though I do feel bad for you in your financial need, I can commiserate. (I didn't move back into my parents house because I love being around them so much.)

But anyway, back to the point of your post, submitting to multiple agents, and postage, etc. I would look for agents that accept electronic queries. I don't know if it's different on that side of the ocean, but over here many, many agents prefer their initial contact to be via email. I too have the first three chapters of a novel with an agent right now, and my initial contact with her was via email. It saves a lot on the postage and printing fees, which I too could not afford.

Best of luck and hope this helps!

Rebecca Woodhead  – (5 June 2009 at 13:39)  

Thanks Angie. I'll email you.

Alissa. It's a bit different here because, generally, you don't enquire ahead. Most writers just send out 3 chapters and a synopsis to agents and hope for the best. Most agents and publishers over here still prefer the manuscripts/chapters to go snailmail though. The agent I sent my chapters to I've been chatting to for a while on blogs and Twitter and they were happy to see my work but who knows whether or not it will be what they're looking for?

Sorry you're struggling too. I waiver between thinking 'we had to get a TV through Freecycle and a computer desk from the side of the road? We're so poor' and 'roof over head... rice in cupboard... free telly works... great view... sorted!'

Ana V.  – (5 June 2009 at 13:50)  

I wish you all the best and that you are able to get published. Check out my blog post today on The Writer Today,

Eric  – (5 June 2009 at 13:53)  

I'm so sorry to hear about how tough it is for you Rebecca. And here I thought you guys were going to be doing great with the new job. Keep your chin up, and just do what you can. I have faith that it will all turn out okay for you.

I can't give you any informed advice on your question, so I'll give you uninformed advice. As Alissa has said, I would explore electronic mailing options wherever possible. You may have already done this, but it might be worth the time to examine it again.

You can always close up shop, stow away as a cabin-girl on a luxury liner (with hubby in your suitcase), and come over to this side of the pond. Hey, there's a story in that idea. Dibs on it!

Rebecca Woodhead  – (5 June 2009 at 16:15)  

Eric you're so sweet. I respect the dibs on your planned story BTW! Actually, why don't you use it? I've been thinking for a few months of doing Nanowrimo if I don't get an agent by Nov but then I mentioned it to Bonnie and she signed up so I'm thinking of doing it anyway.

I know it's a bit of a challenge to set myself as I'm starting my next novel in about a week and I plan to finish it by Valentine's Day next year(as is my little tradition) and taking out the whole of November might make it tricky to stick to the deadline but I'm not sure. I was thinking of writing something in a diff style for Nanowrimo - horror or something - to get a break from my book so I can go in all guns blazing in Dec again.

What do you think? Wouldn't it be great if a bunch of us did it? Unless I get any cast iron objections to the idea tweeted to me by publishers I think I'm going to go for it. That makes:


+ who else wants to try writing a book in a month?

Sandra Leigh  – (5 June 2009 at 16:37)  

I've already signed up for NaNoWriMo, Rebecca - and I would love to have company on the journey.

As for your financial crunch, I am so sorry things aren't going well. I wish I had some sage advice to offer, but I don't. All I can do is wish you well, and I do.

Charlie  – (5 June 2009 at 19:39)  

You're friends are giving you great advice Rebecca. It can't hurt querying more agents. Even if you're loyal to the agent that currently has your partial, query widely. Use e-mail. I wish you only the best.

It is easy to get depressed when finances are tight. I am no stranger to unemployment. It sounds like you and your husband have a solid relationship. That's great. Stay positive and keep finding things to laugh at. I wish I could do something more useful than yap away on a blog.


Rebecca Woodhead  – (5 June 2009 at 20:03)  


Your comment really cheered me up then I read the last line. You nutter! Yapping away on my blog is a HUGE help. You're right, I'm very fortunate to have such a great marriage. Feel much better now.

Toad  – (6 June 2009 at 07:10)  

Obviously, I have no idea how this works, but you can't have an American agent? One who wants electronic submissions?

Rebecca Woodhead  – (6 June 2009 at 07:54)  

Hi Toad, I know British agents tend to avoid taking on unpublished American writers so it may work the same the other way round.

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