Thursday, 17 March 2011

What Impression Are You Giving?

I once fell in love with a dress. It was bright blue and beaded all over. In retrospect, it was the sort of dress drag queens wear, but I thought it was sophisticated and glamorous and, above all, grown up - I must have been about 19. I wanted it, despite the mega price tag that I really couldn't afford.

I brought my friend Alison along to see what she thought. I paraded in the dress in front of her, watching for her opinion. She didn't look convinced. 'It's the sort of dress that everyone will look at the dress and not you,' she said eventually. 'And I'm not sure about the colour...'

I didn't buy the dress.

We all need friends like Alison, especially when you're sending out letters and synopses to agents. Friends like Alison are kind, but firm. They don't let you make an idiot of yourself. You're all wrapped up in dreams of what might be, and they persuade you to take a realistic look at yourself. I've told friends in the past that their agent letters are creating the impression that they are:
Pompous. Nit-picking. Hell to work with. Litigious. Needy. Demanding. Hysterical. Bonkers.

Now, I know that my friends aren't any of those things (except possibly the bonkers bit), but that's the impression they're giving and none of those qualities are desirable in a writer. In fact, they're all turn-offs. I look at the first letter I wrote and I can see that none of the agents I sent it to probably bothered to read beyond the first paragraph, because it created such a ghastly impression of me. (Oh, the shame, I'm blushing just thinking about it.)

So before you waste time, energy and money sending out, ask a friend to tell you what impression you're giving. Honestly.

NEW!!! I've finally got round to organising some course dates....
How to WRITE a Novel: London 3rd May/Birmingham 7th May/
Oxford 8th May/Exeter 21st May/Bath 12th June
How to SELL a Novel: London 24th May/Exeter 4th June/


Andrew Culture said...

I wince a little when I think back to my first agent letters; I actually wrote that part of the reason I took the decision to start working for myself was to allow myself more time for creative pursuits, and while that's true (and refers to music as much as writing) I now think it makes me sound like a proper nutter!

It's a good job agents don't keep blacklists!

Karen said...

I once did an actual mock-up of a book cover - using WordArt - and sent it with a gushing cover letter and 3 chapters!!

I've learnt a lot since then ...

Liz Fielding said...

Having written three whole books and had them turned down for perfectly reasonable reasons, I wrote a terribly cheeky letter with the first three chapters of book number four asking the publisher to let me know if I was on the right lines before I went any further.

It was my first book - but those first chapters didn't make it past the first editorial comments!

Still blushing.

Sarah Duncan said...

Love, love, love these true confessions.

Jan Sprenger said...

I'm a little off-point here but I just looked at the details of your courses - where in Oxford will the course be held?


Sarah Duncan said...

In Summertown Jan, so no problems parking (I think. Hope.)