Author Faisal Ansari, took a drastic career change when he went from investment banker to author, and he’s here today, recalling one of his first tentative steps into the publishing world – meeting a literary agent!
It didn’t quite go as planned…
How I fucked up my first meeting with a literary agent
The demigod Zuul, worshipped by the Mesopotamians, Sumerians and Hittites was a minion of Gozer the Destructor; she was also known as the Gatekeeper.
In the publishing world, the Gatekeepers are the literary agents. Very few traditional publishers accept unsolicited manuscripts. For a hopeful debut author the literary agents are the bridge to the promised land. You want someone to publish your wonderfully crafted prose? Get an agent. This is how not to do it.
As a new author seeking to go down the traditional publishing route I had two choices to hook an agent: Write hundreds of submission letters and wait and wait and wait and then watch as the rejections slowly dripped into my inbox; or try agent speed dating. Writers’ festivals across the country offer the opportunity to pitch your work directly to a real life literary agent. Prior to the festival you submit the usual cover letter, synopsis and the required chapters of your manuscript and on the day you have a 15 minute slot to discuss your work with an agent. So I paid my money, sent my submissions and rocked up to the Winchester Writers’ Festival.
In a room full of agents and nervous authors my first interview was horrific and went something like this:
Agent question: What genre is your work?
Answer given: Errr… it’s a page-turning thriller set in Jerusalem about a healer. It has strong spiritual, religious and supernatural undertows, but not vampires or werewolves or anything shit like that. [I actually liked the Twilight series, so no idea why I said the last bit].
Answer I should have given: A commercial thriller set in Jerusalem.
Agent question: Who would read it?
Answer given: Errr…Men and Women.
[Trying again]. Errr…actually, everyone really. Most probably anyone who likes reading? [Yes, I managed to turn a stupid answer into a stupid question].
Answer I should have given: As a commercial thriller I believe the book will have wide popular appeal.
Agent question: Which book will it sit next to on the shelf?
Answer given: Errr…The Hand I Fan With by Tina McElroy Ansa [desperately trying to think of alphabetical shelf listings].
Answer I should have given: Any of the successful commercial thriller writers such as Dan Brown or John Grisham.
Agent question: Are you writing the next book in the series?
Answer given: Errr…no way. I have just emerged from my underground bunker after spending nine months of my short life writing this book. I am enjoying the sunlight and fresh air. I will start the next book soon, but right now I would rather eat my own feet than climb back in my bunker again.
Answer I should have given: Of course, I have so many exciting ideas for the next seven books in the series. I love writing, it is my life, my passion. I burst from the womb holding a pen.
Agent question: Who is your favourite author?
Answer given: Murakami.
Agent follow up question: What I have seen of your work it possess nothing like the flair of Murakami.
Answer given: Err…you asked me who my favourite author was.
Answer I should have given: Go fuck yourself you fluffed up arrogant arse.
You live and learn.
About the book:
Despite my pitiful interviewing skills, The Pestilence was published as an e-book and audiobook on 31 October 2015 by the indie publishing house Matador.
The book begins with a mysterious electrical phenomenon rolling above the cities of the world. The lightning which comes from the east, shines as far as the west, turning night into day.
Two brothers of the lightning, Samuel Srour and Victor Pierre Chaput, are gifted powers by the storm. Their paths intertwined, with enemies on all sides.
Samuel Srour has unwittingly started a revolution. His Healed walk the Earth, but powerful forces stand in his way and the Pestilence is drawing ever closer.
About the author:
Faisal Ansari has spent the majority of his adult life strapped into a suit writing marketing and stuffy legal documentation for M&A transactions in the City.
Despite growing up in London, Faisal’s overwhelming preference is to be outdoors. When trapped indoors he reads until his eyes bleed.
Faisal wrote full time to complete his first novel, The Pestilence.