2. Sending off samples…

So I had my plot and I’d written my first draft. Now all I had to do was send it off to the agents together with a synopsis and a little bit about myself. I thought my letter was pretty impressive, the sample material was everything they would want it to be – neat, well-formatted and free from grammatical faux pas – and any moment now my phone would buzz with the offer of a five-book multi-million pound deal. Or maybe not.

Digging through the Writers & Artists Yearbook I picked out a number of agents I thought might be interested in my material. It is a key point: You don’t want to be sending thrillers to an agent who specialises in Sci-Fi or Chick lit, and this is an immense resource when seeking representation. It gives you a full list of agents, what they are interested in and what they require from a debut novellist making their first approach.

An example of my letter is here…

Dear Olivia,

                  I am one of the fine, upstanding former News of the World journalists you read and hear so many good things about. To be honest, I wouldn’t have a clue how to hack someone’s phone, having missed all the courses, but I was quite enjoying my dream job as Welsh sports editor on the Screws until hearing on BBC News 24 that Rupert Murdoch had closed us down. I never did go back into the building, though I picked up a nice souvenir bin liner when the contents of my drawers were ceremoniously handed over to me in the car park. Still, the time out gave me a chance to progress my other love, writing.

Recently I completed a novel which I think may be of interest to you. I would perhaps categorise the content as faction as it uses the 2011 Rugby World Cup as a backdrop and provides a “what-might-have-been” scenario with the upshot that Wales actually win the tournament. Far-fetched, you may think, but I know plenty of Welsh men and women who would read it and dream.

            It is a comedy, basically, and I hope you’ll think it has potential when you read the synopsis and sample chapters. That’s not to say the target audience should be restricted to Wales. The Rugby World Cup has grown into one of the world’s biggest sporting events. TV audiences for the 2011 tournament topped 4 billion as it was beamed to 207 countries including Libya, Algeria and Mongolia. The event was even broadcast to the 13 staff at Scott Station in the Antarctic. Of course, there are big markets also in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States. Not bad for a “minority sport”.

I can’t think of any fiction books based around Rugby Union so perhaps there is an untapped market here, though I appreciate there aren’t too many successful examples of the sports fiction genre in the UK once you get past Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch. Rugby, though, plays only a very small part in the novel. It’s a character-driven story based on a hard-bitten cockney national journalist suddenly finding himself in charge of the sports department at a parochial Welsh Sunday paper declining in circulation. I think if Henry Pratt of Pratt of the Argus fame had extended his career in journalism, turned to sport and progressed to the nationals he would have turned out like my main character Micky Biggs, not so much a cynic but a realist with a few skewed moral values.

I believe the characters to be strong enough to provide plenty of follow-up material, perhaps taking the idea of “what might have been” and extending it to the football World Cup, the Ashes and other global events.

Please look at the synopsis and sample chapters and let me know if it is an idea with which you can work.

Yours faithfully,

Nick Rippington

The synopsis, which must give the whole story with no hidden plot twists so that the agent or publisher knows how it pans out, went like this…

1-page synopsis

What feedback did I get, I’ll let you know in the next post.

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