Established Australian author, Pamela Cook, and her advice on submissions.

February 15, 2021

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Pamela Cook’s generous tips and advice on agent submissions reflects her experience. Pamela is a well-known and well-loved Australian author who has not only published five rural women fiction novels, she’s also the co-host of popular podcast, Writes4Women, a platform focusing on and celebrating female writers, literature, publishing, writing life and rights all around the world. Pamela is also a writing coach and mentor, and writing ambassador for Room to Read, a not-for-profit organisation that encourages literacy skills, gender equality in education for low-income communities around the world. Woah, so if Pamela Cook gives advice, I really want to listen.

It’s such a privilege to have Pamela on my blog today sharing her journey towards publication and how she skipped the agency fence and secured a deal with Hachette.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing for 20 years. I started with a Masters in Creative Writing and just kept writing from there. I completed a literary style novel after joining the NSW Writers’ Centre and doing a First Page to First Draft course. That novel took me around 6 years and while it will never be published it definitely taught me so much about the writing process.

My first published novel, Blackwattle Lake, was written during Nanowrimo in 2009, accepted for the Hachette Manuscript Development Program in 2011, and published in 2012. I had three more novels published with Hachette between 2013 and 2016, all in the Rural Romance genre, although they were more romantic elements. My heart lay with writing women’s fiction and when I couldn’t find a publisher for my first foray into that genre I published my first indie title, Cross My Heart, in 2019.

What led to your offer of representation with an agent (or contract with a publisher, if you went that way around first?)

I stepped inside the publishing door thorough the manuscript development program and was lucky enough to be contracted for my first four novels, so I didn’t feel the need for an agent at that time. When it came to changing genres I thought it might be a good idea to investigate the agent idea. I queried a couple of agents, neither of whom were in a position to represent me, but one of them gave me the contact details for a third agent who could be interested. I queried her and didn’t hear back for a while but then received a strange email from a publisher who thought that particular agent was representing me. Turns out it was a communication mix-up. The agent subsequently called me and, much to my delight, the deal was sealed over the phone!

How long did you have to wait to hear back and was it a partial or full request?

As it happened in such a bizarre way (see above), it’s hard to say. But between first contacting that agent and signing a contract with her, it was probably a few weeks.

Any tips on cover letters/synopsis/pitches?

  • Definitely follow the guidelines on the agent’s website.
  • Don’t do anything gimmicky, like scented paper or gifts with the submission.
  • Accept that these things take time and don’t send an email the next week seeing if they have read your query or manuscript. It can take a few months or more. I would say a follow up is fair enough after a couple of months. For agents you will probably have heard back by then but a publisher can take much longer. And if you see them at a conference or writing event don’t harass them about whether or not they’ve read your ms!
  • It goes without saying but always be polite in your emails and dealings with the agent or publisher. While having confidence in your ms is important don’t go wild telling them how fantastic your book is or how fabulous you are as a writer. Let the work speak for itself.
  • Do your research and see who might be a good fit for you and your writing. Check out the agent’s website and see who else they represent. Talk to other writers and see what they know about any agents you have in mind and if it’s the type of representation you’re looking for – some are very hands on with the reading and feedback while others are more focused on the business/contract side.
  • Taking all of the above into account, remember that publishers and agents are people who love reading and books. They want to find great books and publish them but they only have a limited number of slots and might be looking for something specific. If they reject your work, brush yourself off, consider any suggestions they may have made about your ms, and try again.

Your first reaction when they offered the representation/contract?

Given the bizarre way it happened I was completely flabbergasted! But chatting to my agent on the phone that first time I felt completely comfortable. She was easy to talk to, understood my situation and has been totally supportive all the way along. It’s great having someone in your corner who is so well versed in the industry.

What’s next for you?

I’ve just indie- published a second edition of a book I received the rights back for from Hachette. I’m about to complete a draft of a new women’s fiction title about a mother fighting to see her children who have been lured away by her controlling ex-husband. Once that’s done I might shop it around and see if any trad publishers are interested. Otherwise I’ll publish it myself.

Thanks for the great questions Holly!

Thank you for being on here, Pamela! Hopeful writers need to hear from established writers and learn that persistence and patience will help to succeed. Pamela’s story is yet another example of how applying to courses and competitions can push you toward that finish line. You can learn more about Pamela here, or purchase her books here.

Readers, thanks for stopping by!

Holly

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