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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Getting Published: With an Agent vs Without an Agent PART 2

Okay so yesterday I spoke with Robin Mellom about the process of getting published WITH an agent.

Today I'm talking with Shirley Marr about the process of getting published WITHOUT an agent. I actually met Shirley the week before I started my placement with Black Dog Books, her publisher. It was some bizarre yet awesome coincidence.

This is Shirley

There's an awful lot of emphasis these days on the importance of having an agent in order to get your book into publishers hands. And it's true, it's pretty difficult when most publishers don't accept submissions that have NOT come through an agent.

Shirley Marr, however is a non-agented success story.

Let's see how she did it, hmm?

Was it an active choice to NOT employ an agent, or did you not really think about it?

I was quite naive when I decided to submit Fury. I didn't really know what an agent was or did. I was under the mistaken illusion it was for "famous authors" that dealt with huge publishing houses. I thought I didn't need one if I only aimed for the small indie houses.

You said you aimed to target smaller publishers, why was that?

I was unsure of my manuscript, but I thought it had potential and I really liked it. In my mind I thought if I found someone small, that maybe I would get a more "hands on" approach. When I saw on their website their goal was to foster authors and not just find one-off novels, I thought that looked perfect. As it turned out, my path to publication with black dog books was sort of like a mentorship. Just what I was after.

How many publishers did you submit to before Black Dog?

Black Dog was my first and only one! I'm a rejection letter virgin.

[Do you remember me saying yesterday that you would hate Shirley, readers? This is why. She is an author who has never received a rejection letter. She’s not supposed to EXIST. Let’s all glare at her some, shall we?]

How awesome was "the call" and can you tell me about it?

I was so surprised. I got an email from Melissa Keil. Below is the exact email. It wasn't an immediate fairytale "yes" though, it was a series of talks and revisions (I had to submit a new draft) before it became that way. Nevertheless, the first contact letter was still exciting!

From: Melissa

Subject: Submission - 'Fury'

Date: 25 March 2009 9:17:16 AM AWDT

To: Shirley Marr

Hi Shirley

Thank you for submitting the sample of your young adult novel 'Fury'. I have to say that your cover letter was one of the better letters I have received (it was nice to read something with a smattering of personality, something strangely lacking from many submissions!)

I would be interested to read the rest of your novel - it would be great if you could submit it electronically, preferably as a word doc.

Looking forward to finishing your book - and ps, thank you for the chocolates, they were much appreciated by a sugar-starved editorial team.


Melissa Keil


How did you find negotiations and contracts, going it alone. Did you struggle through it yourself or have a lawyer look it all over and negotiate?

It was easy because bdb is small, so there wasn't a lot of "red tape" - I met the publisher, Andrew Kelly, almost straight away. I did have a lawyer look at the contract and a few things were changed. A small publishing house meant I could negotiate everything with Andrew himself.

Do you feel you made the right choice for you?

For Fury, definitely yes.

Anything of particular interest happen/things you think were unique to your situation that you'd like to talk about?

My decision not to go with an agent was a personal choice. It felt right for the novel and for my situation back then as a writer. If I had felt I wanted to go international, or I felt I wanted to go with a bigger publisher, then having an agent would have been the better choice. I encourage people to go accordingly what their aspirations are.

Was Fury the first novel you wrote?

The first published novel yes, but I have written almost my entire lifetime so there are a lot of dodgy, unpublishable novels languishing on my hard drive!

How many times did you edit it?

About five times before I sent it out. With my bdb editor Melissa, it went through another four drafts.

Do you have a critique group/partner/go it alone?

I have one "beta" - Ee Von Loo. I trust her with my life. Nothing goes to bdb unless she's seen it first. I pay her in steak, alcohol and Pai Gow.

Were you on the slush pile or get picked up some other way?

I went on that slush pile! But bdb don't use the term slush, they call it "treasure chest" which is really nice!

Are you a pantser/outliner?

More of a pantser actually! This horrifies people. Including all of bdb.

How much editing was involved with your Black Dog editor?

A lot! So much in fact I had to blog a dedication to Melissa here:

If you're working on something new, can you tell us a little about it?

Yes! I am working on something new. It's not a sequel, I won't rule out calling it a prequel, but it'll be in the same universe. Maybe you might meet some "old friends" from Fury. But they might have changed (in a weird TV-show-Heroes way). Good guys might be more like bad guys and vice versa.

A Rejection Virgin and Slush Pile Success Story!


Let me tell you my story.
Not just the facts I know you want to hear.
If I’m going to tell you my story,
I’m telling it my way.

Strap yourself in...

Eliza Boans has everything.
A big house.
A great education.
A bright future.

So why is she sitting in a police station confessing to murder?

Fury is available in Australia through Black Dog Books right now. Go get it!


  1. Well, congrats on her book!

    I have to say I have a lot in common with her; I published my debut without an agent and got a 'yes' from my first submission. So, I don't hate her :-D

    Though, the reason I went without an agent is because there aren't any agents where I am.

    Again, congrats!

  2. Wow, you rejection-virgins are coming out of the woodwork!

    Congratulations. I, as most writers out there, wish I knew what that was like. Bah. No I don't, I'm stronger because of my rejections! :) Congratulations though, what a star.

  3. wow, I jumped on Mariam's site and indeed, Mariam is a star!

  4. @Sarah: I'm sure I'll get my own fair share of rejections when I start querying my current WiP.

    Can't say I'm not glad at the moment, tho :)

    Thank you.

    @Shirley: Oh wow. Thank you :-)

  5. Wow! Fury sounds awesome. Congrats! What an interesting journey.

  6. Lol, rejection-virgin, love it (I also wish I was one ;)! Shirley's story is so interesting, and the result of it -- Fury -- is super awesome, I must say.

  7. loved reading the reqiest letter ~ thanks for adding that.

    and it is so cool that shirley went straight to black dog books and they loved it!

    loved reading al this :)


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