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The Bluebell Informant – Chapter 7

If you’re not up to speed on The Bluebell Informant so far, the first five chapters can be found here.

Chapter Seven

‘Mister Barker.’

Barker’s face almost dropped when he caught sight of Giles marching towards him. It was understandable enough – the image of Giles walking intently at you was enough to make any suspect squirm. But Barker was different – he had personally offended Giles long before she had ever met him, and that made her dangerous.

And that made him wary.

‘Detective Sergeant Giles,’ he said. ‘Am I right in thinking you’ve changed your mind about me?’

‘I haven’t changed my mind about anything, Barker,’ Giles spat, coming to a halt in front of the former politician. ‘I just wanted to demonstrate to DI Harris here how I got so far so quickly in the service.’

‘Oh?’ Barker eyed Harris curiously. ‘And what has that to do with me?’

‘One name,’ Giles spat. ‘One name that everybody has heard of. Granted, not everyone would necessarily know mine, but I’m sure a little digging through the headlines would come up trumps for you.’ She paused to look around. ‘I got to hand it to you though, it was a good attempt.’

‘I don’t understand what you’re talking about…’

‘You say you were fighting with the victim over the gun, correct?’

Barker blinked twice before nodding. ‘That’s right.’

‘That’s funny, because the bullet wound in the back of his head says something different. In fact, I’d stake my reputation on that bullet being fired from quite a considerable distance – probably from inside the bunker. The same bunker that you crawled into…’ she pointed at his shoes, ‘… hence the dust and powder marks on your shoes.

‘You probably disposed of the bullet casing, the same way you disposed of John Doe’ wallet, keys and phone – chucking them in the river. But you weren’t quite quick enough to hide the body, were you? You got spotted by…’ She turned to Harris. ‘What was the name of the lady who came across them?’

Harris’s hands quickly plunged into his pockets and pulled out a notebook. Rifling through the pages, he searched for the name whilst Barker stood, quivering and afraid beneath Giles’ icy glare.

‘This is ridiculous,’ Barker announced, his voice trembling a little. ‘I have already said, the man attacked me…’

Giles sneered at him. ‘You’re a politician. Lies are second nature to you…’

Beside her, Harris had finally found what he was looking for:

‘Miss Maisy Dawlish…’

‘And what did Miss Dawlish report seeing, sir?’

Harris read a few words before speaking:

‘She saw Mister Barker crouched over the victim, seemingly going through his pockets.’

Giles raised an eyebrow. ‘Going through his pockets?’

‘I had just been attacked,’ Barker pleaded. His eyes scanned all about him as though looking for a way out. ‘I had to be sure he didn’t have any more weapons on him…’

‘Or maybe you were just gathering his belongings,’ Giles said, turning back to Harris and saying: ‘What happened next, sir?’

‘Miss Dawlish said she recognised Mister Barker straight away. He told her there had been a horrible accident and that she needed to call the police…’

‘Yes, I did,’ Barker replied defiantly. ‘I had been targeted by someone, I wasn’t about to just run and leave a body lying about.’

‘You couldn’t run,’ Giles agreed, letting loose a small smirk. ‘You’d already been identified. Short of killing Miss Dawlish herself, you had to stick around to face the music…’

‘That is a preposterous suggestion…’

‘Careful, Giles.’

Giles felt Harris’ cool hand grasp a loose hold of her wrist. As she turned to him, she saw in his eyes a glimmer of fear. Whatever her convictions, this was still Harris’ investigation. Any fall out from Giles’ actions would land firmly on him – she had to tread carefully.

‘So, you sent Miss Dawlish to call for help?’ she asked, her voice a little softer this time.

‘Yes,’ Barker replied, a moment of relief and mild satisfaction crossing his face as he eyed Harris.

‘That’s a little strange. After all, you did have your own phone.’ Giles smiled cynically at him. ‘Why couldn’t you use that?’

Barker stumbled to a halt:

‘I…,’ he stammered. ‘I… Well, I was…’

‘I’ll tell you why,’ Giles interrupted again, beginning to enjoy herself. ‘Because you hadn’t counted on being seen. A well-known scumbag like you committing a murder – you wouldn’t last five minutes once the police had all the facts. You had to improvise. You found the two tickets in John Doe’s pockets…’

‘No,’ Baker replied shaking his head. ‘No, I never…’

‘And you scribbled a name on each – yours on one, mine on the other – to make it look like some sort of professional hit…’

Something snapped in Barker’s mind. Before them all, his fists curled up into balls and he looked, for just a moment, like he would lash out at them all. As his blazing eyes glared down at Giles, she could feel the hatred and anger that fuelled him and his convictions. He wasn’t a psychopath or a man just born to hate – his environment had created him that way.

‘And why do you think I wrote your name, Giles?’ he bellowed, snarling wildly at her.

As the last echoes of his voice disappeared into the distance, the scene fell silent. Everyone, from Harris to the escorting constables, stared motionlessly at Barker as he breathed heavily in and out. For some the realisation was instant, for others it took a little while. From behind her, Giles felt Harris take a step forward to examine Barker.

‘You admit it then?’ he said quietly. ‘You wrote those names on the tickets?’

Barker was the last to realise what he’d done. Even as he glared down at Harris, his eyes seemed to soften as the implication of what he had said planted a seed of terror in his mind. He took a few steps back, his eyes scanning wildly from Giles to Harris as his fingers quivered – ready for a fight.

‘No,’ he murmured. ‘No, I didn’t mean…’

Giles took a step towards him.

‘Like I said, it was a very good attempt; the bluebell fields, my name on the ticket, the brief mention of the Bluebell Killer to Harris here. Had you been anyone else, I might have been convinced.’ She leaned a little closer. ‘But the thing is I don’t like you. I despise what you stand for and nothing will give me greater pleasure than watching you fall…’

She took a step back away from him.

‘The Bluebell Killer is dead, Mister Barker,’ she said loudly for everyone to hear. ‘He isn’t coming back.’

Barker shook his head.

‘How close were you, Evelyn?’ he asked quietly. ‘Did you even know what you were looking for before I gave you a hand?’

Giles’ mind stopped. There was no anger, no disgust, no excitable logic. It was as if all conscious thought had been replaced by a moment of sheer shock and awe. Without even thinking, she stepped a little closer towards Barker, her face no more than a few inches from his. With a hushed whisper, she said:

‘What are you talking about?’

Barker smiled.

‘You think this all ended with Donnovan. You haven’t got the faintest idea what is still out there.’ For a moment, Giles thought he might kiss her as he leant forward – his lips barely an inch away from her face. ‘You were warned before. And if you want to know the rest, you’ll have to get me out of this…’

A flurry of questions rippled through Giles’ head. It forced everything about the day out of her mind. She forgot the body. She forgot the tickets. She even forgot her victorious unmasking of Barker. She forgot it all in the wake of a thousand thoughts and memories – images she had spent the last year trying to force into the back of her mind.

In the midst of the silence, Harris placed a gentle hand back on Giles’ arm and gently pulled her back from Barker. She didn’t resist, she just let herself be led back until Harris was left alone in front of Barker.

Barker – for his part – continued to stare pointedly at Giles. He barely reacted as Harris read out his rights and two uniformed officers cuffed his hands behind his back. And when Harris had finished, he allowed himself to be led over to the side of the clearing where he was sat down whilst Harris held a hurried discussion with his colleagues about what to do next.

But all that was a blur for Giles.

In her mind, she pictured tens of dead bodies. She remembered months of fruitless paperwork. She recalled the lost man-hours chasing shadows through the streets of London.

And through it all, her mind settled on a mental image of a man.

A man sat alone in the dark.

A man making furtive phone calls and collating secretive packages.

A man completely unknown to her – and yet he was closer to her than many others in her life.

But the man she imagined looked nothing like Daniel Barker. He didn’t even sound like him or speak with the same calculated intelligence. There was nothing about him that related to that vile excuse of a man that she watched sitting at the side of the field.

Everything she knew, or thought she knew, of this man shattered into a thousand pieces. Everything she assumed was gone save one thing…

A name.

A single, fake name.

Max…

nick1Nick R B Tingley is a crime writer from the UK. After several years working as a ghostwriter, Nick released his debut novel The Bluebell Informant– the first in his DS Evelyn Giles series. He is currently working on the second in the series – The Court of Obsessions – as well as a Victorian-era mystery novella called The Butcher of Barclay’s Hollow. 

To stay up to date with Nick’s latest releases, subscribe to his newsletter now. They’ll be no spamming – I promise!

The Bluebell Informant – Chapter Five

If you’re not up to speed on The Bluebell Informant so far, the first three chapters can be found here.

Chapter Five

The search was completed and still Giles insisted that they check again. The constables scowled at her from across the evidence table but they did as they were told and systematically went through every pocket, pulling each one inside out so that Giles could see they were empty before moving on to the next.

She had no authority here – Giles knew it, but they didn’t seem to. Giles imagined that if Harris knew what she was doing he would have put a stop to it in an instant. But – at the moment – he was far too distracted by the search of the pillbox to pay her any attention. And besides, it wasn’t like she was tampering with evidence. She’d been sure to allow the officers to do all the handling – if anything ever came of it, there would be no question that she hadn’t handled any of the evidence directly…

She glanced over towards the bunker. Stood by the opening, Harris and his sergeant peered motionlessly in through the opening, watching as the bright torchlight of the SOCO swung back and forth as he made his search.

Part of her hoped that they would find the bullet casing in there. She would hate Harris to think that she’d distracted him just so she could wander around his crime scene unimpeded. Of course that was exactly what she had done, but she didn’t want him to know that. The chances were the bullet casing would be in there – either that or at the bottom of the river – and, if they were, that would put an entirely different spin on the day’s events.

It’s the only place it could possibly be…

She turned back to constable.

‘That’s all, Sarge,’ he said, dropping the trousers back in the evidence bag and dropping it to one side.

Giles stared down at the three items in the bags in front of her, scrutinising them with every analytical skill she possessed.

‘So let’s be clear,’ she muttered. ‘We have a phone, a wallet and a set of keys.’

‘Right,’ the officer replied, rolling his eyes as he leant against the table. ‘And definitely no train ticket.’

‘You’re sure?’

‘Of course, I’m bloody sure.’

‘What about in his wallet?’

‘Not there either,’ he replied, picking up the bag with the wallet inside. Keeping it inside the bag, he carefully opened the wallet and showed Giles the contents. ‘Look, see? A couple of twenties, some loose change, his Britain’s Own Party membership card, National Insurance card, picture of his wife and kid, debit card, credit card and no train ticket.’

Giles stared down at the wallet. She asked him to run through the contents a couple more times before she was finally satisfied. With a nod of thanks she stepped back from the table and stared off towards the pillbox.

‘So, if Barker didn’t have it, there’s only one place it can be…’

She watched for a few moments as the torchlight hovered in the air as the SOCO inside the pillbox scrutinised the floor. A little beyond, Giles could see the swaggering figure of Daniel Barker pacing back and forth, nervously looking towards the hive of activity that was building up around the little concrete structure. Already, Harris was beckoning more SOCOs over to the new site. He helped two more climb in and passed them their equipment before peering anxiously in through the wide opening.

Giles knew there was only a little more time left.

She had to take her chance now.

With a quick glance around, Giles made her way swiftly and silently down the path towards the next field. When she reached the field boundary, she glanced back over her shoulder towards the pillbox before moving stealthily behind the hedgerows. From there, she walked smartly up towards the small group of officers who stood around Barker.

She had no real need to flash her warrant card, but she did so all the same as a burly sergeant moved forward to intercept her.

‘I need to speak to this man, Sergeant,’ she barked with clipped precision.

She had no authority over him – they both knew that. They were both sergeants, just with different responsibilities – but Giles often found that many uniformed officers were a lot more likely to back down if she behaved like she had additional authority over them.

This sergeant was not one of them.

‘I’m sorry, Detective,’ he replied. ‘I can’t let you speak to him without prior approval from Detective Inspector Harris.’

‘But I have approval,’ Giles replied quickly, glancing towards Barker who stood watching the exchange with increasing interest. ‘I was here with Harris only half an hour ago.’

‘I understood that he had you escorted from the scene…’

‘And yet I’m still here,’ Giles fired back. ‘What does that suggest to you, Sergeant?’

The sergeant stared blankly at her, his hands twitching as he reached up for his radio.

‘If you don’t mind, I’ll just check.’

‘Course I don’t mind,’ Giles shrugged, stepping around him. ‘Harris told me I wouldn’t have any problems but if you want to disturb him to prove him wrong then that’s your concern. I’ll just get on with talking with this man whilst you get dressed down.’

It was a gamble and one that she was almost certain wouldn’t work. And yet, as she stepped around the sergeant he made no move to stop her from carrying on straight to Barker. Even when she arrived in front of the former politician, the sergeant still hadn’t called it in, although his hand remained glued to his radio as he stepped away to give them some space.

Now dressed in a cheap shirt and pair of trousers, Barker looked a mere shadow of the man that Giles had come to hate. But his body still stood rigid with the public school boy propriety that had been drilled into him since his formative years. He sucked slowly on a cigarette, pondering Giles with eyes that appeared almost hypnotic now that she could see them up close.

He flashed a smug grin and took a long drag of his cigarette as his eyes wandered up Giles’ body.

‘Well played, Giles,’ he said, exhaling the smoke up into the air above Giles’ head. ‘I have to admit I was sceptical at first, but after seeing that display…’

‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ Giles replied, dismissing him with a wave of her hand.

Barker crooned: ‘Of course not,’ and tapping his nose with his index finger, whispered, ‘mum’s the word.’

Giles scowled, shooting a glance over her shoulder at the sergeant. He was a good ten metres away, but he watched their exchanges like a hunting hawk. She turned back towards Barker.

‘I have some questions.’

‘I thought you might.’

‘Are you going to answer them?’

‘I might. You get me out of this mess and I’ll tell you everything you want to know.’

‘And why would I do that?’

‘Because you didn’t sneak up here and con your way into talking with me to solve a murder.’

Giles hesitated. She could see how the man got so far in politics. He was sharp and blunt – he could almost have been a lawyer in a previous life – and his eyes shone with an intelligence that far surpassed the usual person that Giles would interview day-to-day.

Barker tilted his head to one side, pondering Giles until a shuffle of footsteps from a nearby constable snapped him out of whatever thought he’d been thinking.

‘So,’ he said, clapping his hands together. ‘Shall we begin?’

Giles sneered: ‘You’re not my informant.’

‘And you’re not the detective I thought you were, but we all make mistakes.’ Baker glanced around to check for anyone listening. ‘I must admit, I didn’t do my research thoroughly enough. I knew enough to know that I couldn’t trust your DI with the information, but Giles seemed like a good, strong English name that I never imagined it might belong to a chink…’ He eyed her curiously. ‘Your father’s?’

‘My husband’s.’

‘Yes, of course,’ he replied, glancing down at her wedding ring. ‘It was a mistake that I will not be lightly making again. However, you are who you are – neither of us can help that. And, as it happens, you seem to be rather a capable detective and, more importantly, you are the one I have been dealing with up until now…’

‘You’re fishing…’ Giles muttered, shaking her head knowingly.

‘Absolutely.’

For a moment, his eyes left Giles and drifted across the field towards the pillbox. Giles turned to follow his gaze. They couldn’t see it from where they were – the hedgerows obscured it from view – but it was clear that something was going on. From beyond the hedgerows, Giles could hear the excited calling of Harris marshalling his officers and through the gaps in the bushes she could see the occasional flashes of white overalls as the SOCOs descended on the pillbox.

She turned back towards Barker, noting with satisfaction the look of intensity on his face.

‘It’s only a matter of time, you know,’ she said firmly. ‘They’re tearing that pillbox apart as we speak.’

Barker shrugged. ‘I trust they will do a thorough job.’

Giles chuckled, shaking her head as she tried to control her emotions.

‘You don’t seriously expect to get away with this, do you?’ she asked between laughs. ‘A guy ends up dead with his head blown in and you’re the chief suspect. It’s only a matter of time before the evidence falls overwhelmingly against you. And no golfing experiences with Harris’ superior officer is going to change that…’

‘Unless, of course, I didn’t do it.’

‘I find that hard to believe…’

‘Really?’ Barker interrupted, ripping his attention away from the direction of the pillbox. ‘Then why are you here?’

Giles smiled – an uncomfortable feeling of glee crept into her body, filling her mind with excitement and satisfaction. She had always wondered why good people turned bad and now, with vengeance so close, she could understand it. But she was better than those people – she wouldn’t bring about Barker’s demise. She would just sit back and watch it happen.

‘Because I want to remember,’ she muttered. ‘I want to remember how cocky you looked before Harris finds what he is looking for and wipes that smile from your face. You see I know you murdered that man. I don’t know why, but I don’t really care. I’m just going to be as much help as I can to investigation and know – deep in my heart – that I am helping to bring down the man who brought so much fear and terror to my people. And when you come crashing down, I will be there to see it.’

She waited for a long while, staring hard at Barker, willing him to react. But he didn’t move. He didn’t even blink. He just turned his head away from her and looked back towards the pillbox, his face glowing with confidence.

After a few moments, Giles could feel a surge of anger pulsing through her veins. She turned away from him and began to walk away. It was only when she passed the sergeant that Barker spoke again, calling out to her as she marched back towards the pillbox.

‘I’m a confident man, Detective Giles,’ he shouted. ‘That should tell you everything you need to know.’

nick1Nick R B Tingley is a crime writer from the UK. After several years working as a ghostwriter, Nick released his debut novel The Bluebell Informant– the first in his DS Evelyn Giles series. He is currently working on the second in the series – The Court of Obsessions – as well as a Victorian-era mystery novella called The Butcher of Barclay’s Hollow. 

To stay up to date with Nick’s latest releases, subscribe to his newsletter now. They’ll be no spamming – I promise!

Exciting News!

Exciting News!

About a month ago, I told you about an exciting project that I’d been working on. That project, Murder Under My Nose, has finally got a release date! And it’s soon!

Published by Senserial Publishing, Murder Under My Nose will be released in twelve parts from the end of September on their website before being made available to buy on Kindle from Amazon.

For those of you don’t fancy reading it piecemeal, the release date for the Kindle version is currently set at 22nd December – right in time for Christmas. But for those of you who want to read it week by week as intended, the first instalment will be available to read on 29th September. And the best part is you can read it from the comfort of your own computer screen.

Needless to say, I can’t tell you more than that at the moment, but if you want to stay absolutely up-to-date with all the latest news on Murder Under My Nose and the other serialised novels produced by Senserial, you can find their blog here.

Stay tuned!

Literary Agents: Top Tips – Part 2

Yesterday I posted Part 1 of my top tips for submitting to literary agents. In that post, I talked about preparing your work – particularly your covering letter and manuscript. If you missed out on that one, you can find it here.

Today, I’m going into the organisation bit.

As I said yesterday, approaching an agent requires a plan and these tips will help you get organised so that you can put your best foot forward.

So, continuing from where we left off…

4. Scope out your targets and do your research

You will never find the right home for manuscript if you don’t check out the list of agents. Will you be able to shoot a target if you’re not looking at it? Probably not. So you need to know what is out there and find what is best for you.

There are different agencies that handle different genre of books. Some are purely children’s literature, some are only literary fiction – some are even just non-fiction. Make sure you only select the agencies that want to see your genre of work. There is no point sending a crime thriller to an agency that only deals with children’s fiction – you’re just wasting everyone’s time there.

There are numerous lists (both paid and free) that you can use to give you a start, but it’s advisable to do your own leg work. Many of these lists are out of date or contain names of agents that no longer work there so check them out yourselves. The last thing you want to do is ruin your chances by sending work to an agent who doesn’t exist anymore…

Which brings me to the most important part of this tip: check out the individual agents in an agency and find one who you think your work is most suited to. Agents like it when it looks like you’ve done your own research – remember what I said about first impressions? Addressing a covering letter to the agent who is after the sort of thing you’ve written will go a long way to getting them to like you – and liking you might just be what swings it in your favour if push comes to shove. And make sure that the agent is accepting new clients – you can usually find out if they’re not accepting new clients on their information page. Don’t waste your time by submitting to an already overworked agent, no matter how much you think they’ll love your story – you won’t get anywhere.

When you find the agencies and agents that you think will appreciate your work, check out their submission guidelines – all agencies have them and they are there for a reason. Don’t take it for granted that they will want three sample chapters, a synopsis and a covering letter. Some agencies are very specific about what they want and may well base a decision on as little as 5,000 words so make sure you note down what they want.

You want to make a good first impression and – unfortunately – ignoring the details is a common error, so they probably won’t even remember you if you screw that bit up…

5. Create a submission strategy

It is not a wise idea to submit your work to every agent that fills your criteria – it is certainly not a good idea to submit to two different agents within the same agency. If one agent thinks another in the same office will appreciate your work, they will hand it on themselves – you don’t need to do it for them. Although agents are realists and understand that you don’t want to put all your eggs in the same basket, they don’t want to feel like they are one of hundreds that you’ve submitted to at any given time so definitely don’t send out any mass emails to more than one agency.

You need to prioritise – work out which agents you’d like to submit to first and then work your way slowly through the list. And for that, you need a submission strategy.

Different writers do this in different ways – ultimately it’s down to you. I like to take all the information I gathered from step four and put it all into a worksheet – that way I colour code it based on what information is important to me and can very quickly see who I’ve submitted to and who I haven’t. It doesn’t really matter what you do as long as you have a way of quickly seeing what your next step is.

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 09.32.10Most writing sites recommend submitting to no more than three agencies at a time and I have to say I agree. That way, if you are faced with the terrifying prospect of a rejection from an agent, you still have two more in play, which will help keep your morale up. Rank the agencies you like most and start at the top, work your way down and submit to a new agent every time you receive a rejection.

Unless an agency offers to read the rest of your manuscript, stick to this plan. If you receive ten or twelve rejections, there may be something wrong with your manuscript, covering letter or synopsis. True, there may be something wrong with your story altogether, but the best way to find out is to go back, tweak those submission materials and start submitting again.

No matter how downhearted and demoralised you might get, stick to the plan.

Which leads me nicely on to…

6. Accept Rejection

Before you ever send your submission material off, accept one thing. There will be people out there who won’t like your work – and that includes agents.

It doesn’t matter if your work is the most brilliant masterpiece, if the agent doesn’t feel it they won’t want to read the rest. Look at it this way, I didn’t particularly enjoy The War of the Worlds and that is considered a classic piece of science-fiction.

The long and the short of it is that you could have handpicked a particular agent for your work and still misunderstood what they were after. Whether we like it or not, there are any number of things that could be wrong with your submission: the agent might not like your personality in the covering letter, they aren’t a fan or your writing style, they can’t think of a publisher who would want your story, they have someone on their books who is very similar to you already, they were having a bad day when they read it, they might disagree with your thematic approach, the main character may remind them of someone they really don’t like…

The list is endless. But it’s not all about the agent: You may have a typo in your first sentence, you might have accidentally left in a sentence that doesn’t make sense, a character might randomly change name in the middle of your opening chapter, you might have compared your story to a book that isn’t particularly good…

All these things are potential problems that can lead to rejection. The important thing is to not be phased by it. You will not – and I cannot highlight this enough – will not be picked up by the first agent you submit to, particularly if you start by targeting the best. You might be lucky, but it’s highly unlikely: think of J K Rowling – no one wanted Harry Potter to start with and now you can’t find a person in the UK who doesn’t know about her books. Think about her pseudonym, Robert Galbraith – when she started writing crime novels, no one wanted to touch her – to them she was just another new author.

If you put yourself out there, someone will reject you. If you can’t handle that then submitting to an agent may not be for you. The important thing is to keep ploughing on. If too many agents reject you, start to consider changing your submission materials or going down the self-publish route but don’t – and I mean this sincerely – don’t just give up because the first agent you approach doesn’t want to take you on.

It doesn’t mean your story is rubbish. It just means that agent isn’t the right person for it.

So there are my top tips for submitting to agents. If you are trying to find an agent I wish you the very best of luck. If you’re thinking about it then bear in mind these tips – it is hard work, but if it wasn’t then these wouldn’t be worth the time it took me to type them. Remember, organisation is the key. Make a plan. Stick to the plan.

And knock ’em dead.

Now,

I want to hear from you.

Are you submitting to an agent? Have you submitted before and been rejected? What technique did you use for keeping up your submission momentum? Were you rejected by agents and found your success in the world of self-publishing?

As always, if you have read this far I’m guessing you like what you read. If so then hit that like button or (if you’re not a blogger) share it about on Face-Twit-Pin-Book. If you didn’t like it or disagree, tell me your thoughts in the comments down below. Anyone can comment and I’d love to hear what you have to say.

All the best.

Literary Agents: Top Tips – Part 1

Have a plan.

Regardless of whether you are approaching an agent for the first time (or trying to pitch your manuscript to a publisher for that matter) you have to have one.

Let’s be absolutely clear from the outset, finding an agent isn’t like any other part of your writing experience. When you’re writing a book or a story, you don’t need to start out with a plan. Sure, you might have a vague idea of how you want it to start and finish, but you don’t necessarily have an in-depth idea of every moment that is going to happen before you start putting pen to paper. And yes, you might be one of those writers who schedules the writing of each chapter to a particular day so that you can get it all done to a deadline (something I really should start doing).

But – for the most part – any plan you may have in the beginning will be vague and lacking in detail. Some writers don’t even plan at all…

But approaching an agent is different. Of all the writery (yes I am claiming that word) things you will be doing in your day-to-day life, writing to an agent will be the least so. And it requires a different tactic.

It requires organisation.

It requires a plan. 

So here is part one of my top tips for sifting through the agent pile and making sure they get hold of the best possible form of your manuscript.

1. Prepare your materials early

Most agencies are pretty standard in terms of their requirements from you as a writer. Yes, some of the details differ here and there and some agents have very specific requirements about what they want from unknown writers, but generally speaking they are all after the same thing: the first few sample chapters of your manuscript, a synopsis or outline of some kind and a covering letter.

Prepare these early – they take far longer than you might expect and, as a writer, you should be treating your covering letter and synopsis with the same care and attention that you would give your manuscript. When I recently started submitting The Bluebell Informant to agents, I spent over a year honing my covering letter and synopsis – and I am so glad I did. My first attempts were truly awful to what I have now.

So get started today – right now. There really is no better time.

2. Recognise the role and value of the covering letter

This is where many writers fall down. They devote all their attention to honing their manuscript until it is practically perfect and then do a haphazard job of the other parts.

Out of the synopsis and your covering letter, the latter is arguably the most important – it is the only time when the agent gets to see what kind of person you are and learn a bit about you. Occasionally an agent might request a biography, but most don’t want to have to wade through your life story. Bottom line – they want to know why you wrote the story, what you think it is about (or why it is worth the agent’s time to read it) and if you’re intending to be a career writer or a one-timer.

Don’t be cocky – you’re not the greatest writer to ever walk the world and your story isn’t the best thing since sliced bread – so don’t say it. And crucially, remember that your covering letter is there to get the agent reading the first page of your manuscript – so make it personal and make it brief.

This is your first impression so make it count.

3. Recognise the role and value of the synopsis

Ironically enough, most writers are more perturbed by the synopsis. Writers tear their hair out over it – they don’t know how to make it sound awesome and, as a result, they give up fairly quickly (I know, I’ve been there too).

But the truth of it is that the synopsis exists to let the agent know what they can expect from the rest of the manuscript. It doesn’t need to be flash or like the jacket blurb of a book – it certainly doesn’t need to leave the agent on tenterhooks to want to find out what happens at the end. It is basically just a description of the rest of the plot of the story – no flashy language, just pure fact.

If you are worried that it doesn’t sound interesting enough – and you really shouldn’t – maybe consider writing an elevator pitch at the start – a simple one line sentence that shows the agent your hook. For example for The Devil’s Detective by Simon Kurt Unsworth, it might be:

A dark, mystery thriller centred around a murder in Hell

Short, to the point. Perfect.

Bottom line…

Agents know the synopsis will be boring, so don’t bother trying to make it exciting – you won’t do yourself any favours. Just make it succinct, well written and factual – if you do that, you can’t really go wrong.

 

That was just the ground work. In my next post, I will go on to talk about Part 2 – the research and organisation bit. This is where most writers either rise or fall so remember to have a look when it comes out tomorrow.

In the meantime, I want to hear from you. Have you ever submitted to an agent? How much time did you take to prepare yourself? Did you find the process easy or difficult? And if you could give one piece of advice to other writers about submitting to agents, what would it be?

As always, if you have read this far I’m guessing you like what you read. If so then hit that like button or (if you’re not a blogger) share it about on Face-Twit-Pin-Book. If you didn’t like it or disagree, tell me your thoughts in the comments down below. Anyone can comment and I’d love to hear what you have to say.

Until tomorrow…

 

Hunting down Agents

So yesterday I finally got round to submitting The Bluebell Informant to an agent. It’s taken me a little while – assembling lists of agencies, tracking down particularly agents, honing my cover letter and synopsis – that it almost felt like writing a book in itself. I think if I’ve learnt anything from the process, it is that being organised with finding an agent or publisher is just as important as being organised with your writing…

Maybe I’ll post my strategy at some point…

Wish me luck!

The Moment My Turtle Decided to Upstage Me

Last week, I released a series of video interviews in the run up to the release of my website. As part of that, I also published a couple of posts relating to some tactics for making your first author interview on no budget (or very little at least), which I suggest any author who is interested in the interview aspect of the job but who may be a little unnerved by the idea should take a look at for a little perspective if nothing else.

In addition to that post, I also revealed a funny incident that occurred during filming where I was unceremoniously upstaged by my pet turtle, Batman. Although I didn’t publish the clip itself, I have had a huge number of requests from followers, readers and the like to publish the actual clip so – bowing to the pressure of my public – here it is for all to see…

I call it ‘The Curious Case of the Bored Turtle‘.

Enjoy

Incidentally, if you haven’t checked out my new website – http://www.nickrbtingley.com – please do and let me know what you think.