High End

by jkatejohnston

13 January 2015

Dear Max,

I decided to send my book to other agents, all with Detachment. You’re supposed to find agents who already represent books like yours, so I found someone plausible and wrote a query letter, opening with some trumped up comparison between my book and one she already represents. (I haven’t actually read the book she represents, but I looked at the first few pages and they weren’t horrible. I’m sure agents are so sick of this.) Then I went online to research her a bit more, hoping to make my query letter more convincing, and she’s been in the news for selling a book by a cat. I suppose there’s a ghost writer. My mind recoiled from the details.

So I researched other agents. I haven’t read any of the books on their lists, and I don’t want to. Why would I read Longbourne when I can read Pride & Prejudice? And I don’t get the code words. What does High End mean? Or Literary? Or Quality? Or Commercial? Or Entertaining? I think these terms denote varying degrees of trashiness, and I’m not sure how trashy my book is. Most books with murder plots are suspenseful, and mine’s not. They’re also violent, and mine’s kind of cringy about that part.

The only sincere comparisons I can make are Alexander McCall Smith and John Mortimer, which sounds horribly grandiose and (in the case of John Mortimer) a bit old fashioned (and a bit dead), and anyway I’m not like them at all. It’s just that they’re lawyers who write about law and crime but mostly just about people. They’re modest and honest and funny. But even if I could reasonably compare myself to them, I can’t figure out who Alexander McCall Smith’s agent is, and the UK agency that represents John Mortimer’s estate doesn’t accept submissions from non-Brits. Talk about old-fashioned!

I’ve decided to send it to a brand new agent at a very fancy UK agency that represents Mark Haddon and Helen Fielding, two writers I’ve read, and surely that’s something. His chief attraction is that he has ZERO books on his list, so I don’t have to compare myself to his established clients. He hopes to represent literary fiction and high end commercial thrillers. In his photo on the website he looks like he’s about seventeen. And my dears, he speaks Italian.