All of which goes to excuse why I am now going to post TWO questions from Simon, one of my lovely readers, and hand over to you all with only the briefest of answers from me. (Brief? Me? God, there must be something going on.)
"Re overseas agents? Is approaching one a good idea? There are quite a few agents in the USA who I'd like to approach but I'm really not sure if it's a sensible approach. It's obviously harder to build up a working relationship with someone so far away. But, with all thecommunication technology available to us, perhaps it can work."I say: assuming Simon is in the UK (?) there's not really a very good reason for doing this unless for some reason his books are particularly US-friendly and not UK-friendly. This is possible but you'd want to be sure of this. If you have a UK agent, he/she will try to sell to the US anyway, or your UK publisher will if said publisher holds the US rights. Personally, I'd have my agent in the territory* where I live. And let her organise sub-agents for foreign** rights. And very hoorayishly, she's just sold Hungarian rights for Deathwatch, for which I certainly didn't have a Hungarian agent, just a hungry one.
Edited to add (sorry - I was tired last night):
* I should clarify: I'm really talking about US as opposed to UK. Australia and NZ are so similar in relevant ways to the market in the UK that there's no disadvantage for an Australian author, for example, having a UK agent. It's not a matter of living nearby and popping round for coffee - it's a matter of having the same writer-reader mindset. And the US, much as we love you Americans, is just different. Gloriously so, of course, but different.
** by which I mean foreign language.
Then Simon said:
"The other question is to do with sample chapters of a novel. I'm wondering whether it is a good idea to post some chapters of my a novel-looking-for-an-agent-or-a-publisher. Is that a sensible piece of platform-building or is it dangerously close to self-publishing and/or using up first publication rights?"OK. What does this platform-building entail? Because if it's a couple of hundred hits and 25 comments, this is not a platform. It's very very unlikely that you'll build a platform so powerful that it would make any difference to their decision. Also, yes, you do risk technically blowing first rights. If this is genuinely a taster, a sample, hmmm, possibly - but actually it's most likely that an editor would want to edit it anyway, in which case you haven't acheived anything except confuse your potential readers. Also, a taster is not going to work unless the actual book appears very soon afterwards - for example, when publishers offer taster chapters this is always very shortly before publication.
So, I'd say that posting your chapters online can do very little good and could do harm.
Edited to add: Sarah, in one of the comments below, reminded me about this excellent post on Editorial Ass.
Meanwhile, I am off to copy all the many Hotel Choc comp entries into a doc for my secret judge to judge. I am stunned by how many of you entered. I am going to need a substantial amount of fortification even just to copy and paste them all.
And thank you Simon for asking - you saved me having to dream up something new on a night when my shoulders are screaming with too much keyboard time!