I’m a freelance copy editor and translator from English to Italian. I wrote and published two children’s novels, and I’m finishing the third and last of the series. Both the books obtained very positive feedbacks, and good sales. Right now, some foreign agents (neither British nor Americans) are evaluating them. It’s great! But I would also find an agent or an agency in U.K. or U.S. I received some rejections, all with the same tone: Interesting project, but you are not a native speaker. Why don’t you look for an agent in your own country?
Here and now, I want to explain why. One hundred and forty characters are not enough, and an analysis of the Italian publishing market is not the right subject for a query letter.
I published my works with a high quality small publishing house. The keyword is SMALL.
Question from Lit Agents: Why didn’t you publish with a bigger and more famous publishing house?
Answer: In my country, reaching a BIG publishing house is very difficult. I sent my manuscript to every famous publisher in Italy, but in most cases I had NO REPLY at all, and when I was lucky, I received a formal rejection letter. I was not taken into account. No surprise, only regret. Full stop.
Agents’ question: Why don’t you look for an agent in your own country?
Answer: In Italy there are many, far too many Literary Agencies. But very few among them are really professional, and they work only with BIG publishing houses. Furthermore, they are focused on buying rights instead of selling them. For the most part, we read foreign writers. Why? Because this is exactly how things are. Because it’s fashionable. Because it’s cool. All other agencies ask money in exchange for representation. A scam. And being inserted in a catalogue as long as a telephone guide does not mean “being represented”. Once paid, these so called “agencies” don’t do anything at all. Otherwise, why working hard if they have already achieved lavish earnings without doing absolutely nothing? I want, and I look for an agent with whom to cooperate, with whom reaching goals, with whom building a good and trustful working relationship.
If I have to search outside my own country, well, I will try to do it! Maybe do I ask too much?
And now an open question for U.K. and U.S. Agencies: Unlike Italy, you sell rights instead of buying them. I can remind only few Italian writers who succeeded in the English speaking market: Valerio Massimo Manfredi, Roberto Saviano. Both these behaviors make our culture poorer. So, why don’t you take into consideration more foreign writers as suggested by Daniel Hahn?
I’m looking for my Christopher Little. And what if I am your J.K. Rowling?
Article about Daniel Hahn: