OK, so I know the thing about how you shouldn’t assume that your book is the best thing since sliced banana just because your mother/best friend/ neighbour/neighbour’s dog thinks it’s the best thing since sliced banana but do you know what? I really, really thought I had something here with my proposed non-fiction book ‘My Dear Elsie’, based on the letters I inherited from my grandmother. I mean, how many books are out there which satisfy all the following criteria?
1. A very strong link to Downton Abbey, the highest rated UK drama series of the last decade across any channel and estimated to have been watched by 120 million people in 220 countries, although probably not all at the same time.
2. Anecdotal and often amusing stories that no one living now is likely to have heard before concerning leading figures of the 1920s and 1930s including King George V, the Prince of Wales (later Edward Viii), Sir Winston Churchill, Lord and Lady Carnarvon, Evelyn Waugh (author of Brideshead Revisited) and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
3. Detailed descriptions of being shown round the excavations of Tutankhamun’s burial chamber by the very man who had discovered it a few years earlier, Howard Carter himself.
4. Fascinating glimpses into what it was like travelling all over the world to some very exotic locations with the gentry in the days before commercial air travel was possible and it took weeks to get anywhere by train or ship.
5. A remarkable story of the extremely close friendship which developed over a period of 14 years between a high-ranked member of one of the leading British aristocratic families of the day and a dressmaker, born in a butcher’s shop in the back streets of the provincial city of Leicester.
6. Fact rather than fiction as the book is based entirely on a large collection of old letters and postcards discovered in the back of a wardrobe and not having seen the light of day for over half a century.
7. A parallel story running alongside the letters which explains how the letters were discovered and everything which then ensued, a story which one reader described as “Very inspiring. Moved me close to tears.”
So how come no literary agent, apart from the first one I sent it to who said that he thought it would probably become a bestseller but didn’t want to represent it, has done anything other than a) Tear the sample copy to pieces (not literally of course) b) Reject it with a standard rejection email c) Ignore it?
Your guess is almost certainly as good as mine. In the meantime, I’ll continue to work on this website and maybe add another page or two. Then I might send the proposal and sample copy out to some more agents. There must be one agent out there who loves the book (and wants to represent it) just as much as my neighbour’s dog does.