I had an agent. The next step was to go and meet him. Andrew's office is in Pimlico, central London, just around the corner from where I used to live. We had a good meeting. He was very bullish about the chances of finding a publisher for my book. Unfortunately, things turned out not to be so simple.
Having an agent means that editors at publishing houses will look at your work. It doesn't mean that they will buy it. Some of them provided varying degrees of feedback. One loved it, but couldn't get it through his marketing committee. Another said it was too high brow. Yet another (admittedly the trade arm of a university press), thought it was too low brow. Almost everyone agreed it was a great idea but not for them. After a few months of this we decided that it was time to have a rethink. Andrew sent the proposal and sample chapters off to another reader who was enjoined to be as critical as possible in his report.
Then, we had another meeting and decided that the problem was my book was falling between two stools. It read like an academic work that was trying to be accessible, not like a work actually written for laypeople. Like many authors, I was guilty of writing a book I would want to read rather than one with mass appeal. The new reader's report was very helpful in this regard and I was sent off to transform my idea into a truly commercial proposition. To do this I had to add colour, vignettes of everyday life and more anecdotes. The challenge was to do it without compromising my historical integrity. However, I was also told to be as controversial as I could manage. As I had toned down some aspects of my thinking in my first draft, I felt I had a licence to re-introduce them. Thus, I continued my war against judgmental terms for historical periods like 'Dark Ages', 'Renaissance' and 'Enlightenment'.
Finally, I took out almost all references to Christianity, especially my own beliefs. That's the world we live in, folks.
Comments or questions? Post them at Bede's dedicated yahoo group.