John Suter Linton - How Selwa Became My Agent

To cut a very long story short, in the mid-90s I found myself with a decommissioned manuscript. That is, the publishing house I was contracted to had decided to let my publisher go and, therefore, cancelled all their commissioned works. How I got the original publishing deal was through a friend of a friend. So now, I had no agent and no idea on what to do with the manuscript.

To distract myself I began editing the manuscript and took up ten-pin bowling. At the time, it was decided bowling would be an exhibition game at the 2000 Olympics. I wasn’t bad at the game and, well, a young bloke can dream.

In one of the many leagues I bowled, I meet an accountant who told me they had a literary agent as a client. Telling him my story of woe, he agreed he would pass on my manuscript, but only after reading it himself and deciding if it was worth the agent’s time. He never mentioned who the agent was or anything about them.

Months went by and, as eager as I was, I never asked if the manuscript had been passed on. By the way, the manuscript was a true-crime story, looking into the murder of 19-year-old Kim Barry in Wollongong in 1981. Particularly, it was an in-depth look into the allegations of the accused, Graham Potter’s innocence. I had spent a year speaking with him, his family, Kim’s parents, police and others to put the story together, to find out if there was any truth to his claims. Anyhow, it was the Labour Day long weekend in 1996 when Graham Potter was released after 16 years” imprisonment. His face was splashed all over the weekend newspapers.

I felt depressed at seeing the news and reading the stories of Potter still protesting his innocence, knowing my book had debunked all his tales. Spoiler alert, yes, he was guilty.

The Tuesday after that weekend, I arrived home to a voice message. The woman sounded very excited and introduced herself as Selwa Anthony, saying she had book deal for me and could I call her. The accountant had passed on my manuscript and, wow, I had another deal. This time it went through and I had my first book published.

Naturally, I met with Selwa several times through the process, meeting her husband Brian and, at the time, her two wild but tame lorikeets who’d come for afternoon tea. Even when I phoned Selwa, she’d always be at the other end and spend however much time I needed explaining things or just chatting about every day issues. Selwa was, in fact, so available I thought I was her only client! And, I felt sorry for her. After all, true-crime may be popular, but it isn’t a world-wide bestseller. I wondered how she could feed herself, her family and the lorikeets on my commission?

It wasn’t until some years later, when I finally found the time to attend the Sassy Awards that I realised how many people, very creative people, Selwa had in her stable. This was well before the age of the internet and webpages, so I had no idea. All I knew, and know to this day, is that Selwa is always there whenever we need her. She has always made me feel like I am her only author which, thankfully, isn’t true for her sake. And, because of Selwa, I am now on my seventh book.

What about Graham Potter? Yeah, what I said about him was pretty right, and he’s now one of Australia’s most wanted fugitives, wanted for attempted murder and drug smuggling. As for bowling, well, I’m glad Selwa rescued me so I could put that dream to bed. I don’t look good in green and gold anyway.