I think the worst part about trying to break into the publishing world is the waiting. Actually I don’t think, I know, at least for me that is. As a writer you’ve spent all this time crafting your idea, your vision, into 100,000 words (give or take) of story. You’ve developed characters, created a page turning plot (you hope) and left the reader with a satisfying conclusion (again, you hope). You’ve edited, revised, had critique, gotten positive response, edited some more, got more feedback, re-wrote, added chapters, removed chapters, edited again, got more feed back, then you put the final polish on. Congratulations, you’ve now completed step one. Step what? Are you kidding me?
Now it’s time to polish your MS again, give it one last good, close look. Research the agents you want to query. Make sure they represent your genre, make sure they are currently accepting queries, research their likes and dislikes, make sure you’ve learned a bit about them and see if not only they rep your genre but do you think they’ll be a good fit for your novel? Why are they a good fit? Is it their type of story, what kind of novels have they represented, are any of them similar to yours and if so, why?
Do this for each individual agent and make a list. How long are their response times, what format do they prefer you send them your query (remember NO ATTACHMENTS) make sure you’re not querying two agents at the same agency. Read online interviews about them, read reviews about them as an agent, if they have a blog subscribe to it, read every subscription you can and learn, learn, learn. Step two is now complete.
Now it’s time to craft your query letter. Have you done your research? Have you found examples of good query letters? What do your specific agents like/dislike in a query (remember NO RHETORICAL QUESTIONS). Have you had your query critiqued? Does it make you want to read more? Revise it. Have it critiqued again. Read it out loud to yourself and make sure it has a nice flow. Make sure it’s no longer than one page, is it formatted properly, and most importantly remember: it’s a teaser, will this query make the reader want to read more? If you answered “yes” then congratulations, step three is now complete. Go ahead and send out your first wave of queries and now you are in the same place as me. I like to call it ‘Matt’s metropolis of fame-waiting potential’… I know, I know, you don’t have to tell me, it’s catchy. Thank you.
What’s the bad thing about waiting? You let your own mind get to you. Oh no, you find a mistake in the sample pages you sent out, or your forgot a comma. Shoot, I accidently indented that paragraph twice. Darn, I used italics and I just discovered this agent hates italics what am I going to do?
Stop. Breathe. Relax. It’s already gone, you can’t fix it now. You’re definitely not going to resend. What will the letter say? “Sorry, please discard previous submission, this one is better because it has less errors.” I’m not sure that comes across as professional.
So this is what you do…I think, remember I’m at this stage now, I’m actually just learning.
Wait for it…
Wait for it…
Wait for it….
Bet you didn’t see that coming.
Yes, we write. What better to take our mind off the waiting game then writing? So we start writing, get a few rejections, mope around and be sad because our writing sucks and we’re never going to amount to anything within the publishing industry. Then we get some more rejections, we mope some more. Get another rejection and we say “screw the system” I’m getting published. Then we rework our query and resubmit to wave two of the agents on our previously made super handy-dandy list and we get back to waiting and writing.
Then before we know it after two, maybe four, maybe 10, or maybe even 100 waves of queries, we have an agent offer representation. We were so persistent and we never gave up and it finally paid off. He wants to know about book two. Do we have any ideas, how long do we expect it will take to write it . But wait, what have we been doing all this time? We’re already done the first draft and said agent is very excited that we have such great workmanship.
Okay, so this last paragraph is how I envision/hope that it goes. Until I get there I’ll have to just pretend and enjoy my dream. Then when it comes true I’ll be shocked at the fact that I have a whole new boatload of work to do on book one. More revisions? Aww man! But hey, it comes with the territory right?
So there you have it, in less than 800 words on how this process works. That sure was informative wasn’t it? No? Want more? Well check the blogroll on the right hand side. There is great information and more specifics on those links.
So as my lunch hour comes to an end, I’m off to go back to my day job where I do as little as possible and dream of being published as much as possible. Then tonight I’ll go home and write, write, write, and see if I can’t make book two something stellar.
Tune in next time. Same Matt time, same Matt channel.