Well, I’m certainly feeling a little dizzy these days. I’m sure fellow writers can relate. The journey to publication is long and hard. The whole process seems designed to make the lowly writer despair of ever finding anyone to take a chance on their book and publish it.The fact is that there are thousands upon thousands of writers out there, many of whom are also trying to get noticed and achieve the Holy Grail of a publishing contract.
It’s a pretty daunting concept. And the hardest thing is to start.
By “start”, I mean, you actually have to write something. This is surprisingly hard. At least it was for me. For a long time I had a dream of being a writer, but I was stalled in the gap that existed between my desire to write and the fear that I might not be “good enough”.But one day I gathered up my waning courage and plunged in. To be truthful, it wasn’t exactly “one day”, it was a day after I had just turned 40 and my mother had recently died. Both those events culminated in the realization that I wasn’t getting any younger and time was slipping by so if I was going to do this thing then I had better darn well do it.
My end goal was always to write a novel. But I knew enough to know that I had better not start there. I needed to learn the craft. So fast forward a few years and many thousands of words on the page and some short stories published. That clock was ticking all the time in the background, so I scolded my muttering fears and started my book. And wrote and wrote and wrote until I had the story I wanted to tell.
Then followed revision, editing, sending the first few chapters to a professional editor for her edits, more editing, the realization I actually had enough material for three books not one; back to the drawing board and figuring out how to make THAT work, sending the manuscript off to a few beta readers for feedback, more editing and revision, and finally, finally, about a year ago I had a trilogy with Book One ready to go and Books Two and Three in first draft form.
Now what? There are many routes open to authors for publication, and one day I may expand upon those in another blog post. But suffice it to say I have decided to go the traditional publishing route to start with. I’ve done a lot of research on exactly “how” to do this. Again, options abound. It depends on if you are seeking publication at a big New York publisher or a small indie press and all the variations in-between. Some of that decision will depend upon what kind of book you have. Some of it depends upon if you are already published or not.
To go the traditional publishing route generally you will need a query letter, which is a one-page letter that summarizes your novel in a way that makes an agent or publisher want to read it and includes some information on your writing credentials. Sounds easy? It’s NOT. Try condensing a 136,000 word novel into three paragraphs, max. If you manage to do a good job, and your letter lands in the inbox of an agent who is looking for “just” that book, well, he or she will request a full or partial manuscript to look over. And then they will decide whether or not they want to represent you.
So as you can see a lot is riding on this letter. I have spent a surprising amount of hours on mine. Because basically you only get one chance with an agent. If you mess up your query letter you could have the best book in the world but they won’t know because they won’t request to see it.
It’s all very nerve-wracking. I’ve spent years researching and writing my book (s). I’ve spent months figuring out how to take the next step in terms of publication and who to approach first. I’ve spent weeks on the proposal and queries. Finally I had the query letter all polished up and ready to go, pasted into the body of an email, not an attachment, as per request of that agent, and I couldn’t bring myself to click the mouse to send it. What if I messed it up? What if she doesn’t like it? Should I redo that sentence? Does it sound too formal? Or too casual? Is my freaking book even any good at all, I mean, I have been working on it and rereading it and editing and revising it for so long it all seems so blah to me at this point. Maybe I should just chuck it all into a bin and go walk my dog.
Aargh!! It’s enough to drive you crazy. You have to really love this writing thing to keep going, let me tell you.
Finally at the end of the day, after I had hemmed and hawed and re-read and fiddled with the thing I forced myself to click “send”. Off went my query into the ether. This particular agent promised to read every query and respond within a month. So, now I wait.
I’m not going to send out a bunch of queries all at once. Partially because I want to see what kind of response I get. I might be able to tweak some things depending on how it is received, and hopefully have a better chance next time.
Besides, it’s too hard. I need to gird my loins to prepare for the next one.
In the meantime I tried out #PitMad, which is a twitter event in which authors “tweet” a 140 character pitch for their book on a given day, in this case, it was yesterday, June 4th. Agents and publishers “favourite” the ones they like. If your tweet gets favourited you can send that person a query.
I’ve spent a couple days condensing the book into that 140 character pitch and scheduled them all, as I was working on Thursday and wouldn’t be able to hover over Twitter all day. At the time of this writing (4:23 PM) I’ve had one favourite – woo hoo! A couple hours to go yet, and there might be agents looking over the #PitMad twitter stream tonight, so who knows.
At least someone liked my pitch enough to request a query. It’s a little bit of hope that keeps writers going.
In the meantime I drink my tea and continue researching agents and keep plugging away on the Book Two revisions and try to find time to write more short stories and…..
I’ll keep you posted as to how it all goes….watch this space…..
Photo cred: Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom, by Justine Warrington, on Flickr
Have you ever been too afraid to take that final step on a project you’ve been working on forever? Any other writers out there who have a hard time with the “click of faith”? Tell me about it, I’d love to commiserate with you!