Writing is a frustrating business.
I don't say that from experience, of course, at least not from the business standpoint. While I have been writing, one way or another, since I was old enough to hold a pencil and enjoy just the tactile sensation of making marks on paper, I have never made any money doing it.
I intend for that to change. Here and now I make my vow. I will become a published author, no matter what I have to do. I will work hard, I will work long, and in the end somebody, somewhere, will pay money to read what I have written.
This blog will stand as a record of both my accomplishments and my failures in that respect. I can only hope I will have as many of the former as the latter, but I’m a pessimist by nature so I’m fully prepared to tell a cautionary tale, if nothing else.
For the record, I am a novelist, speciailizing in humor and light (contemporary) fantasy. My writing credits are as good as nonexistent; I published a few short stories in an underground newspaper in high school (more than a decade ago) and wrote a good portion of the mailroom operations manual at a former job. I won’t even bother to put those on my resumé.
Getting down to the brass tacks, Step #1 to my goal is the easiest. I must write a novel. Lucky for all of us I have already completed this step. In fact, it’s been done for over a year now.
Step #2 should be to query agents and try and find someone interested in representing me and my manuscript. I’ve done that too, actually. I’ve done it about a hundred times, though I have yet to receive anything back but a letter of rejection.
Now, Step #2 has yielded some unfortunate and very discouraging results. In fact, it’s the reason I had all but given up trying to sell my book. If nobody wants to read it, it has to be no good, right? Maybe, but seeing as 90% of those rejections came from persons who haven’t read a single page of my work, it’s hard to draw that conclusion/ The truth is, all those people are judging me based on my query letter alone, and it’s hard to reconcile that with my novel.
That’s the one thing most people don’t realize when they decide they want to write a book. Once you’re done writing the manuscript, the actual product, there’s a ton of other little things you have to write. In order to be fully prepared to meet an agent’s requests you need, at the bare minimum, a query letter that both sums up your novel in as few words as possible and lists your credentials (if any) as well as your intended market, an outline that shows the story arch of your novel, a synopsis that does the same thing but with a little more meat on its bones and gives away the ending, and finally, an author bio that makes you seem like an interesting person.
Those things all sound easy enough, and some of them are. The synopsis to my book wasn’t too difficult, except where agents had posted somewhat strict size requirements for them. One actually said she wanted as detailed a summary as possible in 300-500 words. That’s ½ to ¾ of a page! The author bio was doable, since it was easy to manufacture unprovable lies, and the outline was really only nerve-wracking due to a lack of standards for formatting it. The real trick was the query letter.
I have about four or five versions of them, all of which seemed perfectly clever until I read them the next day. They were alright, but all fail to capture the spirit of my book. Add to it my lack of credentials and complete lack of understanding for the publishing industry and they all sum up to a whole lot of mediocre query letters. I haven’t given up yet, but I need a way to introduce myself to agents where my writing speaks for me, instead of against me.
So what’s the next step, if finding an agent seems unlikely? I’ll let you wonder for now, as this is shaping up to be a long post. I’ll visit with you soon to explain Step #3.
Separate names with a comma.