‘What journey is this?‘ you may be asking yourself. Well, this is a journey through the magical (and just a little terrifying) world of….. drum roll please!….. publication!
Now, don’t get out your confetti and party favors just yet. We have a ways to go. In theory, it’s not that far. Only a few steps, but they are very large steps. Like an Ent step compared to a Hobbit step. Or, for those of you not familiar with Lord of the Rings, a Clydesdale compared to a Chihuahua.
Let’s examine the steps, shall we!? Or at least the steps I do (and the order I do them), which is probably wrong, but I’m the one driving this here mystery machine and if you don’t like it you can get your own. But then it wouldn’t be rainbow colored with plush purple seats and big windows to watch the world go by and an endless supply of cookies and cocktails. So there.
1) Have a novel.
This is a big step. If you are among the millions of people who have at same point thought; “Gee, I sure would like to write a book.” You know what I’m talking about.
It’s one thing to think about, or even start, writing a novel; it’s finishing it that’s the hard part. You get bogged down by details. Drown in back story. Rage at ideas that don’t pan out. And outright cry at prose.
But if you struggle enough you will eventually have a whole novel! *claps*
2) Have a completed manuscript.
This, to me, is much different than stringing a bunch of words together and calling it a “novel“. This is where you break it down. You make sure you have a beginning, middle and end. You look for plot holes, spelling and grammar errors. You fact check. You make sure your characters are in character throughout the whole story. You watch the flow, take out slow parts, add in more action. Clean up the dialogue.
Basically you take the entire thing apart and sew it back together.
This is hard work. Very hard work. But the hardest part is actually saying it’s “complete”. Because no matter what you do, how long you chip away at everything, you will never be satisfied. There’s always something else you could’ve done. Something you should’ve changed or added.
In the end you will have stop and call it good. Or else you won’t ever be able to move onto the next step….
3) Know your market!
This is where we go out and read. Reading is fun, right? Yay for reading and books and bookstores and e-readers!
What? I don’t just get to hunker down in a random corner of the bookstore or library (I’m old school, damn it!) and have at it? I have to find stories similar to mine (but it’s an original idea! Nothing else out there is similar!), match up publishers, read all the fine print, and find my ‘niche’. I must do all this only to realize I am not a unique little flower as originally thought and therefore must go back and fix things in the manuscript; thus repeating steps one and two.
Screw that! Can’t I just read books for the stories?
No? Fine… I’ll go look up things on Publisher's Marketplace and book sales on Amazon, but I’m not happy about it!
4) Research agents.
This is similar to what was done previously, just more narrow. We found out who represented the authors with novels similar to our precious bundle of pages. Now we stalk them!
Not actual stalking, mind, but we go to their website, read about them and see what other authors they represent and look up their books. And so on and so forth.
Or you might idly browse Agent Query and WritersNet, clicking on profiles while quietly asking, “will you be my agent?” All with a sad puppy dog look on your face that will have absolutely no bearing on the results.
5) Write a query letter.
Oh, you found an agent who seems suitable? One who will love your story and spend numerous hours pimping you out to publishers? Huzzah!!
Now you have to get the
But how do you get it to this most wonderfully wonderful agent? Why, a query letter, of course! (for some reason this is said in Katherine Hepburn‘s voice).
Now, children, what is a query letter? It is a single page where you tell the agent about the book, yourself and why you would be a good fit.
Sounds simple, right?
I mean it can’t be that hard to smush the plot of a 75K+ word novel onto one page in a cohesive manner that relates all the big, amazing, brilliant points of the story and your main character. It’s like a movie trailer!
Expect every word you use counts because you don’t have much time to ramble (and when you tend to ramble naturally this is NO BUENO!). You must be concise and descriptive. You have to be clear and urgent so they’ll not only want to read more, but they’ll have to read more.
This is when the words start to swirl together, none of them making sense anymore. It’s like looking at hieroglyphics, you see pictures that resemble things you are familiar with, but hell if you know what they really mean.
So you might toddle on over to Query Shark and read every post and every revision…. and when you’re done you still might not know what the hell you’re doing.
This is where trial and error comes into play. Write, whittle, rewrite. Think outside the box! (Or know a few really clever people who will bail your ass out…. either way works!).
Okay, several buckets of
Now this leads us to the next step….
This is where all your hard work comes to fruition! This is where you send the query letter and whatever else is required by the agent and wait for response.
You are preening at your amazing self! You are full of self adulation, because it is only a matter of time before the agent contacts you and is full of high praise!!
It’s just a matter of waiting.
Yup, just gonna wait right here by the computer, refreshing my email to make sure I don’t miss the inevitable reply from the agent. It might take a little while. I mean, agents are busy people; they have to read through hundreds of emails and an endless slush pile full of crap (nothing amazing and brilliant like MY query and MS!).
Okay, yeah. I’ll just be here….. wait, did a tumbleweed just roll past my desk?
Alright, time passes and no reply.
This is where the depression sets it. All the time spent toiling away was for naught because no reply is, well, no reply. So we go back to steps 4 and 5.
And why do we go back? Because this is hard work, harder than actually writing the novel and getting a completed manuscript. You have to put yourself out there, get knocked down, and get back up again.
Because damn it, you will be an author!