dontravis.com blog post #277
I hope my analogy of writing a book as being similar to human birthing resonated last week. For this post, we take the next step. The infant becomes a toddler, and you need help. What do we do? We search for an agent or publisher, that's what.
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As of last week, you—our struggling writer—completed the actual writing of the book. It’s been edited up the gazoo, read by a brother-in-law who doesn’t really like you, and checked through every grammar and style program you can locate. In fact, your progeny has reached the age where many parents temporarily find themselves. You can’t stand the damned kid. It’s time to find a babysitter to provide you some relief. So you set about trying to do just that by locating an agent (who will handle him) or a publisher (who’ll take him off your hands).
There are decisions to be made in order to plan for your child’s future. Do you self-publish or traditional-publish? I started writing when the thing was to be accepted by a professional publisher, and that still infects my thinking. I’ve been asked why I don’t self-publish many times, and I always give an honest answer. I want a professional to tell me my writing’s good enough to be put out there for readers. That’s still my preference. Yours might be different.
But for this post, let’s assume you wish to be published by others. So do you search for a literary agent or for a publisher? An agent likely has contacts you do not have that will increase your odds of being published—provided you can find an agent willing to handle your writing. If you wish to be published by one of the big five publishers, an agent is mandatory. Most (if not all) will not accept “over the transom” (meaning unsolicited) submissions. You must submit to them through an agent. Agents also will have a better idea of where your work best fits… meaning which houses are looking for what. If you are willing to be published by a small or regional house, you might not need an agent.
I write for niche markets, so I have never had an agent. I’ve dealt directly with four different publishers over my career and made some mistakes along the line. The first went out of business shortly after he bought twelve of my stories (I’m sure one event had nothing to do with the other). A second, the largest in this particular market, lost its steam when the founder died, and a son took over. The third did not really understand the GLBT market, causing us to part company. The final one, Dreamspinner Press, has been a pleasure to work with.
How do you find an agent? A publisher? By a process that is every bit as onerous as writing your book. Research, research, research. aaronline provides names, addresses, and druthers of accredited agents. Writers Beware warns you of some of the crooks in the game (both agents and publishers). There are a number of good resources available on the internet. Writer’s Market annually publishes lists of both agents and publishers together with contact information, the genres they handle, and instructions for submission. Most prefer their queries and submissions by email, rather than snail mail. Let me assure you of one thing: You’re going to submit to a number of them before you receive any positive or encouraging responses. Most will not reply to your query, merely indicate that if you haven’t heard from them within a certain period of time, you can assume they’re not interested. In view of that cavalier treatment, I suggest you ignore any proscriptions against “simultaneous submissions.” Simply do not inform them you are doing so.
Although each agent or publisher has his own requirements for submissions, in general, you’re going to need a query letter (do your research on that little item, as well), a short synopsis of one or two pages (single-spaced), and up to three chapters or fifty pages of your completed, edited, and re-edited manuscript.
That’s a very loose treatment of this difficult process. But as SouthWest Writers is always saying, rejection notices are successes because it means you’re out there pitching. It is also worth noting at this point that organizations like SWW and the University of New Mexico hold workshops periodically, during which they bring in both literary agents and editors for publishers to speak and react with participants. You can generally sign up for a pitch session with one of them for a one-on-one discussion of your work. Such sessions generally last no more than ten or so minutes; therefore, you must be prepared and organized.
Next week, we’ll cover my writing experience with Dreamspinner Press and its imprint, DSP Publications.
Keep on reading. Keep on writing. And keep on submitting your work to publishers and agents. You have something to say… so say it.
If you feel like dropping me a line, my personal links follow:
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Here are some buy links to City of Rocks, my most recent book.
Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-city-of-rocks-don-travis/1126419974
See you next week.
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