The Publishing Biz
It occurs to me that several writers on here (and by “here” I mean, like, the internet) aren’t really aware of the workings of the publishing industry. Here is just a brief explanation of the steps you’ll go through if you ever want to get published.
1. Write your book
The only reason I even brought this up is because some people start querying agents (we’ll get to what that means in a minute) before they’re finished writing a book. Or before they even start. Don’t do that.
An agent (or publisher, if you’re riding solo) expects your manuscript to be perfectly polished. Or at least completed and not riddled with spelling and grammar errors. Some agents are willing to work with their clients on editing the MS before they send it to a publisher. Some want it to be perfection before they even consider the thing.
Also, depending on what genre you’re writing, your word count should be as follows:
- Novella: 50k and below
- First-time writers for most genres: 60k to 80k
- Fantasy: 90k and up
- If you’re previously published, it matters less what your word count is because you probably already know the drill.
- Don’t even ask about non-fic, I have no idea
2. Select an Agent (or publisher)
Literary agents are your friendsunless they’re scam artists who request a fee and then never talk to you again. They will possibly help you edit your book, they know the workings and financial stuff of the publishing biz, and they help you select the right publisher for your book. Then they pitch your book to said publisher, which gives you a much better chance of getting published. And normally they only charge like 15% percent of whatever you get off your book or something.
So, to find an agent that’s right for you, you kinda have to stalk her (or him) for a while. Find out what she likes, how good she is at her job, what her past representations are,where she lives, etc. The best way to do this is find an agent database such as the AAR website, AgentQuery.com, or my personal favorite LiteraryRambles.com. LR is my fave because it’s like the people who run it stalk said agent and pull everything they can from many websites, interviews, etc and put it all in one nice, neat place for you.
You should query widely. Do not just find one agent and be like, “OMG SHE’S PERFECT YES SHE WILL LOVE MY BOOK WEEEEEE.” Find a lot. Because chances are you’re going to get rejected a lot. I mean JK Rowling got turned down by 7 agents I think.
3.Write a Query Letter
For those of you who know me, this is the bane of my existence. They suck, IMFHO. You get 250 words to tell an agent who gets 500 queries a day why you’re special. Here you can learn the basics of how to write one, and here are some examples of successful query lettersthat piss me the hell off because MY BOOK IS BETTER THAN THEIRS WHY WON’T YOU JUST READ ITof books that are now in print.
Also, go see the Shark for some more help. Run by Ms. Janet Reid, Query Shark is a blog dedicated to revising query letters. She is an agent (a very successful one) herself and she allows you to send in potential queries for her to critique (although it’s very hard to get her to critique yours. It’s not like I’ve sent five different ones in now). You can learn a lot from reading the others she has crit’d.
4.Send your Letter In
And if you’re like me you’ll get rejected. A lot. Or maybe you’re special and you’ll get accepted right away.Do not ever tell me if you get accepted right away or I will be so filled with bitterness I will die or kill you, either one.
Different agents have lots of different submission guidelines. Be sure you’ve gotten them correct to the letter, or you might get your email deleted/MS chucked in the trash even though your book is awesome.
Publishers are a little different. They normally want much more than just a QL. They want a cover letter or a proposal or both, both of which require things like QLsandsynopses,andsummaries and blah blah blah. So check up on them too before you send off your MS. Not many publishers accept unsolicited manuscripts anyway, so your best bet is an agent IMO.
5.Wait. Get rejected. Keep Querying.
6.OMG YOU WIN YOU GOT TAKEN ON MY AN AGENT
Edit your MS. Edit again. Edit again. Agent will eventually pitch your book to a publisher.
7.WEEE NOW YOU HAVE A PUBLISHER
Not many publishers want to help promote first-time authors. So you are pretty much on your own for promotion unless you work out some deal with the publisher or they just think your book is that freaking good and they’re going to risk a butt-load of money on it.
After that, the money starts rolling in. You have to go to book signings and you get invited to classy dinners with other authors and they make your book into a movie and you go to the premiere of it and yaaaaaaaay.
Or not. Which means for your next book you better work even harder.