From a Newb’s Limited Point of View!
A number of years ago, I decided to write a book. I’ll tell you now, this is a process requiring courage, commitment and preferably total ignorance of what lies ahead. Not for nothing, but finishing an entire book is a big deal, even if it isn’t very good.
I’ve written a number of books, ranging from a really bad romance back in the 90’s to a couple of middle readers that never saw the light of day to a silly look at those lying letters we all get at Christmas to a paranormal romance to an Amish romance that may be getting some traction. More on that . . .
Back to the process. So you write a book. Then you have to edit that book, meaning you read it over and over again several times from front to back, looking for errors, finding gaps in your plot and patching those up. This becomes more difficult each time you read the thing, because all the scenes melt together until you can’t remember whether you’ve read that section this time through, or if you’ve got the scene when they do whatever in the book more than once! I recommend taking notes. It kept me on track.
Once you decide your brain child is ready for someone else to see, it’s time to give it to your Beta readers. These can be friends who read the genre you’re writing in, members of your writing club or paid pros. Doesn’t matter. They’ll read your book and then give you – hopefully honest – feedback. This part can hurt! But honesty is what you need, because agents and editors won’t give you feedback on a bad book; they’ll toss it and say, “Next.” Better to hear it when you have time to fix it.
So working with the helpful input from your Betas, you tweak that book some more, and then maybe you decide to enter it into some writing contest or other. If you’re lucky, you’ll get feedback from the judges, who are going to be even more brutal than your friends and your Aunt Sally. You won’t like some of that feedback. I remember reading feedback from judges a couple of times and arguing with them out loud, as if they could hear me. But you NEED this feedback. Listen and learn. Start at the beginning again, and read the book through again, trying to see what those Betas and judges meant by things like, “Needs more conflict,” or “Why would he ever do something like this? Doesn’t play.”
Once you’ve done that, it’s time to decide whether you’ll try to go with traditional publishing, or independent (Indy) publishing. I went with traditional, so I don’t know much about Indy. I was exploring it as a possibility when I found an agent, so I let it go. You can find a lot of information online on this option.
If you’re going traditional, this is the time to query agents, to try and find representation for your book. This is really scary. If you do it right, you painstakingly research which agents represent your specific type of book, and you go to their websites, and carefully follow their directions for submitting your baby to them. Follow these directions like it’s your new religion. There is no point wasting anybody’s time by sending your steamy romance to a conservative religious agency. Nor is there any point in sending your thriller to an agent who represents non-fiction self-help books. You get my point; agents take the time to say what they want. Stick with that, or you might as well save your time because you won’t get anywhere.
So follow the directions and take the plunge! Keep notes on whom you’ve queried, and about how much time they say it’ll be until you hear back from them.
Then . . . you wait.
Agents can take a really long time to tell you no.
Some will be very nice when they tell you no, saying things like, “Thank you so much for considering me to represent your book. Unfortunately, it doesn’t meet my needs at this time. But another agent may feel differently, so keep trying!”
You’re not going to get a letter telling you your book stinks. Don’t worry.
Don’t let the accumulating rejections get you down. Each rejection gets you closer to the agent who likes your work and asks to see your full manuscript, until one bright and glorious day, an agent offers to represent you in the big, scary world of book publishing. You’ve hopefully done your homework before soliciting that agent, so you already know he or she is legit. So you say Yes! Please! Represent me! Thank you so much! Where do I sign?
And you’ve got an agent. Congratulations!
This is where I am in the publishing game right. now. My shiny, brand new to me agent has my book, and wants to represent me to potential publishers! I’ll tell you what happened the day after we first spoke in my next post.
For now . . . just keep writing!