Sunday, February 26, 2012

Literary Agents 101

This week’s blog is about enlightenment.  I’m going to take those of you who never plan on delving into the realm of publishing a book along for a ride, the first step of getting published.  Ok maybe that’s not the true first step, which of course is a polished manuscript, but the one that comes right after that.
Querying a Literary Agent.
For those of you who may not know, a literary agent is someone who represents an unpublished manuscript, the person responsible for selling it to a publisher.  They are a number of things: an editor, a mentor, a friend, a salesman, a negotiator…. They are the people who dig through slush piles of manuscripts all in the hopes of finding the next big book that they can sell.  They have contacts and experience that are invaluable to an unpublished author.
But actually getting one is an entirely different matter.  A few blogs ago I posted the horrific statistic- around a .05% sucess rate…but that’s where I’m at the moment, in an uphill battle trying to beat the massive odds weighing down against me.
These past few weeks I feel like I’ve been placed in a crash course on all things publishing.  Right now, I’m learning all sorts of new terms and jumping through all sorts of ropes trying to find the perfect literary agent for me.  I’ve spent countless hours on my computer researching those who I feel will have an interest in the type of book I’ve written and who also have the experience to help guide a “newbie” through the entire ordeal.
After all of my research I feel like some of these people are already my friends, but in reality they have no idea of who I am. And every single one of them is different and they all require different things from me before they will even consider my book.  I’m given a one page query letter to introduce myself and my book, hoping that something I say will spark enough of their interest to ask for a manuscript sample.
Try summarizing 100,000 words of hard work in a paragraph or two…it wasn’t easy.  I only hope now that it’s been done well enough. 
You can send out queries to as many literary agents as you wish to, but so far I’ve been extremely selective in who I’m contacting because at this point it’s not just about getting an agent for me.  I want someone who I also feel comfortable working with, someone who is willing to take the time to guide me, and someone who truly believes in my book.  It’s also difficult to query a ton of people when you’re spending hour’s just researching the people themselves!
So at this point I’m contacting a few literary agents in the hopes that in my one page query letter I can spark enough interest for them to contact me back.  The letters are out and the results may take weeks to get back in.
This approach may be naïve of me, but only time will tell.
In the mean time, I’m working on a website, re- polishing The Apollo Academy repeatedly, and thinking of the next book…

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Why the bad rap?

Whenever I mention that I am an avid reader to someone, I’m always asked to give my favorite book.  And when you read around 250 books a year that simple question suddenly becomes almost impossible to answer.  Of course I have favorites, but it’s still too many to have to choose only one or two.  So in order to really answer that question accurately I would need to be asked a pretty specific question.
For example, what is your favorite Jane Austen book?  Easy, Sense and Sensibility.
But what’s easier to narrow down is the genre that I always seem to turn to when I’m looking for a great new book to read, which is actually pretty specific, the Young Adult Science Fiction/Fantasy Genre. 
And why is it that when I say that to someone, they instantly cringe at my response?  Like now I’m somehow less of a person or a nerd because this is the type of book I prefer to read.  I know that’s not the typical answer, it seems to me most people want to hear a classic title or something that somehow sounds educational.  It’s almost the same kind of response any woman would get when telling a male that she only reads Romance.
I believe that all books are educational, not just the well respected ones.  To me it’s more important for someone to enjoy reading, so much so that they look forward to it.  In fact it’s the person who has found a love of reading in whatever genre that interests them that would probably have the better vocabulary knowledge, not the person who has limited themselves to what they are “supposed” to read. 
 I could easily converse with someone over most of the classics, but those are not the books that I can’t put down, the books I stay up all night desperate to finish just because I have to know how the story ends before I could possibly fall asleep.
It seems to me that the science fiction and fantasy genre has an unfounded bad rap because many bestsellers are categorized in that genre.

In fact, before paranormal romance became a recognized genre the well known HBO series, True Blood, which is based on the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris would have been placed in the science fiction section.  Or how about Stephen King…several of his books are placed in the science fiction genre as well.
As the author of a young adult science fiction novel I challenge you to take a new look at the science fiction/fantasy genre, to put aside your preconceived ideas, and to try one out.  It’ll definitely be a book that gives you an escape from real life.  And in the end, isn’t that what a good book is all about?

Monday, February 6, 2012

In for the Long Haul

Usually one of the first questions someone asks me when I tell them I’m writing a book is, when can they read it or buy it. The long explanation that always follows is as convoluted to me as it probably is to them.

It’s not easy getting from a manuscript to a published book in the store, which is why I now find myself at the beginning of a long deserted road that’s riddled with bumps and unseen challenges, the road to publishing.

Of course, I’ve heard plenty of horrible stories regarding publishing houses and literary agents, but the most disturbing to me are the statistics that literary agencies release at the end of a year because to me these are the most factual. I don’t care if the publishing industry is deemed a self indulged arrogant crowd; they have a right to be if they are serious about making money.

It’s the stats I worry about. For example some of the literary agencies I’ve looked into received over 15,000 queries last year and out of those 15,000 individuals hoping to snag a literary agent, only 6-7 succeeded. If you do the math, that’s like a .05% success rate. So say you’re one of the lucky few to snag a literary agent, the next step is selling it to publishers, who are even more selective than literary agents.

Oh and I’ve yet to mention any timelines for all of this. Say I send in a query to a literary agency, their typical response time to a query is 3-6 weeks. Say I pass that step and they request my full manuscript, their response time is then 3 additional months. That’s only the minimum time it takes to find someone to represent my book.

I have a feeling J.K. Rowling’s story may be one I’ll need to re-read repeatedly to keep my spirits up. After all some publishing company out there is kicking themselves for turning down her work, which ultimately made her a billionaire.

Needless to say I’m in for one long haul. If all of this fails….there’s always self-publishing. In the mean time all of this waiting will give me time to begin the second book.

Either way I’m determined to publish one way or another...