Here I am, writing my first blog post, and I’m using it to brag about my book deal.
But take a slow breath, folks, and drop the metaphorical pitchforks. I promise you, my motives are pure. I’d like to share a few details of my efforts to publish my first novel, pass along some things I learned through the process, and to maybe inspire a bit of hope for those who are on this road beside me.
So, how exactly did I manage to land a traditional publishing contract? Well…
I jumped in head-first and did everything wrong.
Okay, not everything. But I definitely didn’t take the industry recommended path. The most common advice I hear about what to do next when you’ve finished writing your first novel is to put it aside and write something else. Write your second novel. Work on your memoirs. Clear your writing pallet and come back to it later. Then, when you do return to that newly drafted manuscript, you’ll be faced with edits and revisions and second, third, and fourth drafts. Often it’s advised that you send the manuscript to a professional editor to prepare it for publication or for submission to agents and publishers. Next comes query letter drafting, etc.
Yeah. I didn’t do most of that.
My writing process included a lot of editing along the way, and I was pretty set on my plot and pacing. Also, I was impatient. So I went through a quick round of copy edits and started shopping it out to agents and publishers right away. In fact, I spent far more time researching parties to send the manuscript to than I did actually editing the thing. All said, I sent queries to about thirty agents and a dozen publishers. As a result I received interest in my manuscript from 2 agents and 3 publishers (among a number of rejections, of course).
A respectable result. Not overwhelming, but respectable.
Three Things I Did Right
Many aspiring authors spend countless hours, months, years of their lives querying agents and publishers, and never receive anything more for their efforts than the occasional encouragingly worded rejection. To receive some genuine interest from legitimate members of the publishing industry was extremely gratifying, but there was nothing special about me that made it happen.
There were 3 things I did that helped make it possible.
I Wrote a Killer Query Letter
Before I began sending submissions (actually, before I even finished drafting the manuscript), I took the time to learn how to write a good query letter. This is one of those topics you could spend way too long researching if you’re not careful. The amount of information available can be overwhelming, but you don’t have to read every article on the internet to get a handle on the basics.
There are only a few fundamental elements you need to include in your Query. Find out what they are and how to present your book in the best possible way, then move on. Here’s a post that I used from Jolly Fish Press to get you started writing the ultimate query letter.
I Queried the Right Agents and Publishers — All of Them
When you’re sending queries, it’s essential that you thoroughly research which agents and publishers would be interested in your book. You’ll want to make sure they represent your genre, and that they’re currently open to submissions.
You should also take the time to dive a little deeper. Take a look at their current list of authors and the kinds of things they publish or represent. Read through their Manuscript Wish List to learn more about what they’re looking for in a submission. Try to get a sense of their personality. As much as you’re able to, you want to feel confident that they would really enjoy your book, and that you would have a great time working together.
And, once I started sending queries, I never stopped.
Everyone who fit the criteria received a submission. Querying is a waiting game, with lots of downtime between making submission and receiving a response. I took advantage of that time by continuing to send queries, and I have no doubt that this helped me to succeed in my efforts.
I Learned from Rejection and Improved My Submissions
I’m confident that my query was fairly good to begin with. But that doesn’t mean there was no room for improvement. As I continued to make submissions, I read through my query letter dozens of times, and with almost every submission, I made small tweaks, adjusting words and tightening the phrasing until I had honed it to a razor-sharp edge.
But I didn’t stop with the query letter.
Many agents ask for a sample of the manuscript to be included in the submission. Occasionally, I would receive feedback along with a rejection letter, offering constructive criticism concerning my sample chapters. This is maybe the best part about the querying process. I mean, why would I waste useful advice from a professional working in the publishing industry?
I took that advice and used it to improve my opening chapters, making each submission better.
It Worked Out In the End
In the end, I was offered a book deal with a small publishing house focused on young adult fantasy and science fiction. This didn’t end up being the right fit for me, I’m continuing to move foreward, taking advantage of the things I’ve learned.
I won’t make the claim this this was the best possible way to go about attempting to get my book published. Far from it. There’s a lot that I probably should have done differently. But I learned a lot along the way.
What tips do you have about pursuing a book deal? Is there anything you’ve tried that has worked well? What responses have you recieved? Comment away and tell me about your experience.
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