"...everything in life is writable...if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt."..... Sylvia Plath

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The arduous search for an agent

          First of all, it doesn't start with sending out query letters. It starts before that. You finally finish your manuscript, then you polish it, and you polish it, and you polish it. But even before that, if you're writing a memoir as I have, you spent the last year or so building a platform and gradually putting together a proposal.

     After you have a pretty good handle on that, you start writing that one page query letter. Yeah, the one with the hook at the beginning, and a brief description of your book, your self and why you feel you are the one to write your book. You edit, let other trusted people (mostly writers and editors) read it, you revise it, and re-write it. This may take a while.

     I actually worked simultaneously on my MS, my proposal, and my query letter. And while you're at it you may as well write a couple of synopses, a two-pager and a shorter one, if possible. Someone may ask you for it when you start the ever-lovin' submission process.

     I put it off as long as possible but finally had to get started. I decided to use Query Tracker to identify agents who handled my genre. You can keep a list of those you think might be interested, info about them, addresses, emails, etc, and when you sent out queries, and to whom. You can actually write out the letter, file it, and change it for each agent if you think you need to. You can add a synopsis, or proposal, or chapters at the end of the letter, if the agent requests it. Next, you wait. If an agent requests you MS or more info, you can post what you sent and the date in her file. Then you wait again. You wait to see if she rejects your MS or approves it and wants to work with you to find a publisher.

     To begin with, I identified 60 agents to query. As you go along, you realize, you have to go to their agency site, check out their bio, find out what they're interested in and look over a few of their clients and the books they represent. This is not a fast take. You might want to take notes.Then you carefully read what it is they want from you, how they want you to submit, what to include with your query letter, and in what format. This also is not a fast take. You definitely do not want to make any mistakes. When I write my query, I include a couple of personal lines at the beginning based on what I learned about them on their website or blog.

     The very first agent I sent my query to wrote back in a few days asking for my MS. Here's an excerpt from her email:

                    "Dear Nancy, I've had a chance to look over the first three chapters,  and I found the first chapters to be touching, humorous, and charming. I would like to see the rest of the manuscript. Please forward the entire ms at your earliest convenience."

      To say the least, I was overjoyed.  I sent the MS around a week ago. I still haven't heard from her. But at least I know that one person thought my efforts were worth reading.

     After that, I sent maybe five or six more letters. They all asked to see more from me. Two then wrote back with rejections, one very nice, the other not so much. The other four still have my materials. So now I'm waiting and, in the meantime scoping out more possibilities. To date, I've sent around 20 queries and plan to go through the whole list, unless someone commits to buy my book.

     No one said this was going to be easy, but I had no idea it would take up so much of my time. Did any of you have a similar experience or was it completely different for you?

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