Friday, October 8, 2010

It’s Finished... NOT

So the manuscript is finally finished. It is edited and polished and is a gem waiting to be revealed. The writer sits back, satisfied at the accomplishment. What’s next? Answer, the real work. It’s time for the manuscript to find its way to a publisher.

Writing a book is only half the work. The next step is to sell. Some authors go direct to a publisher, some go through an agent. New authors face the same difficulty either way. First step is the query and the first thing needed to send out a query is the query letter. Sounds simple doesn’t it? But it isn’t.

Writing a query letter takes almost as much time and effort as writing and editing the novel. You have to compress your story down to about 200 words. Unless you started with a 200 word story summary and followed it to the letter, you have to write this after the novel is complete. Taking a complex novel of 80,000 words or more and compressing it to 1/400th it’s original length while maintaining your voice and style takes rewrite after rewrite. And while you’re at it you might want to create a 800 word synopsis, some agents and publishers ask for one.

Okay, so you go through that hell and have the materials, next you need to find out who to send it to. First it takes research. There are various sites online and book with lists of publishers and agents to help you out. But each one selected has to then be separately researched to find out your novel is right for them. No point in sending a mystery novel to an agent who only deals in romance.

Then there is the waiting. Now if you are submitting to a publisher, chances are you have to query them one at a time. For some reason most of them are grumpy about simultaneous submissions. Don’t argue with them, just follow what they say. Agents, on the other hand, aren’t so grumpy about it, probably because there are more of them. You can send them out in batches, maybe 10 or 20 at a time, you don’t want to loose track. But in any case, you wait until you get a reply, which is probably a rejection. Then you send out another. Repeat this (inserting partial and full requests) until someone finally says yes.

The long road to getting published starts when the manuscript is finished.