Since only a few of my followers are fellow writers (you know who you are) and most everyone else might be categorized as either dog lover, family member, or friend, I decided it would be fun to share with you what it is like to slip on a writer’s slippers for a day.
You spend weeks, months, or even years on a particular piece of writing. Polishing, perfecting and refining every sentence, every word, every period. Then you proofread it for errors, have someone else give it a whirl, and then just to be sure, you proof it again. Or, as is often the case with non-fiction, maybe you have a salable idea that you feel strongly about. One that keeps you up at night, you’re head buzzing with possibilities and delusions of grandeur.
Either way, you feel you have something of importance to share with the world, and you write up a query that will get an agent or publisher to stand up and applaud your genius – or at least one that gets them to read past the first line. Then you begin researching who to send your work to, searching for that special somebody who is looking for exactly what you have to sell, and soon you have a list of a select few you’d like to woo.
And that is when the frustration begins. Because now you must deliver what they want, and except for your query letter, which most agents and publishers desire, (some prefer a cover page instead), not everyone is satisfied with the same old roses and truffles.
Some want a set number of sample pages. Others may request your first three chapters. Okay, that you can handle. After all, you’ve already written them, right? Maybe. As I mentioned above, it depends on what type of book you’re writing. If you are submitting your first novel, it better be complete. But if you are writing a book about basket weaving, you might want to see if anyone actually wants it before spending much time on it.
So you prepare your sample pages, and while you’re at it, you discover that some agents want a synopsis, while others prefer an overview, two things that sound similar but are entirely different entities. What’s the big deal? Just write one of each, right? Nope. It’s not that easy. One wants a one page synopsis, the next wants three, and the next wants five. Same goes for the overview – there is no standard page count that satiates all.
But guess what? Without an agent or publisher, you are nothing. Nada. Nobody. Especially if you are a first time author. You are at their mercy and must mold yourself to meet their every demand – at least if you want to stand out from the thousand other suitors at their door. So, you get to work, and soon you have a synopsis and an overview to fit every taste. You’re set, right? Guess again…
You discover that one publisher wants a book proposal, of no more than ten pages please. After Googling the phrase and sorting through a thousand different depictions of what exactly a book proposal is, you begin to gather your info. You research and write up a market analysis, a list of competitive titles (preferable books you have actually read), a chapter by chapter outline, and an about the author section that you hope makes you sound like Dean Koontz, rather than the nobody that you actually are. Then, depending on what that particular publisher requests in their guidelines, you choose from your horde of synopses and overviews. Finally, you cut and slash your words until it all fits neatly in a ten page packet, slide it into a gallon jug, and send it out into the surf – ever hopeful that someone somewhere will open it, fall in love, and offer you either representation or publication.
After a few drinks, you move on to the next person on your list, a choice agent perhaps. Reading their website, you decipher that they too want a book proposal. Great – you already have one of those. Right? Wrong again. Because this one prefers a twenty page book proposal.
Get the idea?
Finally, once you have twenty or so uniquely formatted submissions bobbing around out there, you can either sit back and worry over their whereabouts, or you can move on and start working on your next project. The problem with this is, unless you have the ego of Donald Trump, you will find yourself questioning your writing abilities once the rejections start finding their way home.
Some arrive so fast you wonder if they read more than the date. Others take their time before twisting the knife ever deeper into your self esteem. Recently I received one from an agent that I queried last August. At first, I thought, “Wow, could they make me wait any longer?” But my next thought was, “Well, at least they got back to me.”
Some of them never do – your words either deleted, destroyed, or devoured by somebody’s dog.
You begin to dread going to your mailbox; if there is a self-addressed stamped envelope in it, it is sure to be a rejection. If they wanted your work, they would call. After you accumulate enough “No Thank You” notes to wallpaper your dream home, you begin to wonder what you are doing wrong. Maybe your query was terrible, which would actually be a blessing.
Just re-write it and try again.
But maybe it wasn’t you’re query. Maybe your writing was bad. What can I say? Take an English class or two. But maybe, just maybe, both your query and your writing were fine. Maybe you are getting rejections because you have no platform, no following, no readers. But everyone has to start somewhere, right? Unfortunately, while many people say they are open to new writers, the reality is that unless you are as talented as Stephen King, no one wants to take a chance on a nobody.
So, realizing that you need to bring something to the table, you get back to work. Instead of working on the project you want to be working on, your days are spent writing and submitting stories, articles, blogs, anything to get your name out there. Whoring yourself out to anyone who wants a piece.
And while you are doing this, every so often you will ignite someone’s interest. They will ask for a few sample chapters, or maybe even request your full manuscript. Wow, someone wants to read the entire thing – you should be ecstatic, right? If you’ve read this far, I think you know the answer to that. Instead of celebrating, you are home biting your nails, wondering if maybe that agent or editor is reading your manuscript. Right. Now.
You begin checking that person’s blog entries and tweets in hopes of discerning what they are up to, and find yourself overanalyzing their every comment. Are they referring to my submission? They despise it, don’t they? You feel certain that at any moment their rejection will arrive via email.
Here’s the thing. If they are referring to your work with their negative comments, there is nothing you can do. It’s done. It’s too late. You already blew it. And if they are not talking about you, you are stressing yourself out for no good reason. The best thing to do, the sane thing to do, is to tune them out and get on with your life. Don’t check their tweets. Don’t check their blogs. Instead, research who you are going to submit to next. Or better yet, get back to work on that special piece that has been begging for your attention…
Hold on. I think that agent who has my first three chapters is twittering about one of his submissions. Gotta go…