Going to take a moment to talk about the R word. If you have ever submitted anything for publication and you’re not Steven King you can probably relate.
I attended a Thriller/Mystery writers’ conference this year, Killer Nashville. While I was there I had some great one-on-one time with agents, editors, and other writers. There was one agent that I really clicked with, and after pitching her she was pretty excited about the Liberty series.
I went through all the polish to query her, and with more confidence than usual I sent For Liberty… off for her consideration.
I got back the nicest rejection I have ever gotten. Keep in mind when I wrote my first novel back in college I queried A LOT. So this is by no means my first time getting shot down, but this one was different. This was an agent I know, and someone that I know was interested in the project.
So what went wrong?
The short answer is I pitched the wrong agent. I pitched something out of the agent’s genre interest, and I pitched something a little off-beat. Nothing wrong with any of that, but It’s like asking her to take a chance three times over. Take a chance on a new author with no proven history. Take a chance on representing something in a genre you don’t work in, and to top it all off it’s off-beat so some people will love it and some will hate it.
What did I learn from this?
I learned there is no such thing as a sure-thing in writing. If there was everyone who wants to be a writer would simply use that formula and get their book out there. Writing is deeply personal, and not ever story connect with every reader. PITCH THE RIGHT AGENT THE RIGHT WAY.
There was a solid 24 hour pity-party at the DeManche house, and then I dusted myself off and sat down and went back to work. I wrote. I wanted to let myself be expressive and not weighed down by the recent failure. I wrote the pitch, prologue, and first chapter of a new project, and then I took a break.
For Liberty… is about to go through a whole round of queries, and it’s going to find a home in time. In the mean time, I’m a writer, and I will write. I don’t do it to sell books I do it to give these stories a home and a voice.
So Query Letters are a topic I feel I know a fair amount about.
Back when I was pushing my first novel (It wasn’t good and I don’t blame the agents for the rejections) I thought it was just a matter of getting the query right. Basically I had this crazy idea that if your query was good enough that meant the book would get sold.
It’s not that easy…
You do need a good query. You need it to have the magic-
- Strong hook
- Engaging characters & plot
- Fascinating setting
- Well researched pitch
BUT– you also need to have pages that reflect this AMAZING query you just wrote.
What I mean is if you tell an agent it’s ready for them, and their is a basic typo on page 2… or a name misspelled… or the formatting sucks. What you’re really communicating is that you rushed it, and it don’t care enough to polish it up.
Here is why that matters. The agent needs to love your book as much as you do. They need to be willing to invest their time and energy into selling, promoting, and pushing your book out into the world. They will want a partnership with you to care for this literary love child you’re having together. They will want you to care as much/more than they do about it. THAT CARE IS SHOWN IN THE QUALITY OF THE WORK.
So as you can guess by now I’m polishing, and this post is the latest attempt to procrastinate away from my literary love child.
Back to editing!
It would be impossible to sum up all the lessons learned at Killer Nashville, but I’m going to give it an old college try.
1: There are a lot of different kinds of writers…
- I had the pleasure of meeting a great many writers who were drawing heavily on their own life experience to form the basis of their books. On the flip-side I met a number of writers who have a truly amazing ability to put themselves into the consciousness of another person (Their character) and to channel it like it was their own world.
2: Do what you’re good at…
- From comedy/action/romance/horror there are people who can write it well, and there are those that struggle. The great thing about being in a large group of writers is you learn that there is room for each person to write what they are good at. When you need to branch out there are talented people out there who are more than happy to help!
3: Sometimes you just have to start writing.
- There are ALWAYS reasons not to write. Work, family, distractions, and dare I saw the internet… You can to remember that the magic can’t flow until you start putting letters/words onto the page.
More to come…
Talk about information flood!
This morning I had the opportunity to listen to a panel on subplots and writing Fantasy.
The day started with a fantastic opening from Steven James. Reminding us how many of the most cherished and renown authors, poets, and artists were never successful or famous in their lifetimes. His underlying message was that when you’re a writer you measure your success in writing… not money, or publishing, or rejection letters (although we do love to compare rejection letters).
More to come this afternoon!
The big day is here! Stand by for pictures and lessons learned! *runs into conference excitedly*