(Rather than ‘reinvent the wheel’ on the subject of publishing, I’ve included several helpful links. Also here are parts one through six.)
Now that I had polished up my novel, proof read, made corrections and bribed my beta readers with wine and Wegman’s gift cards, it was time to put this thing out there! Again, I was confronted with two choices: try to find an agent and publish in the traditional way or self publish on Amazon and Smashwords. (Smashwords will let you publish your e book on sites like iBooks, Kobo and Nook.) Let’s be clear, neither one is right or wrong, better or worse for writers. However, I bet if you took a poll of all the Indie Authors out there, 90% of them (I made that up) would have the same or similar experience as me.
Finding an agent to represent me sounded like a good idea. It would take away the pressure of marketing the book. Everything I read about self publishing told a similar story: you need to work very hard, tirelessly, in fact to get your book noticed among the thousands of other works being published every day. I just wanted to write. By now, I knew I wanted to make Three Empty Frames the first in a series of novels. Having an agent handle all the sales and marketing would free me up to do that. I googled “finding a literary agent” which led me to Writer’s Digest and querytracker.net. I found the names of some agents, wrote a query letter and started sending them out.
How does one write a query letter, you ask? Here, read this: How to write a query letter. Also, make sure you are following the guidelines for submission to your agent. Not everyone asks for the same things. Some might want a whole chapter, some just the first 5 pages, etc. Also, this should be obvious but, don’t waste time sending letters to agents who don’t represent writers in your genre.
Now for the bad news. It may take 6 weeks to 3 months for an agent to even respond to your letter. When and if they do, it may go something like this: “Thanks so much for sharing your work with me. I believe it shows great potential, however, it’s not quite the right fit for me. Good luck in your endeavor! Regards, Agent X.” To be fair, these agents are being bombarded with manuscripts all day, every day. Frankly, if you haven’t caught their attention in the first paragraph, you’re toast. Perhaps this does not discourage you. Plenty of famous authors got rejected over and over before they finally got recognized. Here’s a list: 50 Iconic Writers Who Got Rejected.
I couldn’t take it. I found myself nearly on the verge of tears every time I got one of those sweet little “thank you-but” notes. (Ok, truth be told, I only sent out about 6 query letters. That’s how fragile my ego is.) Besides, this book was sitting there finished. I wanted it out there already! I am not a patient girl. That’s why I finally went with option number 2: self publishing.
Does that mean I can’t still query agents about my book? Nope, I can still do that. In fact, I should still do that! There used to be a stigma attached to self published authors, but no more! If you’ve managed to actually sell some of your books, you can include your sales figures in your query letter. Assuming *cough* they are impressive enough to attract an agent! Anyway, I’ll tell you all about my experience with Amazon and Smashwords next time!