Monday, July 19, 2010

bending the rules

this post is a little tricky to write without sharing everything that's happening on my path to publishing (which i really hope to update here very soon!), but let's give it a shot.

what i want to say today is a message for authors seeking representation, and the message is this:
you DO have some control over your future. you just have to advocate for yourself. and to do that, you have to BELIEVE IN YOURSELF.

i have learned so much from the amazing online community of writers. i would have been lost without everyone's advice when it came to querying/submitting/formatting/etiquette/etc...
however, there are some things people can't prepare you for, simply because there are too many variables in publishing. every agent is different; every submission is unique; every rule has an exception. no matter how prepared you are to start seeking representation, you will likely have a handful of new questions along the way about how to handle a particular situation. sometimes you have to just jump in and learn as you go.

so here's what i'm learning as i go. these are my personal caveats to the common knowledge:

1) publishing is a slow business. you must have patience.

***totally agree and am working on getting this through my "everything-on-a-deadline-now!now!now!" journalist's skull.
HOWEVER, you are not always at the mercy of time. if waiting months to hear from an agent on a full is making you antsy, you have the option - the power - to keep querying. (now just my opinion, but i recommend you keep your query list manageable. personally, i only have X number of queries out at a time and stop querying if i get Y number of full requests. fill in your own X and Y.) but unless you've granted an exclusive, i see no reason to wait and wait on one or two agents who are reading.
publishing is a slow business, yes, but why make it slower by not actively searching while you're waiting?

2) query widely.

***no, at least not at first. start with a small group of agents whose names and interests you know before you even research them. these are probably the agents whose blogs you read and love, who represent authors you admire. these are your "dream" agents before you really know what your dream is. i found the experiences with that first batch of agents fine-tuned my idea of the "perfect" agent. i learned what kind of rapport i want with an agent.. whether i want someone editorial or not.. what kind of communication i prefer (phone/email/chat) and how fast or slow i'd like that communication to flow back and forth. once i'd figured out my likes and dislikes, i looked at what might influence those factors: size of the agent's client list, tone of the agent's online presence, etc.
once i had that information at hand, THEN i queried widely. because you don't always know what you're looking for until you set out to find it.

3) don't spam/pester agents.

***yes,yes,yes! follow this rule. but also know what is and what is not pestering. i have blogged before about why it's okay to nudge. there are plenty of "okay" reasons to hit up an agent with a question or follow-up email. in my case, i had to muster up a little courage to actually take an agent up on an offer to revise&resub - and 'Lo and Behold!' - they actually mean it when they say it. :)
i've also learned, if you have an offer on the table, you are not "bothering" an agent when you write or call to let them know - even if you just emailed them yesterday! honest! they appreciate it! (in fact, i've learned if an agent ever did seem bothered by a courteous update from my end, they would not be the agent for me)

these may not be big revelations for you query aficionados, but i thought it might be helpful advice for those authors just getting on the path to publishing, because half of this i only learned in the last few weeks, despite being 5 months deep into query hell.

by the way, i don't find querying hellish at all, i just like the expression. i actually think querying is a lot of fun.
masochistic much?


Shooting Stars Mag said...

Thanks for the words of wisdom. Always good to hear. And I'm definitely not a query can be fun in various ways though. :)


Angie said...

Great tips! I will keep all of these things in mind as I start the process.

Bronwyn Scott-McCharen said...

I agree so much with #2. Sometimes I feel like I'm the only writer who hasn't blanketed Agenttown with their query.

M.J. Horton said...

Inspiring and a helpful post? Awesome. Number one is a definite with the stories I hear. The excruciating waits seem to be worth it in the end though.

erinjade said...

glad this one was helpful! :)

Meredith said...

Great post. I especially agree with number 2!