That would be cool, wouldn't it? Sword-wielding publishers? But alas, the reality is much more mundane than that. It DOES take an army of dedicated folks to publish a book, but it's an army of regular (albeit bookish) people. There are no moonlit meetings or secret codes. Publishing folk connect through query letters, conventions, and the occasional twitter pitch party (see #pitmad, #askagent, and #twitterpitch among others).
Finding and reaching out to your literary army can be daunting. It's time-consuming and more than a little bit intimidating. But there really are no shortcuts. Well, at least not for regular people. There have been a few previously self-published authors who achieved such stunning success on their own that agents literally courted them. (Amanda Hocking is one, Ania Ahlborn is another.) But they are the exception. Most of us writerly types have no choice but to roll up our sleeves, swallow what's left of our pride, and query.
If you've been following my Adventures in Fiction Writing series from the beginning, you'll already know how I feel about query writing. I'm sure many of you feel the same. But we need to get over ourselves. Literary agents are not monsters. And believe it or not, they want us to succeed just as much as we do. It's true! Our success is their success. Without writers, there could be no literary agents.
So take a deep breath and get ready for the query-go-round. Here's how I'm doing it. This is just my way. There are a million others. And I'm new at this, for all I know, my way might suck. But I'm giving it a go.
(1) Research literary agents who accept submissions in your genre.
(2) Make a list of 20-30 of those agents, noting their contact info, websites, and social media reach (especially twitter!!)
(3) If you're not already on twitter, GET ON TWITTER.
(4) Follow all agents you plan to query on twitter.
(5) Write your query letter.
(6) Write it again.
(7) Write it some more.
(8) Show query letter to beta readers.
(9) Rewrite query letter.
(10) Begin submitting.
(11) While you wait for responses, follow all the writerly types you can find on twitter. Follow all the writerly hashtags. (#writetip, #wordmongering, #NANOWRIMO, #JUNOWRIMO, #pubtip, #AmWriting, etc, etc). You WILL NEED the moral support, and you may learn of a twitter pitch party you can take part in.
A word on twitter pitch parties.
Think of these as the cyber version of an elevator pitch. It's your opportunity to grab the attention of a bunch of literary agents with one well-crafted tweet. Think it's hard to write a 140-character hook for your book? Hell fucking yeah it is! But it's not any easier to write a query and synopsis. And how often you can pitch a whole mess of agents at the same time? These are fun, low-pressure ways to query. DO IT.
Sometimes I think I sound like the PR department for twitter. Oh, well.
Anyone out there struggling through this stage of your adventure in fiction writing? Leave me a comment and tell me how you're dealing with it!