The road to traditional publication is a long one. Or at least it’s shaping up that way for me.
I began seriously writing original fiction in 2013 when I first participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).
The goal for NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words in a single month (November), which I was able to accomplish.
In the end that novel didn’t quite work out, so I’ve temporarily paused the project.
In 2014 I again completed NaNoWriMo, this time writing a prequel to my 2013 story, but wasn’t inspired to finish that one, either.
Not the best trend for someone who plans to be a full-time writer.
It wasn’t until 2015 that all of this practice and discipline finally began to pay off when I utilized NaNoWriMo to work on Crier/Liar. I’d already written about 40k words of the story, and added 50k during the month, then roughly that much again during December and January. After editing, Crier/Liar comes in at 130k words, which is robust even for a science fiction story.
I decided to start seeking a literary agent for the project.
The way traditional publishing works, at least according to someone who is still on this side of the equation, is that a writer acquires an agent who then acts as a representative for that writer and assists them with getting an editor and publisher for the project that’s been pitched.
I used the premise of Crier/Liar during an April 2016 Twitter pitching event called #DVpit, meant to assist un-published marginalized writers connect with literary agents. My pitch was “liked” by an agent and I decided to begin querying Crier/Liar.
Querying is a unique process not unlike applying for a job or scholarship or grant. You re-craft your cover letter (query), along with your resume (specific number of pages), based on what each agent requests, and hope for the best.
Sometimes you get a positive response from the agent you’ve queried, and other times you don’t. These responses range from form letters (rejections) to specific critiques (hey, it’s something), to requests for more pages (!!!!), to nothing at all.
Here are the query stats for Crier/Liar:
Throughout my Crier/Liar pitching journey, I’ve sent 34 queries and received two requests for additional pages. Of those, both were ultimately rejected, one because the story was “too easy to put down,” and the other due to the way “the middle sagged and I lost interest.”
One piece of advice I heard at the Writer’s Digest Novel Writing Conference I attended last November in Pasadena, is that a writer’s debut novel isn’t necessarily their first novel.
To clarify, a debut novel is the first novel a writer has published.
Crier/Liar is the first novel I've completed writing, but it’s looking less and less likely that it will be my first published, meaning it likely won’t be my debut.
Which isn’t to say I’m giving up on it, but what the plethora of rejections (most without any critique) have told me is that the story isn’t ready for prime time. When I get up the gumption I’ll focus on re-editing it and see what I can do to make it more palatable/sellable.
Because that’s what agents want. They’re paid based on the novels they’re able to sell (typically earning 15% domestic and 20% foreign). If they aren’t confident there’s a market for a story, they’re unlikely to take the risk of signing a new writer.
And so I continue to write and edit and query.
I wake up at 5am on weekdays and write for an hour, with a fresh cup of coffee and Thor in my lap (#5amwritingclub).
This is typically when I work on works in progress (WIP), the current being Roadkill Kids. My goal is to write about 1,000 words a day, but that’s just a general guideline. During NaNoWriMo it’s closer to 2k words, but that's a lot to handle when you have a day job.
When it's not November and I've finished my 5am writing and then working at said day job, I come home and focus on editing other projects or reading new things.
Inspiration doesn't come from nothing.
A common bit of advice from literary agents is to read extensively within the genre you're pitching. This is because when you submit a query, you're supposed to provide at least one title that your story can be compared to, in order to show that you're in touch with current trends/demands.