Stones in the Road, Step 2

The writer’s journey can be quite the adventure. You never know what is around the next bend in the road, or behind that rock, or just how far it is to the next milestone.

If you’ve accomplished the first steps, writing, finishing and editing your manuscript, then hold onto your knickers, the next step’s a doozy. Finding it a publishing home.

With my first novel, I was so proud of finishing it that I couldn’t wait to find an agent or publisher. I started sending out queries (Writer’s Market is the best resource for that information. It’s available online and in print.) Each agent or publishing house has their own set of submission requirements that must be followed to the letter or your request will immediately be filed in the trash bin.

If they ask for three pages and an outline, that’s what you send. If they ask for the first chapter and a synopsis, that’s what you do. No more. No less. This shows them that you can follow directions. A query letter gives them a hint about what you’ve written, who you are, and why they should care to read your manuscript.

Whatever their guidelines are, follow them. Edit your submission BEFORE you send it. If there are typos, grammatical errors, or some other oops, it will not be read. It will be trashed. Hundreds of queries and submissions are received daily and weekly by agents and publishers alike. If you can’t do what they ask in the proper form, they don’t want you or your work. There is too much competition out here (millions of manuscripts).

I tried the biggest publishers and agents first and didn’t get very far. Setting my sites on smaller houses got my submission read. My rejection file was filled with notes and letters, some of which were copies and some had “ink.” INK IS GOOD. It means they liked it enough to comment. A good first step, my friends.

Many times it takes months before you receive a response to a snail mail query and submission. With email and electronic submissions, that time has been shortened. BUT, it’s easier to say no thank you in an email. Quicker, too. Don’t give them an excuse to reject you. Give them what they ask for and you’ve got a better chance of being read.

When my first novel received comments like, “this is a good concept, flesh it out” or “submit again after you’ve edited” (even though I’d edited it several times), I realized my manuscript wasn’t quite ready yet. My enthusiasm for having finished the manuscript did not make up for the need for additional editing and rewriting. I sent out 75 queries/submissions and although I did have some requests for more material, those magic words “we’d like to publish/represent this novel” didn’t come. Rejections, however, did.

After an extensive rewrite, more editing from colleagues and beta readers, I felt Feisty Family Values was as good as I could make it. I sent out 25 more queries/submissions, this time to smaller publishers and agencies and within a few weeks I had a contract for publication.

It was edited and vetted yet again by the publisher, then put on their calendar for eighteen months later. OMG. I was going to be a published author! From the time I began writing the story and the day it hit the shelves was ten years. A decade. I sure wish I’d started sooner.