Well, anyway. I promised to keep y'all updated about the whole "publishing" thing I'm trying to do. Soooo let's talk about that. :)
Okay, so, good news. :D After my query letter was rejected by – oh, I don't know – sixteen literary agents or so, I finally got an e-mail response from Lindsay Ribar – assistant to literary agent Matt Bialer – asking to see my full manuscript.
O_O !!!! OMG! Well first of all, I totally freaked out and started screaming. And my mom got all scared because she thought there was a psycho kidnapper in our house or something. But yeah, that's not really relevant.
So, this was approximately a month ago. Since then I've been frantically editing the last few chapters of my book. I finished at last, about a week ago. And the day afterward, I submitted my manuscript. *Whew* I haven't gotten any response yet ... not even a "Thanks for submitting your manuscript!" And I'm kind of flipping out because I don't know if that's a bad sign or whether I'm being paranoid. Oh, well. When I hear back I'll let you guys know. ;)
Now, I'm thinking that some of you are probably reading this and saying, "Uhhh yeah, what is a query letter? What is a literary agent? What is a manuscript?"
So this would be a great opportunity for me to tell you all about publishing, wouldn't it? :] Now, I'm not an expert; I've never been published. But I've learned a lot about publishing in the past few months, so I'll share what I know and any advice I have.
Here I go. *Ah hemmm*
Let's start with the three simple things you should do before you even consider getting published. I know a lot of this will seem like "No, duh". But while these things may seem obvious, they are important!
1. Your book should be finished. Yeah, anyone can get a good idea for a book, or a good first half of a book. What you need, to begin with, is a full manuscript. If you have a complete draft, literary agents will be more interested – because they'll know that you actually have the motivation to write books, not just think about writing them.
2. Your book has to be edited. I know, I know. You're probably rolling your eyes and saying, "Well DUH!" But here's the thing: I see a lot of young writers trying to get published before they're really ready for it. You can't just write one draft and expect that it's good enough to be considered for publication. I know that the first time you finish something, you're really proud of it and it may seem flawless. But if you give it a break and come back to it, you'll see that there are a lot of mistakes and plot holes that you missed before.
No worries – just take a deep breath and EDIT, EDIT, EDIT. We love editing! YAY! ... Okay, actually editing is a pain in the butt. But we need it. And no, editing it once isn't enough. I'm talking three to five drafts – and don't just fix all the typos and call it a day. I mean, you've got to rip it apart. Write new scenes, take pointless/boring/stupid scenes out. Develop your characters and plot as much as possible. Be honest with yourself; you want your book to be GOOD, not just "good enough". If editing doesn't make you so frustrated that you cry, you're not editing hard enough. Seriously.
3. You need feedback. Editing your book by yourself isn't enough. You need someone else's opinion – preferably more than one person. The more feedback, the better. And no, it doesn't necessarily have to be a professional editor (of course, if you can get one, that would be great). I mean, hey – I edited my book with my mom. But whoever edits your book with you, it should be someone you trust, and someone who will be totally and completely honest. It needs to be someone who will do more than fix your typos. He/she should tell you if there are plot holes, clichés, etc. He/she should be scribbling notes all over your manuscript like crazy, holding nothing back.
And when you receive feedback, don't take it personally. Yes, some of it will be hard to deal with – if, say, someone points out some huge gaping evil plot hole that you never noticed before. But if you made a mistake, it's not because you're stupid (well, maybe you are, but that's probably not the reason). I've written five books and I still think writing books is hard. In fact, the more I write, the harder it seems.
But I've learned that feedback is essential. Take that feedback and use it! Other people usually see the problems you never thought about. Although it's really hard to fill in those holes sometimes, it pays off in the end. You just have to keep whacking away at it.
Oh, and if anybody here ever needs some honest feedback, I'm willing to give it. But I warn you – I'm a pretty hardcore editor. I get it from my mom. :]
So, once your book is finished and edited and all that jazz ... IT'S PUBLISHING TIME!!! BOOYAAHH!!! But just FYI – as you're trying to get published, you'll probably find yourself doing some more editing, reshaping your idea, etc. And literary agents/publishers may request rewrites/revisions. So be warned: your book probably isn't done yet.
Anyway. As for publishing … It's not a simple process. You would think it would be easy. I mean, a couple years ago, I thought it was like 1. Write a book, 2. It gets published miraculously, by some unknown force.
But, no. You thought writing your book was hard? HA! Publishing is just as, if not more, difficult. It's a long, annoying, and frustrating process. But the key is to keep trying. Face it: you're going to go through tons of rejection, and you are not alone. At all. Thousands of other aspiring authors share your pain and suffering. Think of any amazing, award-winning author, and I promise you – he/she went through rejection too, probably dozens of times. It's the writers that keep trying and don't give up that get published. When you get rejected, don't take it personally. Literary agents have to read tons of queries a day, and most of those are badly-written or formatted wrong or for the wrong genre … You see what I'm saying: it's a hard job. And you might have been rejected because the agent happened to be in a crappy mood that day, not necessarily that your query was bad. You never know. Besides, it's subjective; the book you've written isn't for everyone. So it will appeal more to one agent than another (or twenty others).
So, where do you start? Well, it helps to know the basics of what you're getting yourself into. Like I said, it's complicated – plus, I'm sixteen, and not very experienced, so forgive me for not knowing every single detail. But I'll tell you what I know. :)
Ok. So here's how it works (ideally, anyway): You submit query letters to literary agents. You get rejected by a bunch of 'em. One finally agrees to represent your book. He/she writes to publishing companies, asking them to publish the book. If a publishing company likes the book, they publish it. YAY! I know, sounds easy. But it takes a loooong time.
Anyhoooo. Here's the steps you should take, once you're ready to publish:
RESEARCH! LOOK UP LITERARY AGENTS!
Literary agents are the fabulous people who represent books. No, you don't necessarily need one, but most authors highly recommend getting an agent. Some small publishing companies will consider unagented manuscripts, but the big famous publishing companies won't – and if they do, you have a very small chance of getting published.
So, before you do anything, do your research. I suggest using agentquery.com or 1000literaryagents.com.
First of all, find agents that represents the genre of your book. If your book is a fantasy and the agent only represents nonfiction ... guess what? He/she isn't going to consider representing you! The agent will specify what he/she represents on his/her website. And on sites like agentquery, you can narrow down the list of agents to those who represent your genre. Compile a list of lots and lots of agents!
Secondly, do a background check. Google-stalk the agents you're considering. If the agent asks for any sort of advance payment, it's a SCAM!!! RUN AWAY!!! Preditors & Editors is a good site to do background checks on agents (http://www.anotherealm.com/prededitors/).
And finally, once you have a good list ... IT'S QUERY TIME!!!!
WRITE A QUERY LETTER!
Query letters! Yaaay! We love query letters!
Yaaay ... Wait, Brigid. What's a query letter?
Well, a query letter is basically a letter saying, "Hiya literary agent! I wrote this book and I think you'll like it! It's awesome so you should represent it!" But it's a lot more formal than that.
There is no "right" way to write a query, exactly. But typically, there are four important parts, sometimes five.
1) The Hook
The hook is a single sentence that summarizes what your book is about. It should be relevant, concise, and it should catch the agent's attention.
According to agentquery.com, the best way to come up with a hook is to use what they call The "When" Formula, which goes something like this: "When [event happens], [main character's name] – [short description of character (meaning important stuff like personality and age, not the character's eye color)] – must [face a conflict and resolve it in some awesome way]."
Huh? I know, that looks confusing. Lemme give you an example. Here's the hook I used for my query for Reborn: