The final major revision is over and as I type this, I am printing off the copies for my beta readers! I can not express how good it feels to be able to sit down and read through my book without experiencing the urge to grab a red pen and start hacking away. Don't get me wrong... it's not perfect, but the errors and corrections are fewer and much farther between then ever. All in all, as a reader, I like my book.
Of course the process is far from over. In fact, writing the book (including the nine revisions) was probably easier than what comes next.
For those of you not familiar with the next phase of the publishing road, allow me to break it down for you!
First, once the book is "polished until it gleams", it's time to submit my query to the agents. Now, some people have asked why I don't want to self-publish. The truth is, in my humble opinion, it's too much work for not enough return. With self-publishing you are responsible for all the editing and the marketing. Sure, your royalties are a higher percentage, but I would rather have 10% of 1000 sold books than 40% of 100 books sold. Plus, once you get the second book done, you still have to do all the work on the publishing end. I prefer to go the traditional route because to me, I would rather focus on the art of writing rather than the marketing angle. That doesn't mean I won't have to work my butt off to get my name out there. But if I have a better product that's been edited by someone who knows the business, it'll be a lot easier to toot my own horn.
So back to the query process. All agents who accept unsolicited queries have one requirement in common: the dreaded query letter. This is your chance to sell your 70,00+ word novel in two or three short paragraphs. Seriously, it's the same thing as a cover letter to your resume. A lot of authors will tell you that writing this letter is a lot harder than writing the book itself. It is the make or break moment of the agent process.
As I mentioned, the query letter is the common denominator of all submissions. Sometimes the agent will request that you include a sampling of your book (ie. the first 3-5 pages or the first 1-3 chapters). It varies according to their prefernce. If they have requested a sample and are hooked by the query letter, they will check out the pages. If they like what they see, they'll request either a partial (normally first 50 pages) or a full (the entire novel), depending on their preference. If they haven't requested pages be included with the query but are hooked by the letter, they'll request a sample. (This could be a couple chapters or the first 50 pages, again, every agent is different.) If your sample captures them, they will request a full.
The challenge for the writer is to be able to handle whatever comes back in the email or the post. I say this because at any point in this process, the agent can send you a rejection. I've been assured by several agent that they have had to pass on books they really liked for a number of reasons. One, they didn't think they could sell it. Maybe they just sold something similar to a publishing house by one of their current clients. Maybe they see the trend leaning away from what you've written. Or they've recently signed enough new clients that they really don't have time to work with you. And then there's the obvious reason: they just weren't that into you.
Writing is really a career for those who thrive on internal verbal abuse. Seriously, I have a muse who is amazing. She's always there to help me work through the corners I back myself into and she's never one to judge when I have my characters act, well, out of character. But then there's her side kick. I like to call her Mistress Emotional Baggage (or MEB for short). She is the one who's walking right behind my muse dismissing everything I've just written. She is the one who pours salt on each rejection letter and cackles with glee when I question why I'm pursuing this path in the first time. I really hate her! I'm learning to tune her out better, now that the book is almost ready for the query process, but I believe it's only because she's hedging her bets about the rejection letters.
I know they're going to come. I'm going to get several...possibly within a couple of hours of sending them out. (The blessing of technology.) But this is the thing you (and I) have to remember. It only takes one yes... the right yes... to take you from being an unagented aspiring author to being an agented aspiring author... once I get an agent, I'll fill you in on the publishing side of seeing your book in print. Although I should mention, the time between signing the contract with a publishing house and seeing your book on Amazon or at Barnes and Noble is about 18 months, give our take... I could have a couple of kids in the time it will take my written baby to see the light of day. But that's the game. And honestly, I can't think of one I would rather play!
Hope the New Year has started off well and as always, BE BOLD!