For those of us who have this in our blood, this step never ends. We will always be writing something; either our current work in progress, a revision, a query letter, a synopsis, character sketches, whatever. And even when we’re not physically writing, we’re probably thinking about it. When I run, I’m often thinking about either my next blog post (like today) or I’m silently dictating the next paragraph of my current work in progress, hoping all the while I’ll remember it by the time I get back to my computer. And when I turn out the lights at night, I’m doing the same thing. I’m thinking about what I just finished, how it might be improved, and where it’s going next. The important thing to remember about this step is that the more we write, the better we will get.
2.the query letter
Once you have actually completed a novel (which may take more than one try – I think I started at least three or four before I finally finished one) then comes the query letter. In theory it’s easy. Just write a mere 2-300 words telling a prospective agent what your story is about in a way that will make them absolutely have to have it. But as good as your letter may be you will still get your share of rejection letters. I can’t even tell you how many different query letters I have written for the same story. The trick is writing the perfect query that reaches the perfect agent at the perfect time. And that, of course, is the hard part. Because at any given time an agent may – or may not – be receptive to your work. There’s just no way to know for sure. Basically, it’s a crapshoot and a lot of people give up at this stage. Me? Sorry. Not giving up.
3.the partial and the full
This is when your perfect query letter reaches the perfect agent at the perfect time. You will receive some sort of correspondence from the agent requesting either a partial (a few chapters of your manuscript) or a full (the entirety). You might also be asked to send a synopsis so be ready and be certain that your manuscript is truly finished and revised to the point where if you look at it one more time you will scream.
And this is where I stand today. An agent has requested the first two chapters of my romance novel, Almost Paradise, and I am trying very hard not to think too much about it. I had two people who were not fans of the genre critique my manuscript and I had someone else take a last look at those first two chapters as an added precaution. Now I wait, in the hopes that I can proceed to part two of this step – in which the full manuscript will be requested – and then, maybe, hopefully, I can get to step 4. And I promise, as soon as I get there, you’ll be the first to know.
This is the step where you can legitimately be hopeful because it means an agent - an actual agent who works on a regular basis with editors at publishing houses – believes in you and is willing to take you on as a client. His job is to find an editor who believes in your work as much as he does. Usually you’ll be asked to sign a contract with the agent which states what he will do for you and at what price and for how long. I don’t know much about this step because I haven’t gotten there yet but I can tell you it’s pretty important to get an agent because he knows a heck of a lot more about the publishing business than you or I and the chances of getting published without an agent are slim.
After the excitement of actually having an agent wears off it’s time to settle down and wait to hear back from all those editors your agent has sent your manuscript to. If you’re really lucky someone will want it right away and make an offer. But the chances are you’re in for some waiting. Which means you might as well get busy on your next project so when you do get that three book deal you’ll be ahead of the game. Right? Remember peeps, think positive!
You might think you’ve arrived at the promised land but just because your book is now on the shelves does not mean you can sit back and rest upon your laurels – which probably aren’t all that comfortable anyway. Hopefully you’ll have a publicist to work with but depending upon the size of the house you publish with you may not and the success of your book could depend upon your efforts. Here’s one place where your blog can be helpful because all your followers are potential readers and readers like to share books. That’s marketing. And there’s lots of other stuff you can do to sell yourself and your book. Bookstores are often happy to help by advertising a book signing. Your local library will probably host a reading. And there are quite a few books that can help you as well, among them, The Savvy Author’s Guide to Book Publicity by Lissa Warren.
This is the last step. It’s probably where Stephen King is. He doesn’t have to worry about selling books any more. It’s a given. And I imagine it’s a lot like the first step except that now, if someone asks you what you do, you can say in all honesty, ‘I write.’
So, which step are you on?