The River Series

Wanted: Literary Agent

So, I’ve been in this writing game for over 10 years. At times, it’s excited and fast-paced. Everything is progressing at such an enormous rate that you feel you’re moving at warp speed, the accomplishment of your goal growing closer with every second.

Other times… not so much. Drudgery. Drain. And even dread.

This calendar year, I’ve experienced a fair mixture of all that.

Two nights before the new year began, I decided to republish Rivertown Crooner as two books- Mobtown Player and Rivertown Crooner. While the literal splitting and reformatting of the books took only a few days, there was a larger, looming issue- I needed an additional book cover. If writing has its own voice, so do my book cover photo shoots. Eclectic. Shifting. Meticulous. Expensive. It took just over a month from the decision to split the book up until I had two books in my hands.

Sometime in there, I made another decision- to get my books published with a traditional publisher. While this may sound somewhat obscure if you’ve never done it, let me tell you- it can be a beast.

First, there’s the scouring of information, searching for what is very likely a needle in a haystack. You’re looking for an agent who’s looking for what you have- and this is easier said than done. Most have their wishlist (or, at least, they’re “what I do and don’t accept” list) on their website. If you happen to find an agent who’s looking for your kind of book, you must also verify that they are accepting queries (aka pitches). Depending on the agent’s popularity, they could receive 10 or more queries per day. Since they have umpteen other job duties besides reading unsolicited queries, that gives them about 5 minutes to spend on each one. Therefore, what you write in your query had better be really good.

You must also “learn” what they’re looking for in a query. A one-size-fits-all query letter does not exist- and if you try to write and send one en masse, the only response you’ll receive is the sound of your pitiful heart crushing beneath the weight of ever-growing despair… So, agents typically have very specific requests when it comes to queries. I could go into details ad nauseum, but I’ll spare you. Just know, it takes a long time to 1) learn what the agent likes, and 2) write your bespoke query for that agent.

Once you’re done, hit send on that badboy- and be sure to track your query so you’ll know the date you sent it and the date by which you should have heard an affirmative response (if the agent wanted to send one).

Oh, and did I mention that most authors have to send out dozens of queries before they find their agent? And, then, once they sign contracts, it could take weeks, months, years (let’s hope not, but for real) of the agent repping your work for a traditional publisher to decide they want to publish it. So, while you may have written the most awesome manuscript ever in existence (which is not likely), it’ll take at least two years after completion for the paperback version to grace the shelf of your local bookstore.

*sigh*

Next week, I’m attending a writer’s workshop in Atlanta. In addition to the knowledge gained, I would love to walk away with an agent. But who knows? Either way, I’ll keep doing what I love- writing! And even if I can’t spend all my time writing new books, the past couple months of writing queries has taught me a few things.

One man’s treasure is another man’s trash.

Don’t sweat it if the greatest novel ever (yours, of course) doesn’t immediately catch the eye of the perfect agent. One man’s opinion of your work does not constitute the total value of your work. If it’s good, it’s good. If you love it, then someone else will, too.

Sometimes, there’s redemption in rejection.

The other day, I got the kindest rejection letter (for Bordertown Gypsy) from Mary Gray, author, editor, and narrator, and the co-owner of Monster Ivy Publishing. (By the way, it’s rare to receive a letter informing you of your rejection- and, even rarer, feedback.) In her email, Ms. Gray told me, “I absolutely love your style and so clearly see you know what you’re doing…  if you write something in the future that you think would be a good fit, please reach out to us again!” Though I was rejected, her kind words put me on cloud nine ❤

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