He didn’t know how this fit into anything.
Completing his manuscript, including revising and editing it, he scoured the net, found a dozen prospective agents, and sent it off to them.
Three weeks later, he hadn’t heard anything from any of them and decided to beat the net to see what was happening with his prospective agents.
Imagine his surprise when they all turned out dead.
Well, he’d always thought it was a killer idea.
I wish agents submitted to my will, but they’re impressively resilient.
That’s not what I’m writing ’bout, as you know. I’m addressin’ the other sort of submissions, the one that requires you to send agents your writing, seeking a pinkiehold on the path to traditional publishing, which, as we all know, also brings us fame, fortune, and immunity from ever doubting ourselves again.
As I’ve refined my submission process in this go-around, I’ve come to think of it as job-hunting. Instead of a novel or proposal, you’re submitting a resume when you’re job hunting.
They have other similarities.
You peruse every source you find for potential places to submit.
You submit as much as you can.
You wait and hope for positive responses.
You keep going until you’ve signed somewhere.
What ’bout you? How’d you approach it?
I brushed off writing my synopsis like I was signing a birthday card with élan when I wrote about it in a post earlier this month. Writing a synopsis wasn’t that easy for me.
It’d been yonks since I’d written one. I wanted to do the best that I could. I knew the idea was that it’s a brief summary. How long should a synopsis be? How much detail should be given? Should I describe the character and setting?
Searching for answers, I pulled out books on writing and publishing that I have on hand. I read magazine articles, newspaper articles, and blog posts about how long a synopsis should be, what it does, and what it shouldn’t be. I panicked. I read agents and publishers’ opinions about what’s at stake in the synopsis in their opinion for accepting or rejected a novel. I read what authors shared about their rejections and their initial efforts writing synopsis, and I grew disheartened. Then I brushed that off and got busy.
After creating a synopsis file, I opened the latest version of Four on Kyrios and began reading it. After refreshing myself with the chapter, I wrote one or two sentences about what it was about. I did so chapter after chapter. One paragraph typically captured a flow of events about what the characters were doing, where they were doing it, and results. I resisted doubts and over-thinking it while I was doing it.
I won’t lie, working intensely, it took me most of a week to write. Did I do it right? I don’t know. As with everything, I learned what I could and applied the knowledge and tried to do the best that I could. As with everything else in life, that’s all that I can ever do.
Got my coffee in hand. Time to write like crazy, at least one more time.
I wrote about a new novel that came to me in a dream the other night (“Spinning Up”). One unmentioned aspect was the newly conceived novel’s cover. I saw it in the dream. The cover felt and looked so real and substantial to me that I was nonplussed. The title, April Showers 1921, was embossed gold letters on a silver cover. It seemed so real that I looked up the title to determine if that book already existed. Without surprise, I found songs, books, and short stories called April Showers, but none had the 1921 addition, and none featured silver and gold covers. I seem safe with it.
I’ve worked on April Showers 1921 some since dreaming about it, fleshing out characters, setting, and writing some scenes, but I didn’t throw myself into it. After two days of that, I wondered, why not? I realized that indecision caused by my greatest weakness, over-analysis, was paralyzing me once again.
It’s a familiar scenario. I overthink something. That drains my resources, and I stop making progress until I resolve what I’m overthinking.
Naturally, this paralysis is all founded on a writing issue, specifically — this time — finding an agent for the Incomplete States series. I think I’ve identified several potential agents. I narrowed my search to one lucky agent. I’ve written a synopsis and query letter. That’s where I stopped.
The Incomplete States series employs several styles. In terms of recent books, it reminds me of Cloud Atlas. My series science-fiction infused, but its mostly literary, except the first novel has a science-fiction military noir feel to it. Fantasy flares strong in another book, while yet another has the sensibility of historic fiction.
Yes, I enjoy genre B&B – bending and blending – whether I’m reading or writing it.
On a side note, the great and all-knowing Internet says, don’t mention any of the rest of the series when seeking representation and publication of the first book.
For grins, I hunted down the rejection records for successful writers. I’ve followed this path before, so it’s very familiar to me.
J.K. Rowling. Her Harry Potter series was rejected twelve times, you know. Dr. Suess was rejected twenty-seven times before he found a publisher willing to take a chance on his Cat in the Hat book. The author of The Martian, Andy Weir, had given up on being published, but kept writing and self-published. When The Martian found success, publishers came running. Kathryn Stockett, The Help, was rejected over sixty times. Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time, had twenty-six rejections. Catch-22, Joseph Heller, twenty-two rejections. Twenty for William Goldberg, The Lord of the Flies. Carrie, by Stephen King, was rejected thirty times. Pretty amazing was that Still Alice, by Lisa Genova, experienced over one hundred rejections. After she self-published and had success, publishers came calling, and her novel was made into a movie starring Julianne Moore, who won an Oscar for her performance.
There was also Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita, over five times, and Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, rejected one hundred twenty-one times.
Reading about these rejections is invigorating and inspiring. You gotta have hope, optimism, belief, and determination. You gotta keep writing for the love of writing.
Writing about my paralysis cleared matters up and broke the log jam. (I now have a featured image of logs floating through my mind.) I’m ready to submit. (Ha, ha, I love how that can have multiple meanings.) All they can do is say no, right?
The day is full of promise. I got my coffee. Time to submit, and then write and edit like crazy, at least one more time.
Today’s quote resonates with me. Agents say they want read your book and feel like they did when they watched Game of Thrones or something on Netflix. Reading descriptions of what they want, they sound like they’re issuing specs for me to use to write my book.
It’s a depressing and destructive exercise, reading what they want, and comparing it to what I’ve written. It reduces the search to exactly this process, thinking about what the audience — the agents — need.
But, as an exercise, it’s helpful for defining my #AWL.
Hey, writers, I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but there are agents seeking writers.
I didn’t know. My wife came across that this morning while surfing the net. “Here are two agents looking for writers.”
I said nothing.
“One’s looking for dystopian novels.”
Of course they are. Dystopian literature is faring well, isn’t it?
I’ve done the agent route. I used to subscribe to sources full of announcements about agents looking for new writers to represent. There’s typically a lot of unwritten fine print between the announcement and reality. It’s a lot like someone selling you acreage on the moon and then explaining what you really own.
I’d often check out these agents seeking new writers, and enter the discovery phase. They only represented Canadians, women, writers from South Africa, or Antarctica. They didn’t want these sort of novels. They did want these sort of novels, forcing me into evaluating my novels to see if they could be wedged into their holes. No epics, please. No dystopian novels. No dragons, swords, or fantasies, etc.
If I managed to convince myself that I fit within their narrowly defined needs, then I needed to address their specifically defined submission requirements. Some preferred a ten page outline with a ten page synopsis and the first fifty pages. A few wanted a paragraph or two in summary, and maybe a longer synopsis, and the first five, ten, twenty or fifty pages. Others did not ever want email or electronic submissions because they worry about computer viruses; send it to them by U.S.P.S. A few had their own application for submitting your novel online for their consideration.
Promised responses varied. Some agents stated they’d only contact you if they were interested. If you didn’t hear from them within six weeks, feel free to submit elsewhere. Some were iffy, specifying they would try to respond but they’re very busy, you know, sorry. More concrete specifications were sometimes given that they would attempt to respond in a window of time or by X number of days. Almost all were adamant, DO NOT CONTACT ME IF YOU HAVEN’T HEARD FROM ME. Likewise, most did not like simultaneous submissions, because, say you submitted to them, and they liked your submission, and decided to work with you, and then they find out that another agent also wanted you. You’ve wasted their time. That makes them very hurt and angry.
I read about the process from the agents’ points of view, too. Know thy
enemy business. They cite the numbers of submissions received, the reading and time required of them to consider an author and their submission. It’s tough because they’re busy with existing clients and contracts. You understand.
Sure, that’s why I was contacting them, because publishing is a business. I submitted to the requirements and submitted to the agents, and tracked it all. Websites and apps exist that will track your submissions and the salient details associated with them, you know, so you can quantify the business process of submitting and being rejected. I just kept an Excel spreadsheet. It was as effective as anything putting my gloom into numbers.
I’m a bitter, cynical and impatient person. I struggle with these traits, and internalize my frustrations and disappointments. These submissions to agents were carbohydrates for all of these negatives and my fears and flimsy self-confidence. So, I quit doing that. Eventually, I declared, “Fuck it,” and self-published. Well, it’s not much more fun than the agent grinder. Publishing is a harsh business, just like any twenty-first century business.
So I’ve resigned myself. I write; I self-publish. Dreams and hopes really end about there.
Understand, I don’t hate agents. I’ve met some, and they’re very nice humans. They are all about businesses. I get that. That’s the world of today, and the conundrum that we ride.