Getting a book published for the first time is not for the anemic.
For the trillionth time, I find myself sitting at my desk, stuck. With an extensive list of to-do’s arranged by alphabet, category, and time allotted for completion, one would think that it would be difficult for a person to get stuck.
But stuck I am.
My job today is to search for a literary agent. To build up to this job, I have perused endless websites explaining the ‘get a book agent’ process, including what not to do, how the industry works, even hanging-in-there advice. Some profess that they are the supreme expert on the subject of finding an agent. But alas, after sweeping a considerable number of sites, blogs and books (most of which have been set up to sell me something), I am stuck.
As a freelance writer, I have had my work published often. Someone would simply call and say “Patty, would you be interested in writing about ____ for our publication?” Or “Patty, could you travel to _____ to take photos and write for our publication?” Or “Patty, could you design and write a presentation for our _____ conference?”
But now for the first time, I find myself having to reverse the process by writing first, then finding a way to get published.
I feel like a 16-year-old starlet that is trying to coax the attention of a movie director and who must play a variety of games to break through the multitudes that each possesses illusions of fame and glory. I have no such illusions. I simply wish to write.
It is my understanding that one can no longer simply pick up the phone and call a publishing house. One must now find an agent first. Apparently, the agent acts as a ‘filter’ for the publisher and provides a myriad of services such as helping to create a proposal for a publisher, handling the legal perplexities that come with signing with a publisher, and packaging the author for the publisher. Depending on the extent of their resources, some offer post-signing services. For example, they may be great at assisting the author in the creation of a marketing plan or they may offer P.R. services as well.
But whatever services they offer, they are to be acknowledged as the gatekeepers of the publishing industry, and it is my job as an author to respect their earned positions such.
Happy to oblige.
Now for the search. I have visited author-helping websites and have Googled “Literary Agents looking for Travel author” in as many ways as my imagination will allow. And then some. Then I would peruse their websites to get an understanding of what they like and how they like it.
Again, no problem. Because researching is most definitely my bag.
Holy mackerel! Every agent does it differently than the last. Their preferences are wide and varied. To add more juice to an already overflowing glass, they each want their submissions to be handled differently. Different inclusions, different answers, different descriptions.
No problem. I will just create a list of agents, and arrange them by alphabet, category, and time allotted to complete the requested query for each individual agency. No problem.
So here I am, stuck.
Periodically I meet with a group of already-published authors who have kindly invited me into their circle, and they have even provided me with a delightful patchwork of excellent advice. After thumbing carefully through my first draft, they proceeded to heave the terms of inspiration:
-“Your book is BEAUTIFUL!”
-“This must have taken forEVER to research!”
-“You’d better be prepared because you have a HIT on your hands!”
I even overheard someone whispering an aside to my husband “If there is a way for me to invest in her book, I’d like to know how.”
Uh-huh, if only.
Once I was sufficiently bolstered by this bounty of kudos, my friends proceeded into the dangerous world of criticism. They critiqued the title, the order of events within the TOC, the size, format and binding of the book, and the color of my eyes.
But then, something interesting happened. A couple of these wonderful folks promised to recommend me (and my book, of course) to their own agent or publisher.
I decided that this was the perfect launching point to begin the arduous task of finding an agent. And the best place to start would be to send a query letter (in the appropriate format, of course) to the agents that have been recommended to me personally.
After summoning the courage to undergo my first submissions, I wrote personal notes to each of the agents, explaining that I was referred by someone who is actually on the grid.
Today I received two rejections.
They were kind and reassuring, all the while rejecting. I must say that so far, I am neither daunted nor discouraged; I will save that for my 1,000th rejection. For now, I will simply proceed forward, anticipating the other 998 query letters to spew forth from my computer as I continue my quest for the perfect Literary Agent.