My first novel was finished. I found myself at the self-publish or traditional publish fork in the road. I decided the traditional publishing route was best for me. The hard part was over! Now, I had only to get my manuscript into the hands of editors. I knew I had to write a query letter, but that was all I knew. I went to the bookstore and from the myriad of books about querying, chose one to be my query bible. I crafted the perfect query and sent it to thirteen editors a la Stephenie Meyer. Who needed an agent? If she could do it without one, so could I.
Rejections trickled in, and my confidence was shaken. I’d heard about Query Shark, the query critiquing blog of literary agent Janet Reid. I’d send her my query. She’d love it and affirm its perfection. After all, I’d faithfully followed all the steps in my query bible. Then, with confidence restored, I’d continue querying.
Unfortunately, the pre-requisite to submitting to Query Shark was to read through the entire archives. So, I rolled my eyes and began to read. I soon realized that I’d nailed it, but not in the way I’d hoped. My query was a perfect example of how not to write a query.
There was much more to this publishing thing than I’d ever imagined, and I have quite an imagination. I’m a writer, after all.
The Submission Process
I was back where I’d started, query-less and unsure. Getting my book into the hands of a reader was going to be a daunting task. Here’s a brief outline of the process:
1. Prepare a submission package.
2. Research literary agents or editors.
3. Decide on a system that will keep a list of agents/editors you’d like to query and track your submissions. The reality is you are going to send out too many queries to keep track of in your head.
4. Dive into the query trenches!
Literary Agent vs. Editor
Before tackling anything, I had to decide if I wanted to submit to literary agents or continue submitting to acquisitions editors. The consensus is that a writer benefits from signing with an agent first, but ultimately it’s a personal choice. As with the decision to go the traditional route or self-publish, each author needs to consider their needs, goals, and aspirations for the future.
- Literary agent – As your representative in the literary market, your agent may offer editorial guidance, establish contacts for you with editors and publishers, explain the language of contracts and negotiate contract terms, sell the rights to your work, and help you find new opportunities for publishing. From Poets & Writers.
- Acquisitions editor – Finds new authors and promotes writers he thinks will be profitable for the publisher. Writers and agents typically submit manuscripts to the acquisitions editor.* The acquisitions editor, especially for fiction, may follow a manuscript from submission to publication, suggesting plot-level changes to bring the story in line with the publisher’s vision for the product line. From The Editor’s Blog
*There are publishers and editors that accept queries from un-agented authors.
The learning curve for the submission process was huge. At times, I felt I was barreling along it on a tricycle. I persevered and eventually signed with an agent. In the hope of helping others along the learning curve, each month I’ll post about a different aspect of the submission process.
Every writer’s journey to publication is unique and I hope you’ll share your thoughts with us. What has your experience been?
Dawne Webber is represented by Steven Chudney of The Chudney Agency. Ask Me to Wait, her YA contemporary novel, is currently on submission. After raising $5000 on Indiegogo, she attended a writers’ conference in NYC (New York Pitch Conference). She got to listen to tryouts for the musical The Lion King while perfecting her book pitch. Dawne lives in Troy with her husband and five children. They keep her sane amid the insanity of writing. You can learn more about Dawne at DawneWebber.
Look for Part 2 of Dawne's Beyond the Book series here on The Mitten blog in April.
SCBWI-MI's Frida Pennabook answered questions about self-publishing vs traditional publishing a few months ago. Read her advice columns on our blog here and here.
Coming up on The Mitten blog: Hugs and Hurrahs and a new Featured Illustrator. That means we'll have a new blog banner in April!
Have a great weekend!