If you’re like me, self-publishing your novels isn’t even remotely possible. At the very least, it isn’t a good idea. To be a successful self-publishing novelist–and, let’s face it, who doesn’t want to be successful?–you have to be able to promote yourself and promote your book. For someone who considers three likes and one reply on Facebook an enormous victory, I’ll never be able to sufficiently self-promote.
So, what do you do when you think you’ve finished what you consider a successful novel? Sign with an agent that will champion said novel, get it into the right hands, and land you a publishing deal. I won’t even get into the nuts and bolts of how difficult it is to succeed at that, as most of you already know. And most of you already know how brutal it is trying to write and assemble all the materials, especially the query letter, you’ll need along the way. That’s fine. If it were easy, everyone would do it. No, let’s talk a little about how, unless your first finished, polished manuscript is an instant success, you’ll be chasing your tail.
One of the truths I hear spoken by countless amazing and successful authors is that it’s rarely your first book that gets published. Often, it’s the second, third, fourth, fifth…you get my drift. The more you write, and the more books you write, the better you get at it. Simple logic. So, what do you do after getting all your querying materials together and get to querying? Start another book!
Here’s where the seemingly impossible gets even more difficult. You’re itching to move on to your next project, eager to put those writer muscles back to work. Writing takes a lot of time as well as effort, and, with an assumed day job, time is at a premium. Well, you have to give yourself copious amounts of that precious commodity to query your finished manuscript. Querying is a volume task, too, meaning you don’t just want to query one or two agents. If you limit yourself like this, even a great manuscript may take years to land you an agent.
How long does it take to query each agent? Mileage varies here. Some agents use sites like Query Tracker that make the process quicker and easier. Some have easy-to-read sites with concise lists of what they want emailed to them. And some…don’t. Just figuring out who wants what sent how is a chore. Then there’s personalizing your query, inputting the agent’s data into your files, changing formats, copying chunks of your manuscript into files of four chapters instead of three, never mind finding the agent in the first place…you get the gist. Personally, I lay out half an hour minimum for each one, because I’m slow and prefer to be thorough.
Half an hour each? Submitting to as many as you can? When will I write? It’s an excellent question, and it leads many writers, myself prominent amongst them, to vacillate. I tried to split time for a while, querying a few agents a week while writing my current WIP. But, time being short, I ended up super behind on my WIP. I’ve previously finished three books that were polished enough for me to query with. The first I have since shelved, but I feel the other two have potential. I’m trying to query two novels and write a third one. Ai!
Take heart. It’s frustrating, it’s a lot of tail chasing, but if it leads to an agent, and that agent lands you a book deal, it’ll all be worth it. And while, yes, being a published and agented author working on future projects comes with its own challenges, guess what you won’t have to do from that point on? Query agents. It’s a ginormous, intimidating prospect, but one you only have to conquer once. Unless you have to change agents for one reason or another. Hey now, let’s not borrow trouble! And, who knows? At that point, you may be like Kameron Hurley, who had an agent solicit her for work 🙂