The publishing industry is a magic trick.
People like its thrill, excitement, and outcome but they don’t know how the “trick” is performed. Some assume that it just happens—the pretty lady just happens to survive being sawed in half; the wordy document on a writer’s computer just happens to turn into a bestseller. Others believe in the poof—poof, the white rabbit disappears; poof, someone has an agent and a three-book contract with HarperCollins.
I’d like to apologize now for the major spoiler.
JUST HAPPENS AND POOF DO NOT EXIST!
I’ve been a part of the publishing world ever since I self-published my first book at age fifteen—three years ago. At the time, self-publishing wasn’t looked at as a credible publishing venue, which forced me to be my own advocate and publicist. I worked seven hours a day on my books—writing, editing, formatting, and marketing. It didn’t take long for me to learn that JUST HAPPENS and POOF were illusions.
Self-publishing has finally gained the positive reputation it deserves—credible, independent, time-consuming, a task for the relentless and fearless. Countless writers, authors, and professionals have told me that self-publishing is too much work for them, which doesn’t make such sense to me since working with a traditional publisher forces a writer to be dependent on someone else’s calendar and preference.
Stepping off the soapbox…
“Hard work and minimal success” should be the publishing industry’s subtitle. To breakthrough, an author has to query to the right agent, at the right time, have a book that appeals to the current trends, contract with the right publishing house, and pray that booksellers will give their work the time of day. Once a book makes it to shelves, the promotional work begins.
In other words, every aspect of the “equation” has to be flawless for a book to be successful.
Don’t feel discouraged. Although it is difficult to publish, there are ways you can boost your odds.
Last week, I was in New York City attending the Writer’s Digest Conference. My mission was to pitch my latest book to agents. I was successful! Even though it took several nights of freak-outs, a lot of praying, and hours of rehearsal, I managed to present my work to nine literary agents.
My best friend, Tessa Emily Hall (author of Purple Moon), found her publisher at a writer’s conference. Like she informed me, I want to inform you of the benefits of attending a writer’s conference.
|The Strand Bookstore (New York City)|
What is a writer’s conference?
A writer’s conference is an event designed to help writers develop their craft, network, and become aware of the current publishing market.
Why should I spend hundreds of dollars to attend one?
Writer’s conferences present a unique opportunity. They allow you to have face-time with professionals in the industry, learn insider secrets, and also connect with other writers.
Connections determine success! The people you know will decide how far you go.
Invest in yourself. A few hundred dollars might be your “foot in the door.”
What should I consider when choosing a conference?
Are you attending to learn more about the writing craft or to pitch?
If you want to develop your writing ability, attend a conference with a variety of writing-geared lectures and credible speakers.
If you’re in the market for an agent, choose a conference with a good number of visiting agents who represent your genre.
How can I prepare for the pitch?
Finish your book. Don’t pitch unless your work is ready to be sold.
Prepare and practice your pitch. Do this well in advance. You need time to write, practice, revise, and revise again. I changed my pitch ten times before the conference and rewrote it two hours before my pitch session. Be ready for last-minute changes.
Research. Make a list of the agents who represent your genre. Know what they’re seeking. Also, be aware of current book trends and know how your book might fit into the tough marketplace.
Below are some tips to help you craft an effective query letter. I’ll post a pitch tutorial vlog next week that will include pitch etiquette, proper format, etcetera.
The Dreaded Query Letter…. (Visit QueryShark.com for more tips)
A query letter is a business letter meant to demonstrate your competence and entice agents to read your pages. Remember, formulating a query isn’t a creative writing assignment. You don’t have to showcase your writing abilities. Queries are supposed to be straightforward.
To an agent, your book is a product, not a piece of art.
There are two questions you must answer when writing your query.
1. Who is your main character?
2. What does s/he want?
How to convey what the book is about:
1. The main character must decide whether to________
If s/he decides to do (this), the consequences s/he faces are________
The book’s stakes are of dire importance! I cannot stress this enough. If an agent reads your query and does not believe your main character has anything to lose, s/he will not ask for pages.
A query letter should include:
- Word count
- Any publishing credits you have
Instant rejection phrases include:
“Fiction novel…” DUH!
“Dear agent.” – “Dear Sir or Madam.”
DON’T ASK RHETORICAL QUESTIONS!
Proper query format….
Subject: Query – Title by Author
Dear (Name of Agent),
If you met them at a conference, tell them.
First: Answer the question “what is this book about?” Have a line break every three lines.
Second: Your writing credits and bio.
Third: Genre/ Word-count/ Title
Closing: Thanks for your time and consideration.