Thursday, March 24, 2011

The steps of book writing/publication

Here's the process, and it's really simple:

  • Step 1: Have an idea. Simple, come up with an idea for your book. Understand it fully and completely.
  • Step 2: Write. This is the long part where you actually, you know, sit in front of a keyboard and write your great American novel.
  • Step 3: Revise. Once you're done, you're actually NOT done. Go back, read your work. Fix the errors, no matter how small. Typos happen, and they suck. Fix them all. Get someone you know and trust to give you feedback on things like plot holes, grammar FUBARisms, and the like. At this point, you have a rough draft.
  • Step 4: Find an agent. This part sucks. But there's help around. Personally, I use Agent Query (Google it for better info than I could share). Each agent has their own entry, you can search by genre, location, name...basically anything. Make sure that you read the detailed profile of each because some aren't taking in queries at the moment--and you don't want to waste their time...or yours. I suggest you get a list going of who you want to query. Keep the list small and simple at first, say around 20.
  • Step 5: Compose a query letter. This is your sales pitch, it's basically a 3 to 4 paragraph letter that tells about your story, why it's interesting, a very brief breakdown of the plot, an indication of thanks to the agent, and a closing salutation.
  • Step 6: Send those queries out. Pretty easy once you have the query written.
  • Step 7: Wait. While you're waiting, go back to step 3 and revise your work more. Perfection is the goal. Alternatively, begin working on your next great American novel. Find a way to bide your time because agents are swamped and often cannot reply quickly.
Now, a brief interlude to talk about agents. Some of them will state straight-up that if you do not hear back from them within a specified period of time, this means they chose to pass on your submission. This is called a "no response means no" policy, and to be blunt--I believe it to be a bit rude. Agents should spend the two seconds to fire off an email saying "Gee, dude, your story was interesting/compelling/amazing...but it's not for me, you should keep querying other agents. Good luck in finding representation!"

Yes, I know they don't want to get into a flame-war with some aspiring writer who just cannot fathom that someone would not want their manuscript; but you know what, common decency has to win out. You cannot cure stupid, but you can out class them. So, agents, send a reply--even if it's a negative one--it makes people stop worrying if you didn't get it (mail server hiccup or whatever) and it continues to promote professionalism.

Where am I on this list? Why I am at step 7! I have a completed book, and I am working on a new story. But even so, and even after having multiple eyes on my work, and having passed numerous passes by people with better grammatical skill than I, there remains the thought that there is a hideous error lying within its pages that I had missed entirely. Paranoia about my work runs deep.

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