I know why you’ve read at least this far. “It is easier…” to do what?
First, a little history. Since I retired thirteen years ago, I’ve been living my life’s dream of writing fiction. I’ve completed a trilogy of thrillers and a book of short stories. Still, with none of my thrillers have I been able to snag a conventional publisher. Consequently, I self-published with iUniverse. I have no complaints. iUniverse provided good editors, thoughtful cover designs, some marketing support, and production quality that competes with the best. My books have received excellent reviews and, for self-published books, have sold well.
Three years ago I switched genres. I thought I might have a better chance of connecting with a conventional publisher by writing an historical novel. I focused on the Japanese internment of World War II, a particularly poignant episode in our country’s history. About a year ago, I completed How Much Do You Love Me? It’s a love story/mystery intertwined with the drama and pain of the internment.
As I did for my thrillers, I searched for a literary agent. New writers today understand that it seems nearly impossible to get an agent interested in you. And over the next eight months, I reaffirmed that notion. To be fair, there is good reason. Publishers are taking fewer chances on newbies—at least for fiction. (If you are a famous person or have a killer real-life story, an agent will snap you up in a heartbeat. If you don’t believe me, try this: send out a handful of queries whose first sentence begins with the following: “I slept with Osama bin Laden, and here is my story.”) And there is one additional truism; to a literary agent, being self-published is equivalent to being unpublished.
Over an eight-month period, I sent queries to 180 agents. I received replies from 134. Many agents requested, up front, a chapter or two; others requested additional material based upon the query. Nonetheless, all agents declined. Nearly all replies were polite, with a common refrain being “this isn’t right for me,” or “we have decided to pass on this one.” The most encouraging reply I received was from a high-powered, well-regarded agent with whom I had met personally several years earlier. She said: “Thank you for thinking of me…You write well and this is an accomplished story – do keep going with this. Unfortunately I’ll have to step aside, but do know it was a close call, and I wish you the best of luck.” Note her phrasing, a close call. That letter made my day.
When I ran out of agents, I tried one other route. Using Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, & Literary Agents, I browsed through his list of Publishers. This is a tougher approach because very few publishers accept queries directly from authors. Still, I found a few and one, in particular, that seemed to be a good fit for my story. To that one I sent my query letter on October 7th. By then, I felt that my query letter had evolved into the best I could write.
Four days later, on October 11, I received an e-mail reply (the most professional looking reply of any I had received from an agent), saying that they would be “very interested” in seeing my manuscript. That sounded encouraging but, from previous experience, I wasn’t expecting much. And then—may the publishing Gods be praised!—on November 6th, I received an e-mail offering me a publishing contract.
Long story short, I signed the contract, and my editor and I are now working to make the manuscript the best it can be. These people work fast and precisely: the cover has been designed, and they already know the book’s release date, August 12th.
And so, to rephrase the title for this blog: Yes! Sometimes it is easier to find a publisher than a literary agent.
Categorised in: How Much
This post was written by paulmarktag01