Monday, December 29, 2008

Quick update

Hello everyone! Thank you so much for your Christmas wishes. This is just a quick post - we've been having a lovely Christmas holiday and have also been eating and drinking far too much, which is sort of compulsory at this time of year. We're heading off for a couple of days over New Year's (if any potential burglars are reading this, someone is staying in the house to look after Mink, so your evil plan is foiled! Although I don't know why you would be reading my blog, unless you were a very specialised burglar). We've rented a cottage with a couple of friends in Hanmer - a mountain town with hot springs - and we'll be there to see in 2009 with Kir Royale and Karaoke. LOML bought me a massage at the hot pools for Christmas ... I'm definitely looking forward to that.

I'll be back on 3 January, and normal service will resume then - I'll draw the winner of the giveaway next week. Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas break, and I look forward to catching up with your blogs in the New Year.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Thank you!

First of all, thank you all so much for your lovely comments on my giveaway post - I'm excited about the number of people entering, it's going to be fun! If you haven't entered yet, it's the post below this one - or you can click on the icon in the sidebar to be taken directly to the page. I am a bit behind on responding to comments, because life is a bit jam-packed at the moment, but I will reply to them all soon. Thank you also to those who commented for the first time, it's really nice to (virtually) meet you.

I am feeling a million times better today, and we're off to a wedding rehearsal and barbecue tonight - LOML is the official photographer for the wedding on Saturday, and I am acting as his assistant. I also (fanfare, please) picked up my bag. It is an antique doctor's bag, and I love it, particularly because it has my initials in gold on the front.

I could have sworn it opened and shut and that the lock was broken, but I can't get it open now for the life of me. I will probably have to take it to a locksmith - darn. But worth it. Mink isn't impressed, however.

I found this quote of Neil Gaiman's on David Anthony Durham's blog this morning:

"It does help, to be a writer, to have the sort of crazed ego that doesn't allow for failure. The best reaction to a rejection slip is a sort of wild-eyed madness, an evil grin, and sitting yourself in front of the keyboard muttering "Okay, you bastards. Try rejecting this!" and then writing something so unbelievably brilliant that all other writers will disembowel themselves with their pens upon reading it, because there's nothing left to write. Because the rejection slips will arrive. And, if the books are published, then you can pretty much guarantee that bad reviews will be as well. And you'll need to learn how to shrug and keep going. Or you stop, and get a real job."

- Neil Gaiman

When I see I have a response from an agent in my inbox, I do this: say to myself "this is a rejection", take a deep breath, click on it and read it as quickly as possible so there is no suspense at all and I don't get my hopes up. This is definitely not in keeping with The Secret or the chirpy philosophies of Positive Thinking, but it works quite well. If it is a rejection I can say "oh well, no surprise there" (although inside I am ripping a couch cushion apart with my teeth and wailing like a cat on a fence), but if it is something else I am pleasantly surprised. I received two not-rejections over the last couple of days - the first was a request for a full from a partial - yay! and she said she enjoyed the partial - and the second was a note from another agent saying that she was really enjoying the full and would get back to me in the New Year. Hooray! In keeping with my system, however, I'm not getting my hopes up. It's just easier that way. But fingers crossed, all the same.

I posted the full manuscript off to London this morning (to a company that doesn't accept email submissions) - sixty dollars! Holy cow. It still hurts. I think my wallet will need stitches.

Update: LOML opened the bag in five seconds flat. Typical.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The agent-hunting process

A couple of you left comments on the last post asking how this whole agent-hunt shebang works, so I thought I would give a brief description for anyone who's interested. Feel free to skip if you know all this already! And published-type friends, feel free to jump in with any other information in the comments.

Step 1 - write a book. A year of your life passes, waves crash on distant beaches, a tree grows in Brooklyn. When you're finished, revise and edit over and over until you're sick of it. Then do it again.

Step 2 - you're ready to submit your manuscript ... to publishers? Nope. Bad idea. Unless you live in New Zealand and you want it published in New Zealand, because we're so tiny that you can submit directly to publishers here and they don't get grumpy. But if you think your book would do better in an international market, then you need to research agents in your country of choice. I went to a UK database and went through all of the listings to find my selection - you can also look up authors whose work is similar to yours, and see who represents them. And ask for recommendations from writerly friends.

You need an agent. Because publishers really don't like getting unsolicited submissions and often will only look at agent submissions, and because an agent will handle the contracts, financial stuff, legal rights and all the things that, if you're like me, you probably wouldn't be too good at. And they'll also get you a good deal, because it is in their interests.

Step 3 - so, you've found some agencies that look promising. You now need to research the individual agents to find one who would be interested in you, as it would be silly to send your erotic historic vampire romance novel to someone who only deals in science-fiction.

Step 4 - once you've found your agent, you need to write a query letter of great brilliance that will make them want to look at your manuscript. This is hard and evil, but once you have a good query letter it will be the powerful weapon you wield against the forces of darkness (got a bit carried away there), and so it has to be done.

Oh, and check the agency's submission guidelines first - most of them will ask you to send a query letter via post or email (SO much easier and cheaper than post, I wish they all allowed email submissions), but some will allow you to submit a synopsis and partial (that is, part of the manuscript) as well. Always good to check. No point making them crankier by not following the rules.

Step 5 - PERSONALISE the query letter and please don't do what I did once and forget to change the name before you send it to a different agent. Oops. I wrote a post on query letters here which gives Nathan Bransford's excellent query letter formula and my example of how this can be filled out (tee hee). Then read it through, bite your nails, have a stiff drink and send it to your selected agents.

Step 6 - the time scale of publishing is a glacial one, usually. Some agents will reply to you quickly, but some will take ages. It is quite soul-destroying. Hopefully, however, you will receive some chirpy responses from agents saying, yes please, we would love to see your masterpiece. Even better if they allow you to send it as an email attachment rather than asking you to send a pile of paper that looks like the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey through the mail. They will request:

a) a partial, which could be anything from the first three chapters to the first 100 pages, or
b) a full.

They might also request a synopsis. These are, if anything, more evil than the query letter. I would actually suggest you write one as soon as you've finished the book, just in case, instead of drinking twelve cups of coffee and doing it in one day after an agent requested it, which is what I did. Once you have a synopsis, it's worth sending it along with your partial or full, even if the agent hasn't requested it. Makes their jobs a bit easier, which is always a good thing. Keeping the agent in a good mood is key.

Step 7 - make sure your manuscript is formatted correctly. There's a good guide here. Make sure you number the pages and put your name and the title of the work on each page, in case they get out of order or lost. This is really important.

Step 8 - send it, along with an informative, polite and businesslike email which has your previous correspondence embedded in it, because agents are busy people and you don't want them to have to go through their inbox searching for your information. That makes them cranky.

Step 9 - this is where the glacial pace kicks in again. A lot of agencies say you shouldn't expect to hear anything until after 3 months have passed. It varies. But hopefully you will receive a request for a full from an agent who had the partial - or perhaps you will even get an offer of representation - sooner rather than later. If you haven't heard from them in 3 months, give them a polite nudge (not literally), like I did yesterday, and hopefully they will respond. It can take months. It can even take a year. Or more. I have only been doing this for three months, so I have a long way to go.

It is a long process, and it is only the start of the even longer process that is publication. Glaciers, slow-moving land mammals and the plots of really boring movies have nothing on the speed of the publishing world. Do I sound a bit impatient? It's probably because I am. Anyway, I hope that answers your questions! Thank you again for all your comments, I really do appreciate them greatly.

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