Folks, this conversation is a few weeks old, but it answers questions many of you may have if you’re working on, or considering working on, a first novel. Brad and I thought you might be interested.
Quick question: I'm currently about halfway through writing my first novel (I know, I know - definitely counting my chickens, here), and I'm already stressing about what to do when it's done. Do you have any suggestions? Any resource where I find info (online, the 2015 Writer' s Market, etc.) seems to conflict with another. Agent? No agent? Publishing houses? It's dizzying.
Sorry for the inquisition. I'm just honestly stumped about what I'm eventually going to do. If you get a free moment, I'd love whatever advice you're willing to give. Thanks again - not only for publishing two of my stories (can't wait for "The Tiger's Abyss" to hit in November!), but also for all the insight you've provided.
- Brad Perry
Brad, the first thing you do is find at least 3 readers--no one who won't be absolutely honest-- who read what you write. Ask them for story comments. This will help you determine where your story is solid and where it needs work. The "average reader" is who you're looking for. They're your market. At least make the changes they all suggest.
Even if you run a program like autocrit to do your copyediting, you will still need a story editor. This is an expense, but you're going to be too saturated to tell if what's on the page is any good at this point. You're likely to have paragraphs moved around, be told to add to or omit certain parts. This is normal--and invaluable if you want to show your work off to its best advantage.
Now you're ready to contact acquiring editors at small publishers who say they're accepting submissions in your genre. Be sure you have a strong inquiry letter. Don't send anything without getting a positive response, and follow submission guidelines like your book’s life depends on it. It does.
Until you've received an offer on your first manuscript from a publisher, you don't really need an agent. When a publisher makes an offer, ask them to recommend 3 OUTSIDE agents they're comfortable working with. The agent you choose will hold your hand through negotiations and publication. (If they work for the publisher, they're not working for you). An agent works for a percentage of your royalties, no upfront fees. No reading fees. Not a percentage of the gross receipts. An agent can introduce you to a worthwhile publicist, whom you will have to pay yourself, so make sure they have a sound sales strategy. Ask for references. You want to be sure they deliver what they say they do. If you find this agent easy to work with, you might have them shop your next book around to various puplishers until it's sold. Once you have a track record, an agent should be able to open doors for you that might otherwise remain closed. Just be careful that any contract you sign has an escape clause for each of you.
Could be, you’ll decide to self-publish. There are advantages and disadvantages to both paths. To learn the ins and outs, check out theliterarymidwife.com/ Mary Rosenblum is a well-published second tier author and founder of LongRidge Writers Group. She'll give you the straight story. Tell her I sent you.
Now get back to work and finish that book!
Fred Waiss is a former high school teacher and coach who writes poetry, articles, short stories, novellas, and novels as the muse attacks; as an author he considers himself a work in progress.