Ok, so after much fretting and rewriting, I sent out another batch of query letters. This time much shorter and (hopefully) more concise than the first batch. I’ve been sending out a couple a day all week. And guess what?
I just got my first request for a partial manuscript!
Cool. Very cool indeed.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, self (does this imply a schizoid personality?). This is just the first of many thresholds that must be crossed before we reach the first-time-novelist’s Holy Grail–the publishing deal!–and each one is more harrowing than the last. Just for fun, though, here’s how success might look:
-write amazing novel, check
-send out enticing query letter to fabulous agent, check
-fabulous agent is properly enticed and requests partial manuscript, check (in this case, the first 50 pages)
-fabulous agent likes what she sees and requests full manuscript, pending
-fabulous agent still likes what she sees and offers to represent first-time novelist, pending pending
-fabulous agent is brilliant as well as fabulous and lands appropriately amazing book deal for first-time novelist’s amazing book, results may vary
I added my own progress report, just to help myself visualize the goal. I saw that on TV once. To the power of positive thinking!
But here’s the thing.
Getting past the query letter stage is an undeniably huge step for me. As it is, I’m sure, for every novelist–regardless what stage of career they are in. Believe it or not, just because you get published once doesn’t mean you’ll get published again. You still have to go through the same process every time. Unless you’re one of those writers who could take a dump in a Styrofoam cup and the NYT would toss on top of the Bestseller list just for shits and giggles. (Someday, Pinky. Someday.) For everyone else, though, publishing is kind of a ball-breaker.
Having an agent read my query and invite a partial submission means that my concept is interesting to at least one reputable person in the business, which is great. Better than great. It’s fan-freakin-tastic! But I’m not throwing myself a party just yet.
For one thing, my novel can (and is statistically very likely to) still be rejected at any stage in the above process. Even if said fabulous agent likes what she sees in the first 50 pages, she might not like it enough. Or she might request a full and not like the ending. Or she might really like it, but just not feel that she’s the best person to represent it. Or she might have just been bored when she requested the partial and toss it in the slush pile as soon as something more important comes up. Anything is possible.
The possibility of her liking it, through all of the stages, and then deciding to represent me is less than one percent.
Worst of all, is that now that I’ve gotten past that first threshold my novel has to stand up and above the rest entirely on its own merit. No matter how good you are at pimping your work, in the end you have to deliver the goods. At this point, there are no more excuses about wrongly formatted query letters, anemic author bios, or even spiteful interns. She’ll either like my work or she won’t. All I can hope for at this point is that if she doesn’t like it, she might take the time to give me some feedback.
And kind of exciting. I am looking forward to some real feedback almost more than I am landing an agent. Not because landing an agent wouldn’t be amazing–and ultimately that is my goal, right?–but because this early in the process, feedback is a far more likely outcome. Of course I would like to believe that my novel is perfect just the way it is. I’m sure there are writers out there who would be appalled at the idea of changing a single punctuation point in their capital M Masterpiece.
I, however–believe it or not–do not suffer delusions of grandeur (other delusions, yes). I think I’ve written a unique and entertaining bit of sci-fi fun. And that’s good enough for me! If an agent, or even a couple of agents, feels that my novel has enough potential that it warrants a little extra work, I will drop everything to follow their advice.
I’m even aware that I may have to trim up to 100 pages from the thing to fall into the optimal first-novel length (a paltry 100,000 words, pfft) And I’ll do it. It will change everything, mind you. But I’ll do it. I might even enjoy it. Then again, what I lack in delusions of grandeur I make up for in compulsive editing, so I might just be a different breed of weird all together. I could go over this novel until it morphed into a chicklit mystery series and a paranormal romance and back again.
But at some point you just have to stop. Right?
Now. What was I talking about…
Oh ya. Realistically, this is just the first of many partial requests I could receive. If other author’s experiences are any indication, I may never hear from this agent again. Many novelists generate a lot of interest with queries, partials, and full submissions, and still it takes them years to find the right agent. The one who believes in their book as much as they do.
But it’s worth the work, and its will be worth the wait.
So, I’m not throwing myself a party just yet. I’m just drawing up the plans for it in my Simple Soiree Party Planner app.