September 24, 2012

Five Things To Keep In Mind Once You're Querying...and Beyond

Just a quick post today listing five things that not everyone considers once they've finished their novel and start sending out queries. (I know I didn't) I'm not talking writing queries or picking agents or any of that really wonderful advice type stuff. I'm talking the underbelly of things, the stuff you don't always hear about or prepare for.

1. The genre of the novel that you're querying to agents and hoping to get out on submission will probably be the genre that you'll need to stick with for awhile. I know that this isn't the case for everyone, but for me, it was absolutely true. If you get an agent and your manuscript goes out on submission, the editor that considers it seriously or picks it up is looking to round out the publishing house's list. It's not the only thing that they consider, but it helps them make a stronger case for picking up your book to other in house editors and the marketing team if you fill a hole in their current list and look to be someone who'll continue filling it. For example, your editor may already have several parnormal authors signed on, but is lacking a contemporary one...or is in need of someone who does dystopians. Chances are good that if you want to pitch the editor that picked you up again for the next book deal, they'll be hoping that you'll pitch a book in the same vein as the one you've just written and therefore keeping that hole filled. SILO is what I like to call a contemporary with a twist which really means that I just sprinkled in dystopic themes/elements, but all in all it is one hundred percent something that could and does happen in this world right now. For the book that I'll be pitching after I've completed the sequel for SILO, I'll be pitching another contemporary, this time with hints of the paranormal, but still one hundred percent real and possible in this world. I have ideas that fall out of SILO's genre, but for now I'm pursuing the contemporary ones because they serve to build the audience I'll hopefully attract with SILO. As a new author it only makes sense for the publisher and for me to write in a similar vein for awhile before I veer too far off the path into something else. Or if you write quickly and are really good at multitasking, you can always consider writing those other ideas under a pen name so that you can write them along with the others and sell to an additional publisher.

2. You should have other ideas that have nothing to do with your current book that you could write synopses for if your agent or the editor asks you to (which they will do and will even sometimes ask you to complete them in a short period of time, say a day or a few hours-you're out on submission after all and you have to strike while the iron's hot). I wrote SILO as a stand alone always knowing that there could be a sequel. I just wasn't going to write that sequel unless the editor expressed interest. Which was the right way to go considering that out of the two editors that were the big front runners for picking up SILO, only one was interested in a sequel. Luckily, I had already been toying with two other ideas and had started writing one of them. I also had a sequel synopsis for SILO that I sent as well.

3. You may have an extremely short wait or an extremely long one while finding an agent and neither is always an indicator of how fast your submission process will be. I got my agent pretty quickly. She read SILO and offered me representation in less than twenty four hours. I'd queried her the month before, but it was the holidays and so I think my process was extremely fast. She asked me to do some very simple revising, like I only needed a few days to do it kind of revising, and then we were out on sub by the beginning of the next month. Which is really, really fast. But once it went out, I was rejected by one house almost immediately and then it sat in editors' slush for a month before anyone else had an opportunity to pick it up and read. BUT once one of them did and offered, everyone else read in a hurry and things sped up. I've had friends who signed on with an agent and then revised for almost a year before going on sub...but once they were on sub, got picked up in less than a week. I've had friends that went out on sub not long after getting an agent and were on sub for almost a year before they got picked up. And I've had friends that spent a year querying before signing with an agent and then once out on sub, got picked up almost immediately. I wish I could say that there was some formula to it, but so many factors go into how an editor prioritizes their slush, how an agent prioritizes theirs, and how all the right people for one book finally find each other. AND just because you're waiting periods are short, doesn't mean that your advance will be big. (although in my experience, most of the writers I know that had fast sub times also had larger advances, just not all)

4. You will feel emotional and needy and mildy hysterical on and off basically from now on. Querying is just the beginning of your rollercoaser ride. If you think you're tied to your email waiting for agents to respond, just wait until you're waiting to hear from editors. So take up some kind of intense physical exercise and prewarn all family members that many emotional break downs are in all of your futures: you'll have them and they'll have the unfortunate task of witnessing them. And if all goes well and you get an agent and an editor, your angst won't disappear, it'll intenisfy. Being picked up by an agent and/or a publishing house is win the lottery big. And it feels like that. Getting my agent call and the call with editor offers were the two times my life most closely resembled a movie, it was that dramatic. It is a high that I can't possibly describe except to say that it felt like my body was splitting apart and soaring in every direction. I have never, ever been so completely joyous save for the birth of my two daughters and the day I married my husband. It's a joy that you just want to experience over and over again, a realization of a long standing dream. Which is where the emotional needy thing comes in. It feels so good that you immediately become terrified that somehow it won't work out in the end, like somehow the editor/agent will change their minds. I think it's the pessimistic nature in all of us...the this has to be a dream because there's no way I get to have this for real kind of stuff. And so I know I have to fight the urge to get constant reassurrance from my agent or editor or both of them, especially when the writing of the next book isn't as smooth as I'd like, because otherwise I would literally be emailing or calling them EVERY SINGLE DAY.

5. Querying, being out on submission, and ultimately writing under deadlines will mess with your head...so will whatever you write next. I had an extremely difficult time writing during every phase of this process. It was unbelivably tempting to just brood and hover over the email all day stuffing my face with chocolate. BUT weirdly, pushing myself to do it anyway always helped. You can't actually hover over the email all day...at least not after about a week or so and when you do, it makes for incredibly slow days. Still, what I managed to write was nine times out of ten not very good. I did it anyway, though, and so should you because it's good practice, this persevering in the face of high anxiety for what comes later. At least for me the writing of the next book, the one under contract has been some of the most difficult writing that I have ever, ever done. I want to stay published so badly that it's almost paralyzing. Failing when no one's looking isn't nearly as embarrassing and frightening as the concept of failing when ALL THE PEOPLE YOU ADMIRE are. This is where the determination that it took to hang in there no matter what comes in handy. It's why having to wait months and years to get to this point is a good thing. It gives you time to develop some giant brass you know whats.



10 comments:

  1. Cool post, Amy! I've heard many stories of the process good and bad so you're right there really is no one way things will happen for authors. I've had friends have such a hard time in the biz that they just pushed aside the first book and went on to the second hoping for better luck. Works differently for all but I'm confident that if one sticks with it and is passionate the story will find a home. :-)

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    1. Glad you liked it. Determination is truly 99.999% of it.

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  2. LOVE this post, Amy. I have a R+R right now (and am crazily rewriting my novel...yeah...hopefully the agent likes it) and I got to speak on the phone with her. She was adament that my novels be contemporary because that's what she reps (YA contemp). Whatever happens with her, it's something to consider. Regarding subs, I have a friend who has a TOP agent and who has great writing but her work goes on sub (for the past 3 years), gets SO close but then the pubs will say "but the book similar to this didn't do well". Siiiigh. I'm really hoping she gets picked up one of these days. *crosses fingers* It's such a crazy industry. Another of my friends wrote a book, got an agent, the book went on sub for a year. In the meantime, friend wrote another book (planned trilogy) and the first book went off sub and the second book went on and sold in a major, major deal with 15 foreign rights in a week. CRAZY! There is no pattern to it, at all.

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    1. Congrats on the R&R, Rachel!! Crossing my fingers for you now. You'll have to let me know what happens.

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    2. Thanks, Amy. I've had it since March so it's been A LONG TIME. And I just decided the novel wasn't working the way it was. *tears hair out* So...rewriting.

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    3. I feel you. I've been doing a lot of that lately myself:-)

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  3. My giant brass you know whats are SO HUGE RIGHT NOW : D

    Are you just writing blog posts for me lately?

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    1. I believe that they are truly impressive:-D ...and well earned I might add!

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