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View Diary: A Kossack's Guide to Book Publishing - part 7 [updated] (87 comments)

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  •  shana (4+ / 0-)

    So how's the best way to get an agent to notice a manuscript from the slush pile?

    We can but try. Sherlock Holmes.

    by Carnacki on Mon Aug 07, 2006 at 08:25:31 PM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  write a good book. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Carnacki, KMc, Swordsmith

      write a good cover letter, directed to the agent in a way that makes sense.  send it to an appropriate agent.
      no tricks are going to cover up the most important thing you need to do:

      write a good book.

      •  shana (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        DCDemocrat, KMc, Swordsmith
        I did write a good book. I wrote a great book. The people that read it at an author workshop told me so. My reading circle of genre fans and other beginning authors told me so. The top editor at one of the publishing houses emailed me that he really liked it, but he had too much vampire fiction in the pipeline. A French author who stumbled onto it online praised it as excellent.

        I've read Stephen King's On Writing, countless writing magazines and already practiced the excellent tips Swordsmith has mentioned in his series in an attempt to find an agent or editor.

        So it might seem as simple from your side of the desk to write a good book, but from the outside I must say it is not. Even the most carefully crafted query letters have failed to attract an agent.  And getting out of the slush piles at the major publishers without an agent seems an impossibility considering the number of manuscripts that land there.

        Thanks for the advice though.

        We can but try. Sherlock Holmes.

        by Carnacki on Tue Aug 08, 2006 at 08:17:45 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Carnacki (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Carnacki, Swordsmith
          This morning I emailed you off list in response to one of your earlier posts in the series. It went to the email in your Kos profile, and it came from kelly at my full name,

          Kelly McCullough - WebMage available from ACE books (Penguin) August 06

          by KMc on Tue Aug 08, 2006 at 08:21:22 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  but it does happen (1+ / 0-)
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          Laura Anne Gilman first built her reputation as an editor by pulling her off the slushpile and turning her into an Edgar Award winning mystery writer.

          Editors are actively looking for good stuff they can buy; that won't help if the timing is wrong, but in the long run, good writing is what sells. I know an editor who was let go for failing to find anything that he thought was good enough - and besides that, it's the joy of working on a book you really believe in and guiding it through the publishing process that makes people go into editing.

          If you follow the basic advice here, you're not competing against all of the hundreds of manuscripts that hit the slushpile: 80% of them don't follow the publisher's guidelines, or are clearly unpublishable, and don't get a serious look. You're competing against the 20% of the slushpile that's also playing the game by the rules - still an intimidating number, but a lot fewer than you think. If you're work is good, it will get noticed (and it has... you've gotten positive nibbles, just no solid bites yet). It may take way longer than you expect, since publishing is a slow process at the best of times - but if you're confident, hang in there.

          I mentioned Walter Hunt in an earlier diary - his first book took 18 years to sell, but was much more successful than anyone expected when it finally did, through the same kind of fluke of timing which had kept it from being bought several times before. (The book is about aliens who want to destroy humanity because their religion says we shouldn't exist. It came out a month before 9-11.)

          Economic -5.00 Social -5.49

          by Swordsmith on Tue Aug 08, 2006 at 08:33:17 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Write the next book (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Carnacki, Swordsmith

            The single most important step you can take in getting published is to write the next book, and the one after that, and so on. I sold my fourth last June. It was my first novel sale. The sequel is my ninth and was written on contract. Books 1,5,6,7,8 are all still out looking for homes. 2 is midway through a rewrite to make it salable now that I've got a foot in the door. 3 is waiting for me to think of a better hook. Not only does writing the next one give you another book to sell, you can mention it in the agent quest. This is my first book, I'm currently working on my second, (very brief description here.)

            Write something different. Don't write the next book in the series, write something new with different hooks and angles. That'll help show versatility as well as talent and work ethic. Editors and agents like to know you posess all of these qualities.

            Kelly McCullough - WebMage available from ACE books (Penguin) August 06

            by KMc on Tue Aug 08, 2006 at 08:49:40 AM PDT

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            •  excellent advice (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              My first two didn't sell, but they eventually landed me my first agent. More importnatly, they taught me some key things I needed in order to write books that would sell. They were near misses, which could have sold with a favorable tailwind but weren't irresistible. Looking back on them, while there are scenes that I love and the writing holds up, my control of plot is much stronger now - there are things in the story structure I would never do today, 12 books later, and they weaken the book.

              Piers Anthony wrote 13 books before he sold one.

              It can take a while, and while sometimes first novels do sell, more often they teach you the skills you need to write a more successful book.

              Economic -5.00 Social -5.49

              by Swordsmith on Tue Aug 08, 2006 at 08:56:04 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  I'm in the same boat. (0+ / 0-)

          I've written a great book.  Cant even get an agent or a publisher to even look at it.

          •  it can feel discouraging (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Are you getting the same response consistently? If so, think seriously about what they're suggesting. If not, keep sending it out, while working on the next book.

            Over time, good writing sells, but in the short run, there are lots of reasons it may not be. If it's a good book, the next one you write is likely to be better, and more likely to sell, and you'll be able to revisit the first one later.

            I've had nine books published and three that never sold - the first two I wrote, plus one that got caught up in my divorce a few years ago and was too dated to publish by the time the rights were clear (a sequel to the book I wrote on all the museums in new England).

            Just yesterday I got a nibble from a publisher on those first two books - more than ten years later, and long after I'd given up on them. (A publisher remembered them from way back when, and the market has changed for those particular books.) So you never know.

            Economic -5.00 Social -5.49

            by Swordsmith on Sat Sep 02, 2006 at 10:35:50 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  We've read it here (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Carnacki, KMc

        My daughter and I couldn't put it down, so it has cross generational appeal also.

        And we are anxiously awaiting the sequel.

        "Beware the words 'internal security', for they are the eternal cry of the oppressor." -Voltaire

        by 42 on Thu Aug 10, 2006 at 04:36:31 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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