You’ve just spent the last umpteen months pouring your heart out, bringing life to a main character, giving them purpose, and perfecting the wording. Where do you go from here?
Personally, I want to write some more. I enjoy the process. Except for the frustrations that melt away upon completion of a piece, it is a satisfying endeavor. I’m on a roll. I’ve got more story left in me. I don’t want to stop and try to sell the thing. I want to write.
But sell you must if you want to see it published. Stage two of book writing is not nearly as enjoyable as the initial creation phase. The business end of it is a different animal. You’ve got to convince someone your work is publishable. You know it is. Can’t they just take your word for it?
Not that I speak from experience. Rather, it is where I now find myself. I’ve been here before. I finished one story and jumped right into the next. I made only a heartless effort to push that story because I write. Sales is not my thing.
The first step is to find an agent or editor that prints the kind of stuff you write. Gone are the days when writers sent out willy-nilly to any and every publisher. One should study what kind of stuff they prefer. If a house specializes in YA romance, don’t waste their time with an MG boy story. Research publishers until you find a list of houses that would likely be keen to your work. Find out if they even accept un-agented stories. If they don’t, repeat the vetting process with agents. Investigate the guidelines a particular house has for accepting work.
With a target in mind, create a query letter for that publisher or agent. A query is a business letter asking permission to send a manuscript. You’ve got only one chance to make a first impression and the query letter is it. Agents and editors receive hundreds of requests and have strategies for navigating through them all. They will look to see if its something they normally publish and check that you’ve followed their guidelines – where your research pays off. They’ll look at grammar and spelling and conciseness of writing. A mere ten seconds is all that is needed to reject months and months of hard work.
The first line of your story should entice the reader to read more and likewise, the query letter is should hook the agent/editor to read on. It should be written in the same tone as the manuscript itself. You’ve got a few sentences to reveal the plot and full disclosure is what they want. You’re not writing the jacket blurb to draw the reader in. The agent/editor wants to know precisely the story you want them to take on. Tell the genre, word count, and target audience of the reader and why you chose them. Finally, a query should reveal a little about yourself, especially of anything you’ve published. There is Internet and hard copy resources to better acquaint with how to write a query letter.
Pushing your work is an unfortunate necessity. After you’ve written those magical words, “the end,” you’re not really finished. But before you can quit your day job and stay home and write, you need to venture into sales.