Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Yin and The Yang

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." I finally get it. I understand what that means!

I finished editing and revising my third manuscript yesterday, meaning that unless and until I find and agent and/or publisher looking for specific changes, this bad boy is done. That's a good thing, right? The best of times? How can you not be excited about completing the 90,000 word air traffic control thriller that you have been laboring over for months?

So, to say I'm happy would be an understatement, particularly since I really believe this thing is good. It's definitely the best of times.

Of course, on the other hand, finishing this novel means that I now have to roll up my sleeves (figuratively speaking, that is, since I'm actually wearing a t-shirt right now, but you get the point) and dig into the dirty work, which in this case means baring my soul to agents and preparing to get slapped upside the head by the vast majority of them.

That's right, it's query letter time!

If you've never written a novel, you might think that sitting down and pounding out 350 or more pages of coherent story would be the hardest part about writing a book. Sorry to burst your bubble, but it's not even close, at least not for me.

Nope, the hard part begins now. I have to:

1) Begin querying agents, most of whom are probably taking on few, if any, new clients, especially in this economy. I must, in the space of one short, snappy letter or email, convince these literary professionals that I have written a book that is worthy of their time; a book that they can convince a publisher will sell enough copies to make everybody some cash. In most cases, I must do this without the benefit of even including a large sample of the manuscript, at least at the beginning.

2) Craft a long and a short synopsis, since some agents want a one-pager and others want a more-detailed version, say, around fifteen pages. Some don't want any synopsis. Have you ever tried to condense a 350 or more page novel down to fifteen pages while still hitting all the important points in the book and maintaining the flavor of the thing; still giving the reader some sense of your writing style? I have, and it ain't easy.

Once I have begun sending these queries out, it's a virtual certainty that the majority of them will come back, "Sorry, not interested." Picture a door slamming in your face and you get the idea. Fortunately, as I may have mentioned a few months ago in a post, my high school dating experiences gave me plenty of practice at dealing with rejection.

At least with query letters, the rejecting isn't done face-to-face, although I met with close to twenty agents up close and personal last summer, and getting shut down by someone looking me right in the eyes hasn't gotten any easier the last three decades, either.

So, here we are: The best of times and the worst of times. But here's the thing - This novel is good! I have every confidence that if I can convince one or two or ten agents to spend their valuable time reading this thing, one or two or ten agents will want to represent it, because they know they will be able to sell it.

So here goes nothing. Or maybe something. Time will tell.

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