So…here I am, back again…querying for an agent for my second novel, In My Shoes. It’s the story of a 17 year old girl whose family is homeless and living on the streets of Rochester, MN. The only thing she wants is to have a normal life and to keep her secret, but secrets have a way of unraveling and a book wouldn’t be a good book if the reader wasn’t sitting on the edge of his seat hoping that (in this case) the secret doesn’t get out.
“Querying” is an odd word, so let me explain what I mean. When a person writes a book, they have roughly three options:
- Self Publish: The author uses a website like Smashwords or Amazon to upload the file of their book, then they place it for sale to the general public. This is one way of getting your book out there, but it’s very difficult to find real success this way unless you already have a platform with followers. Two exceptions to this that come to mind are Amanda Hocking and Tracey Garvis Graves. Amanda self-published her first few novels after being turned down by dozens of agents, only to have them come knocking on her door after she’d become an Amazon best-seller and brought in roughly $2 million. Tracey’s story is similar. She published her first novel on Amazon, became an Amazon best-seller, and then had some of the same agents who had brutally rejected her turn around and court her. It’s no secret that Tracey is my hero…I wanna grow up and be just like her!
- Small Publishing House: Smaller publishing houses do some really excellent work and don’t require an agent to sign an author. The downside to smaller publishing houses is that they often don’t have the money behind them to do big publicity campaigns, which then requires that the author take on a big portion of the advertising himself. While there’s a lot more work for the author going through a smaller publisher, there’s also a lot of perks. Like personal attention, for example. The publishing house handles the entire process of creating the book and some of the marketing, and the author seems to get a bit more personal attention in the mix. Generally speaking the smaller publisher is only putting out about a dozen or so titles a year, so the new author isn’t competing for attention with the likes of, say, Stephen King or James Patterson.
- Query for Agent Representation: This is my goal with this second novel — to find an agent to represent my novel to the big publishing houses. Using this process, an author sends out tons of “query letters” telling agents what their book is about and why they should take a look. From there — if the author is lucky — he might get a request from an agent to see part or all of the manuscript. This is HUGE! From this ginormous stack of “entries” the agent has selected YOUR manuscript for consideration. That doesn’t mean he’ll take it; it simply means that he likes your idea well enough to give it a read. If he likes it, he’ll offer to represent the author; which means that he’ll now take this book around to the big publishing houses and try to sell it for the author. In this case, the big houses often offer an “advance” to the author against the projected sales; and then the agent takes a cut of something like 15% for his time. So it’s a bit like finding a realtor to sell your house.
So there you are: the three ways to publish a book, and I’m currently in the “querying” phase for an agent to represent my newest novel. And it’s hard! It’s hard enough to put your work out there and let others look at it and decide based on a few lines whether you’re worthy of consideration, but it’s even harder to wait for them to make that decision.
Currently my novel is in the hands of a few very talented agents and two or three small publishing houses. My preference is to go through an agent for a big publishing house, but my experience with Penner Publishing on my novel, The Edge of Nowhere, has been so positive that I don’t want to discount how wonderful the smaller presses can be.
But for now I wait. Each day feels like a year. I check my e-mail about two thousand times…every hour. I check a program called QueryTracker which allows me to see where I am in the “queue” for some agents. And I wait some more. It’s agony.
Many agents and authors recommend beginning your next novel during this time, and I’ve tried that. But it’s hard to concentrate when all I want to do is watch that e-mail inbox. Every time I hear that ping sound that indicates an incoming e-mail, my heart races. Will this be the e-mail I’m waiting for?
For now I wait. I’ll let you know if I hear anything positive.