In May, I participated in an online auction for Diabetes Research where the prizes consisted (almost exclusively) of publishing related items: i.e., ARCs of novels, book collections, author meet-and-greets, and editor/agent critiques. I was fortunate enough (by making a hefty donation to the cause) to win a critique by a senior editor at a small publishing house. The critique is of the synopsis and first 3 chapters of my unpublished manuscript; however, since the critique has not come back to me yet, this post is not about that. What I want to write about today is a question that the editor posed to me when she sent me her instructions on how to submit my materials. What she asked from me was this:
“When you submit, be sure and tell me anything and everything about where you are. Are you new, have you been working on your craft for a while, a frequent contest finalist, are you self-publishing? […] Are you getting requests easily but then polite declines from editors who look at your work? Is this a new genre or sub-genre for you? […] Please offer any context or information that could be helpful so I know where you are in your writing career.”
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw this request. I was floored by the fact that she was willing to not only ready my writing, but to learn about me and my journey. Writers don’t often have the opportunity to share our journey with editors and agents when we submit our work. We have to cut those things out of our query letters and let the agent focus on the manuscript itself. I have been working on BLOOD OF ESTA for ten years, so it was refreshing and exciting to be able to share a decades worth of struggles and successes with an editor. I am glad she will get to understand were I am at in the process while she reviews my work.
So without any further adieu, I will share with you the same journey I shared with the small press editor.
I have been working on my first novel for ten years now. It’s a fantasy story I came up with when I was in law school. I started the first draft in 2004 and finished it in 2008. I’d never delved into creative writing before, so just finishing a novel was an accomplishment, but the first draft was a train wreck. Not knowing anything about publishing, I queried a few agents and received my first rejections. I also attended my first writer’s conference, and made my first in-person pitches. The live pitches resulted in partial requests, but like I said, the manuscript was just not ready to sell. Taking the advice of the agents I had met, I enrolled in several Writer’s Digest online workshops in an effort to hone my craft. I have work-shopped this story in three Writer’s Digest Advanced Novel Writing Workshops over the last six years. I’ve taken Sci Fi and Fantasy Writing workshops, written a few short stories, worked with a freelance editor, participated in agent bootcamps, and attended more conferences. I have basically done everything I could to become a better writer, short of enrolling in an MFA program. And after six years of workshops, and at least five full rewrites where I’ve changed plot lines, back stories, and POV characters, I feel I finally have a manuscript that is ready to see the world.
Since completing this latest version of the manuscript, I have shopped it around, mainly to agents. My query letter has brought me no success on its own (I am doing an agent bootcamp on query letters later this month). [Update 7/10/14: I sent my “new and improved” query letter out to an agent on the 8th and received a full request this morning. My first ever, based solely on my query.] All of the partial requests I get come from agents I’ve either met at conferences or through online workshops. I have had a couple of full requests resulting in close calls with encouraging rejections telling me to keep moving forward. I resubmitted the current version to an agent who had given me a revise and resubmit two years ago. I am still waiting to hear back from her. Three months ago I began submitting directly to publishers. No offers yet, but there are still several publishers on my list that I have not queried.
Most recently, I participated in the #SFFpit Twitter pitch party this past June, where I was lucky enough to receive requests to submit from an agent and two small press editors. I had actually submitted to, and been quickly rejected by, one of these small presses back in April. Upon the advice of the editor, I resubmitted and am happy to say that they have requested to review the full manuscript. I am waiting with crossed fingers to hear back from them, along with the other small press, and the editor I won the critique with.
Looking ahead, I plan on submitting to the rest of the publishers on my list. While I wait to for responses, I will continue to work on other writing projects, work on establishing my writer’s platform via my blog and social media, and reading and researching the current market. I am also looking into self-publishing avenues, and crowd funding (to help pay for the self-publishing).