Friday, January 9, 2009

Let's Play a Game...

Remember the game? You would roll the die and count out your number, hoping to land on the apparatus with rungs. It would lead you up the game board faster, get you closer to that win over your brother, who always seemed to win anyway. Then, your next roll, more counting, and uh, oh, a serpent. You’re going down, baby. You can only hope it’s not a long one, taking you all the way back to the beginning (or that your brother’s not watching and you can get off your serpent earlier, say mid-back instead of tail end). Well, let’s talk about getting published! It’s very much like that game of Serpents and Apparatus With Rungs.

Before I thought about being a published author, I was a reader (still am). I went to the library, browsed or perhaps used the card catalog, read the back cover, made a snap decision as to whether or not that story sounded good enough to take home, signed it out. Or, did the exact same thing at a bookstore with the exception that I was now paying for the book to come home with me. I knew someone wrote the book, but had no idea of the process between "writer puts pen to paper" and "Janet buys/signs out book".

So, after finishing my novel (I’m talking way past the first draft, with many people reading it and offering advice, critiques, and encouragement), I decided to take the next step. WOW (I would offer an expletive here, but I’ll keep it clean)! After tons of research, I discovered that the path to publication is one of persistence and fortitude. The necessary steps fit nicely into a flowchart (and mine looks fabulous), but the flowchart and Blogger didn’t get along. As I was writing out the steps I’m taking in my quest for publication (and cursing Blogger), the premise of a board game came to mind. So, let’s play…

1. Research Agencies (at least a 100). Open up the board – 100 squares!
2. Write a stellar query letter (personalized for each agent). Roll the die!
3. Submit and wait…wait…wait (check e-mails compulsively). Count and move!
4. NO? Wallow in rejection and misery. Down that serpent – back to #2!
5. YES? Squee with Glee, call all your friends, pump fist in air, dream of your big advance. Up the apparatus with rungs – to the next step!
6. Prepare partial submission package (usually synopsis & 1st 3 chapters) Roll the die!
7. Submit and wait…wait…wait (check e-mails compulsively). Count and move!
8. NO? Wallow in rejection and misery. Down the bigger serpent – back to #2!
9. YES? Squee with Glee, call all your friends, pump fist in air, dream of your big advance. Up the apparatus with rungs – to the next step!
10. Prepare entire manuscript for submission (follow all manuscript formatting rules). Roll the die!
11. Submit and wait…wait…wait (check e-mails compulsively). Count and move!
12. NO? Wallow in rejection and misery. Down the biggest serpent – back to #2!
13. YES? The final Squee with Glee! A YES from a full manuscript submission means you are now an agented author. Whew! Up the final apparatus, taking you right to the winning square!

My limited experience sees me wallowing in rejection after partial submissions. No one’s asked for the full thing yet, but I am determined she will. And I’ve read enough to know that if you get past the manuscript submission and squee with glee, the process starts all over again (from the editing stage) as you and your agent begin submitting to publishing houses. WOW!

So, People of Blogland – has there ever been anything in your life that you’ve wanted so badly that you’ve ignored the enormous obstacles (not to mention the workload and setbacks) standing in your way? New writers, at what stage would you give up and move on to another story – 100 queries? 50? 20? Words of wisdom from published authors would be greatly appreciated. And for fun – what’s your favorite board game from your childhood?

Janet (who’s very afraid of the Copyright Police!)


Lu said...

Hi Janet,
"Serpents and Apparatus with Rungs" WAS my favorite board game, and I had the same evil brother!

My dice rolls are still dropping my on the serpent's slippery back, but I don't fell like I'm traveling all the way to the "start" square anymore. Even after a rejection (ouch!) I'm closer to my goal. And since all my rejections have been "good" ones, I'm not ready to give up on any of my projects - yet.

Have a great day, and hopefully I'll see you in Chat this weekend.


Karen said...

Hey, Janet, great post. Very clever. I've never sent out a query letter so I don't know how many I'd have to send out to be satisfied I'd tried my best. I prefer to live in the land of denial on the possible number it would take. 100 query letters, seriously? I really need to get my act together. Hummm...favorite board game as a child would have to be Clue.

Kiersten said...

This is funny because my friend Natalie ( wrote the exact same analogy. Guess great minds think alike! And it perfectly captures the querying process. A no at any point sends you right back to the beginning.

With my first book I sent out maybe thirty letters before realizing that I wasn't getting any interest for a reason. With my second book, I was confident enough and had enough interest that I kept going. I believe I had 44 letters out (lots of no replies, lots of auto-rejects, a couple partial rejects, and one full reject) when I got the call from my agent.

It really makes it all worth it. Trust me.

I don't know if you've ever seen Cindy Pon's blog, but she sent out 120 letters before landing an agent, who went on to get her a three book deal.

If you feel like what you have is worth pursuing, I say query until there is not a single agent left who takes what you write.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Janet - great post! As I was playing your game in my mind, I kept thinking...yes, that it's...that's exactly what it is.

With my first reject - a form letter - yes, I went all the way back to 2. But, I'd followed the submission guidelines at Steeple Hill perfectly and they didn't call for the partial - only a query. From the eharlequin boards, I found out that just a query is an automatic R. All the other lines called for 3 chapters but somehow SH didn't. By the time I'd figured out, I should've sent a partial regardless, I'd resubbed to another pub who still has it.

I went to the ACFW conf and talked to the SH editor about my historical this time. She said send a partial. I did. I rec'd a good R because it had suggestions and a request to send something else but they couldn't use that one.

So, I wouldn't say I went all the way back to 2 with that...maybe somewhere on the 2nd row?

I also had an agent request at the conf but she doesn't do category books. I haven't subbed to her because my dream is to write category. So I'm wavering...category or agent.

Janet said...

Great to see you here, Lu. I'm glad alll your rejections have been good ones and that you're not ready to give up. I'm in that same boat - keep going, no matter what. One day I'll land on that apparatus with rungs and get the Call.

I'll stop by Chat this weekend - talk to you then.

Janet said...

Hey, Karen. Yeah, according to Miss Snark (and you can google that - great information for new writers, even though she doesn't blog anymore) you should look at sending out a 100 letters. I have my own game plan with that theory -check back next week, I'll be posting about it.

Never played Clue - imagine that!

Janet said...

Ack! Kiersten, just went looking for Natalie's post on the analogy. For everyone out there - I have only begun to read Kiersten's blog in December - and have never been to Natalie's blog (although now that I've been over there, may just have to add it to my favorites). I really am afraid of the Copyright Police!

Thanks for your words of encouragement, Kiersten. It's good to hear success stories (and I believe that's how I ended up getting to your blog - to read your success story - Congrats). I'm at around 30 queries - and sometimes wonder if it's my query or my actual book. I really believe in my book. As I said to Karen, I'm going to post my "process" and thoughts on that next week. I am encouraged, however, by Cindy's success story.

For all those that don't know about Kiersten's blog - I highly recommend it. Thanks for stopping by, Kiersten.

Janet said...

Hey, Anita. Yeah, I kept trying to figure out how to show that you really don't go back to number 2, some serpents only take you to the second row, or even just one row down. But I wanted to convey the idea that you submit again and if that doesn't work, you submit again. I have a theory - but more on that next week.

I like good rejections - they give us hope. A serpent with a smile! After all this time, it's easy to get discouraged, but when a rejection comes in that says 'your writing shows promise' a little voice in your head says "See, you can do this, you're a writer."

Good luck with your submissions - and think about that agent one. What's the worst that can happen? And what's the best? Hmmm.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Janet - about the agent question - I really don't need an agent for category so I haven't worried about it where my contemporary books are concerned. However, this historical is an inspy and I probably will need an agent for it now that SH sent the R. The editor did say it was 'too sensual' for inspy. (That's too funny) Anyway, I'm thinking maybe subbing to Harlequin Historicals. Except I don't think there's enough sensuality for that line. This is where the agent would come in.

The thing about agents is that it's like a're putting your career in their hands - that involves trust. I need to be absolutely sure that I can work with that agent in my back pocket for the next ? years.

I say this b/c a friend wrote a 75K novel and when she presented it to her agent was told it wasn't sellable and start something else. That's months of work!

So, if the dream agent I saw doesn't want category books which are my dream, then I have to go back to the drawing board for another suitable agent. I met lots at the conference, but no one drew me as much as that first one.

Suse said...

Hi Janet,

I know it can be disheartening to receive rejections for your "babies", but as Kiersten said, "If you feel like what you have is worth pursuing, I say query until there is not a single agent left who takes what you write."

If you try a google search for "famous rejections", you'll see that many famous authors have received many rejections for books that later were very successful.

Following are just a few:
Auntie Mame, Patrick Dennis (15)
Carrie, Stephen King (30)
Chicken Soup for the Soul, Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (140)
Diary of Anne Frank (16)
Dr. Seuss books (15)
Dubliners, James Joyce (22)
Dune, Frank Herbert (23)
Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell (38)
Harry Potter book one, J. K. Rowling (9)
Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Richard Bach (18)
Kon-Tiki, Thor Heyerdahl (20)
M*A*S*H, Richard Hooker (17)
The Peter Principle, Laurence Peter (16)
The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot (17)
Watership Down, Richard Adams (26)
A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle, (26)

I have made a few submissions, but when I received rejections for the partials, I didn't pursue it. I think it was because I didn't believe in my stories enough.

Probably my favourite games growing up were some type of card games (numbers) and Hangman (words). I absolutely detested Monopoly and I don't think I cared for Snakes and Ladders either. I always preferred a game that I could win with my skills rather than leaving something to chance, like the roll of a dice and the slide down a snake to the bottom of the board game. Maybe that says something about how I approach this publishing business. I'll have to give this some thought.


Janet said...

Thanks, Suse, it's always good to remember those famous authors had their moments of rejections too.