Crap! (Followed by some links on agents and querying)

Nothing like writing a story with a goal in mind and then finishing it and figuring out it won’t meet that goal.  I had that happen with a short story a while ago – the one I really don’t know where to place.  It was about 3,000 words short of the target market I had written it for and it’s just odd enough to not really fit with any other markets.

So, yesterday I wrapped up the final edits on the 8th draft of the novel.  I was so happy because it’s now just under 90,000 words (from 86K) and I thought I’d send it to the Tor UK open submission.

One teensy tiny little problem…turns out I have a crap memory and they want novels that are 95,000 to 150,000 words not 90,000 to 150,000 words.  Damn.

So, that isn’t happening.  The novel is what it is and I am not tacking 5,000 words onto it just to make that call.

(As an aside, I know I said a while back that I wouldn’t do the Harper Voyager open call without first exhausting agent options, because submitting to a publisher ties your agent’s hands.  But I viewed Tor UK as a slightly different situation since I figured an offer from a UK publisher might help an agent leverage a simultaneous U.S. deal (or help me finagle an offer of rep.)  Whereas I’ve heard that if you already have a U.S. deal, UK publishers are less willing to take a look at your book.  I have no idea where I heard that.  It could be complete poppycock.)

(And, yes, I like to misuse words from other “languages.”)

So, time for submitting to agents, which means it’s a good time to share some posts about agents and queries:

Rachelle Gardner (who I unfortunately can’t sub to because I don’t write her kind of book) had a good post today about The Benefits of Having an Agent.

For me, one of the keys in having an agent is the point she makes about Strategic Career Management

“One of the best values an agent can offer is brainstorming with you about your “next book” and the entire direction of your career. They can take into account your personal goals and the state of the publishing marketplace to help you determine your next steps. If you have three different book ideas on the table, your agent would offer guidance as to which would probably be your best bet. They are keeping your brand in mind and will want to help you maximize your sales potential over the long term.”

(That’s one of the reasons I would’ve volunteered a limb to get Russell Galen as an agent…Alas, adult speculative fiction is not his thing at the moment.  At least not from someone like me with absolutely no writing credits.)

I feel confident that given enough practice I’ll manage to write a publishable book.  And be able to do so about once every year or so.  But what I don’t have is a firm vision for the industry–a way to know which path is the better path to take given the options.  That’s where I think an agent would be invaluable.  As much as I’m a stubborn, bull-headed, go with my gut kind of person, it only really works for me when I have enough information for my gut to know what it’s talking about.  And having a knowledgeable agent I can discuss things with is one of those ways.

(And when oh when is the English language going to evolve to drop that useless “e” from knowledgeable so I can quit misspelling it?)

So, anyway, since I’m about to wade into this process for reals this time around, here are a few links I’ve been building up:

Mark Blanchard on How to Get a Real Agent.

It’s an article from 2001, but I just skimmed through it again and I think it still has some relevance.  (As in, don’t believe something that seems too good to be true.)

(I just had a friend go through that with her novel.  “I’d love to rep your book, now let’s just get you to pay for editing services…”  She held out and found someone who isn’t charging her any fees for rep.  Yay!)

(I just recently decided that I can no longer use “yeah” when what I really mean is “yay”.  I never thought of “yay” as a word before about six months ago, but it makes sense to distinguish between a happy “yay” and a whatever “yeah.”)

(I have issues.  But we already knew this.)

Janet Reid (another great agent who doesn’t rep what I write) has a Query Letter Diagnostics post

This is somewhat specific to her process, but also a good list to go down for an e-mail query you send.  Also, of course, if you haven’t checked it out you should look at Query Shark.

Curtis Brown Creative’s submissions blog

It has a few good posts on submissions in general and what they’re looking for this year.

(And can I just stop for a moment and ask who the hell would think it’s appropriate to send someone a dead rat in the mail just for rejecting them?  Just like some of the less than nice comments that have been made on the Harper Voyager thread over on AW because it’s taking them so long to read through all the manuscripts they received in their open call.  Um, let’s see.  How to sum this up: YOU ARE NOT ENTITLED TO ANYTHING.  GET OVER YOURSELF.)

Another post by Rachelle Gardner: Writing a One-Sentence Summary

(This would be the point where I remind myself that not all writing is the same, and writing a 90,000 word novel is easier than a 25 word summary of said novel.  And taking a quick glance at my query, it does not do follow her advice right now…grrrr.)

Shady Business, a post by Sarah LaPolla on agents that think they’re legit but maybe aren’t.   Worth reading and thinking about before you sign with someone.

Carol Blake on 29 Ways NOT to Submit to an Agent

I actually love the real life example under #1.  The author sent their manuscript with a trash bin.  The cleaning crew thought it was trash and threw it out.  The agent would’ve liked to read the submission, but it was too late by then.  NO GIMMICKS.  Just send what they want you to send.

It felt good to clear out a few of the links I’ve been saving to share here.  Much better than it’s going to feel to send off those query letters in a few days’ time.  Man, I hate rejection.  But it’s a good way to learn, so time to suck it up.  The only way to fail is to quit, right?  Right?


About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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