Deep in the Woods

I’m in it for real now. I’ve submitted my query letter and sample pages to five publishers and agents, just kicked my baby bird out of the nest with the hope that it will learn to fly on the way down.

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So far I have received two rejections and one full manuscript request. That’s got to be worth something, hasn’t it? We’ll just call it even for now. The thing is, the one place that expressed interest is a publisher, to whom I physically handed my query and pages at a convention. And, should they want to buy the book/series, that would make me an unagented writer, which I understand to be a potentially very dangerous thing. There are a lot of  opinions  on what this means for a new writer.

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I lack any strong negotiation skills and I am by no means an expert in contracts. There is a very real chance that I could be nickled and dimed to death by a publishing house because I failed to look out for my own best interests. Even in an ideal case, in which my book series sells well and makes money, I may see very little of it if I don’t properly arm myself with an agent or other representative who will help keep me from making a poor decision.

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I’m lucky to have several friends who are lawyers and who may be able to help me out in a pinch. But that’s not the ideal scenario at all (though I have to hope it’s better than drowning in legally binding language). I’d really much rather have a literary agent. I want someone with whom I have an ongoing business relationship, someone who knows me, someone who cares about whether or not I succeed. Yes, I know my agent won’t be my friend – but I can wish for someone who cares not only because of the monetary gains for himself, but because he genuinely wants for me to succeed. A girl can hope!

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Maybe I’m a little old-fashioned but I always dreamed of getting published the “classic” way: an agent, a New York publishing house, books on the shelves of the big name stores and libraries across the country, a book tour with signings – all of that. But it’s a vision that needs to change more and more as the industry itself is transforming. And this transformation is happening right before our eyes! The rise of Amazon and e-books/e-readers is just one piece of a large and ever-changing puzzle. Self-publishing is even becoming reputable (whereas a decade or more ago, it was just something to do for one’s own vanity) and more and more new writers are choosing it. Andy Weir’s hit novel, The Martian, was originally self-published and it’s now a feature film.

For many people, self-publishing is a viable and even a very good option. It’s not the option that I choose for myself, but it’s worth considering for plenty of first-time writers. Even my old, curmudgeonly self can admit that the changes in the industry are fascinating, fun, and worth embracing.

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