Call it insanity, if you will. I call it daring. Okay, maybe daring isn't the right word for what I just did, but I'm not convinced insane is either. Not yet.
Now, friendly readers, you might be asking yourself the obvious question: What the hell did you do already?? I'm not trying to build up dramatic suspense here. It's just a little hard to say out loud (which I tend to do as I type--again with the question of insanity.). So what did I do?
Eep! That's right! I went from "I'm going to self publish sometime this year" to "I am going to spend the day querying every agent that says they like fantasy and YA." And that's exactly what I did. Seriously, you should see the butt indentation on my couch right now. I only queried two dozen agents, but its hard work. They each want something different. Some want sample chapters, some want bios, some want summaries (boo! hisssss!), others chapter outlines (mine was fifteen pages). Compiling all of that was rough. I didn't work with a real outline for book 1. I outline the crap out of my books now (thank you, Scrivener), so those wouldn't be so bad. But I've gotta say I'm getting pretty tired of book 1. And I still have another round of edits to go even before I hear back from any of the agents. Pretty sure this will be edit #15...
Anyhoo, so back to the point of this blog. My queries. I found some nifty websites to find agents on and in the spirit of sharing I will take a minute to tell you about them. The one I used to narrow my list down is called the Association of Authors' Representatives and has around 200 or so agents listed as well as links to their respective sites. Sometimes you have to google them, but the info is there for the taking and the best part is that it is free. This next site isn't one I used a lot because I had already compiled a list, but it is pretty darn useful if you want to check out an agent of a specific author. Say you think you have the next Hunger Games series. You go to the Query Tracker and search for Suzanne Collins and voila! There's her literary agent in all their glory. Helpful sites, both.
Back to the querying. In case you folks can't tell, it's 3am and I am running on just a whisper of caffeine at this point. So why did I decide to go ahead and take the plunge? All in the course of a day? Well, for starters, I didn't want to overthink this process. I know people tell you to put a lot of time and effort into your query letter and make it professional but I decided to say bollocks to that. If an agent is going to take me on, I want them to take me on for who I am. So I made my query letter as interesting as possible with some tongue in cheek, borderline self depreciating humor. It's how I write my books, too, so it gives them a good idea of my voice. If I wanted to write crisp professional letters, then I would have gone into business writing or something like that. But I like flare (give me my button, dammit!) so I added some flare.
Next obvious question: Why did you not wait until you had a super polished manuscript to send?? From what I've seen, a lot of agents are going to ask you to edit anyway. I feel that the strongest parts of my book are in the story and the characters. That's where the draw is. I've always said my prose is my weakness. So if I wait to have a polished manuscript that I truly think is done and ready for public consumption, I will never query. I am sure that in all my editing I missed some typos, forgot some hyphens, misused some commas (I love commas. I litter my pages with them.), and probably repeated words over and over again. But the story is still there. And I think the prose is good enough to show any potential it might have. That being said, if an agent specifically asked for a polished manuscript to be ready for their request, I didn't query them yet. I'll go through my next round of edits and then submit to them.
Next question: Why did you decide to query when you were so intent on self publishing? That sort of boils down to a discussion I had with my husband. Someone from my writing group suggested that I query to a small press publishing house that accepts unsolicited manuscripts. I said I would give it a shot, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized this was a terrible plan. I was operating under the assumption that they would reject me--but what if they didn't? I don't know anything about the contracts or even the processes of publishing. I need someone to help me out. So he and I talked about it and we came to the conclusion that if I was willing to put myself out there for a publishing house of any kind, I should try to get an agent first. The whole process sucks and still makes me feel like I am knocking on their email doors saying "Please sir, may I have representation?" but I do understand why the representation and the process are necessary. I don't like it, but I understand it.
Last obvious question: What are you going to do now that you have queried to two dozen agents?? Short answer: nothing. I'm surprisingly chill about the whole thing. I thought I would be a neurotic headcase about it (like I am with most things) but I'm actually not. I'm not expecting much out of this whole process. Realistically, you can't. And realistically with as little work and polishing I did in preparation for my queries, I shouldn't. Agents might be insulted that I am so lackadaisical about the whole process and what they require and that might be enough to reject me right there. But even if every single agent of the twenty four reject me, at least I will know where I stand. Then I will know that self publishing will be the way to go for me. Their rejections don't mean that I'm not talented or that there isn't any kind of market for my book. Their rejections just mean that my book isn't the right fit for them. And I'm cool with that. There are plenty of books out there that aren't a good fit for me, so I can understand that and respect it. I'm still intent on sharing my story and whether I get representation and end up the next Hunger Games or get rejected by everyone and end up self publishing, I know my story will get out there somehow. All I have to do is sit back, be patient, and wait for the answers to come.