Query Path

Posted Tue, 09/28/10

I haven't written any new material for nearly three weeks, although it's not from lack of desire to do so. Sometimes other projects require my attention. I'm afraid that's where my head has been the last twenty-odd days.

To begin with, there was lots of web work. Since my freelance jobs are a source of income, I don't ignore the to-do list. There were major updates and newsletter timelines for both IENA and Food Fare, which I finally completed a last week. I'm especially delighted with the seasonal foody newsletter and the revamped page for Halloween bits.

The rest of my daylight and evening hours were spent querying and submitting. I haven't bothered in quite awhile, so I figured it was high time to get busy. The process was quite lengthy because I have three complete books to shuffle about, not only to literary agents but to agencies and publishers. Each entity has different criteria, which takes even longer to sort out.

In my travails through the submission process, I found two extremely useful web sites:

Forums at Absolute Write (postings of agent/and or publisher experiences, good and bad).

Author Advance (thousands of listings and contact information for literary agents, agencies and publishers).

I always check with Writer Beware as well. Their warnings and reports have saved me from making dicey mistakes on more than one occasion. One can never be too sure about anyone these days, so it's nice to have a place to double-check backgrounds and reputations in the publishing world. I look for consistency in both bad and good remarks, and then sometimes pursue it further before submitting.

There are a few things I've learned over the years when it comes to submissions. If a literary agency or publisher web site is less than professional or looks half-baked, it's more than likely the staff behind the presence is much the same. I also avoid literary agencies who issue stern warnings on their web sites before one even submits their work for consideration. It typically means the agent will be just as surly to deal with in person. I've already been around the block, and I'm not really interested in upper-hand lectures at this point.

Purely for economical reasons, I tend to bypass literary agencies and publishers who only accept submissions via postal mail. Depending on the criteria, mailing off query letters, manuscripts and return postage for both can become expensive very quickly. Mailing a few pages isn't a problem, but when various agents and publishers require different documents (one chapter, three chapters, ten pages, or entire manuscripts), the cost is prohibitive, not to mention paper and ink supplies. Regretfully, no matter how much I might want to submit to a particular agent or publisher, if they refuse email submissions I tend to move on faster than a click of the mouse.

Rejection letters are the name of the game, and I do save all of mine. I'm not sure why because negative responses aren't fun for anyone, but what the hell? It's not so much a badge of honor as it is proof of relentless pursuit. Sure, I get fed up with the submission process on occasion but I've never considered giving up the ghost. It's just not in my nature. As Stephen King once said: "Life isn't a support system for art - it's the other way around."

Submitting one's own work is akin to looking for a job, actually. The only difference is the reach for nine-to-five is usually for financial gain, while offering up your own words in fictional format is highly personal and rarely motivated by money. Writing, as with any artistic endeavor, stays with its creator twenty-four hours a day whether they have cash in the bank or not.

Irish Eyes: Writing

Tags: Writing