My previous post discussed my ambition regarding landing a literary agent:
Documenting the Steps I’m Taking to Interest and (Hopefully) Land a Literary Agent
Including my list of 56 great literary agencies for upmarket fiction.
I thought I’d provide a follow-up to that, as I’ve written nothing for this blog since the end of August. That story listed 56 literary agents queried as of August 26. Aside from an actual response from my very first email, no one else responded (aside from the usual, expected form-letter rejections).
With the lack of any solid, positive action, I decided to revisit my query letter — which I did and, at least I thought, improved upon. Mainly, I spent time generating a list of better comps, at the advice of countless article on doing so. Like almost every other aspect of publishing, the advice ranged widely and often conflicted with other advice. Some said it was good to compare your work with NYT best sellers, others said that was inadvisable (finding such comparisons presumptuous). Same tactic with classic works, in general. Some advised comparing your work with any novel in recent times, others stressed the past 5 or so years, others asserted any comps beyond a few years old makes you look out-of-the-loop.
Again, I mixed up my strategy. Generally, though: (1) I downplayed genre a bit, focusing on the fact that the book is simply adult fiction; (2) I provided a mix of comps spanning known and unknown authors, best-selling and not necessarily best-selling. I also tried some other tactics, such as finding agents who were animal lovers (as my book contains animal characters).
Still no dice.
In all, I sent out 74 queries and basically no one requested the manuscript.
That’s not entirely awful news, necessarily. I mean, yes, it’s really, really awful performance, and likely speaks to my apparently dreadful querying ability (which was surprising to me, as I actually spent years as a proposal writer, which you’d think would have some value when writing agent queries). But, the good news is that, as no agent has actually read my book, well … maybe the book itself doesn’t suck.
Next Step: Amazon and/or Maybe Another Print-On-Demand (POD) Publisher!
I’ve been getting more serious about the self-publishing aspect of this novel-writing thing. Sure, it’s not traditional publishing, and lacks the laurels of that world. But, there are nevertheless aspects of it that I really love:
- Complete editorial and artistic control over the end-product. Not that I’d mind working with a major publisher, but … I’ve heard stories about various editorial quibbles authors have gotten into with publishers. Maybe (hopefully) it’s not as bad as I’ve read but, to be honest, I’m not sure I fully agree with editors who like to pretend they’re William Faulkner. I happen to like quirks in a story — wild tangents and maybe even not-100%-relevant subplots. So many of these things, for me, provide the color and texture of a work (and are perhaps too aggressively red-penciled by some). I’m okay with bearing editorial responsibility for my own work.
- A quicker process all around. Instead of years, the timeline is basically immediate (or, as soon as you’re done editing it and designing it). I like to think of one of my favorite bands, Thee Oh Sees. They have something like 20+ albums out, and surely part of the reason for that is that they run their own label; they’re not bogged down by the molasses of the system.
- The book doesn’t go out of print. That may well be one of the neatest aspects of the POD world. Maybe your book takes off, maybe it doesn’t. But, it’s great to have it there, ready to be bought and read anytime for years into the future!
Here’s an article listing 16 advantages of self-publishing. (Here’s one that lists advantages and disadvantages.)
After reaching 74 queries sent on September 27, 2019, I told myself this: I’m going to give things another 6 weeks. That means, if no agent has requested my manuscript by November 8, I’m going to press myself. As of today, it’s been 3 weeks, and no agent action. So, I expect fully that I’ll be doing this solo.
In the meantime, I decided to work things on another front. If I was going to possibly self-publish, I’d need a great book cover. So, I headed over to 99designs.com and held a contest — winner got $300. Maybe I’ll write up that experience separately. But, in the end, I did manage to get a book cover that I truly loved! (I think the $300 level was probably a bit low, as I didn’t get a lot of interest from designers there. But, thankfully, the few I did engage there really got into it. So, I’m happy with the result!)
And that’s where things stand!
📚✍🏻 Jim Dee maintains his personal blog, “Hawthorne Crow,” and a web design blog, “Web Designer | Web Developer Magazine.” He also contributes to various Medium.com publications. Find him at JPDbooks.com, his Amazon Author page, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Medium, or via email at Jim [at] ArrayWebDevelopment.com. His latest novel, CHROO, is available on Amazon.com. If you enjoy humorous literary tales, please grab a copy!