I RECENTLY COMPLETED writing a commercially acceptable book by accident. Perhaps I should rephrase — when I put the finishing touches on the manuscript for my new book, I realized that it was more mainstream than my previous books. It’s a novella for young readers about an encounter at a spooky house in the woods. My new book is similar to the books my kids bring home from school for their reading assignments — about 20,000 words broken up into approximately 20 chapters.
Even though this new book of mine may have been “commercially acceptable” (for lack of a better term), I did not feel that it was complete. At about 100 pages, the book was just too short, even for kids. So, I added four short stories, bringing the manuscript to about 210 pages in total. If I’m going to ask people to pay for one of my books, I want to make sure they get their money’s worth.
I’ve been publishing fiction paperbacks independently for the past few years. I enjoy sharing my books with friends and family and distributing my books to local independent bookstores and libraries. It suits me just fine to be a non-famous indie author.
But with this new book, I decided to test the literary intelligentsia waters and try to find an agent who could land me a deal with a traditional publisher. With three young children and a busy career, I don’t have a lot of time to fuss about with the publishing industry. I located just two literary agents who are looking for books for young readers and sent them the first 10 pages of my manuscript, along with a query letter.
I was straightforward in my introductory letter, explaining to the two potential agents that my novella + short story collection format would offer a unique reading experience for young readers — a break from the novel format. Both agents passed on my book. I suppose that I could continue to shop my book around to 20, 30, or 50 more agents, one of whom may be interested in the novella story as a standalone book, but that type of endless chasing simply does not interest me. I’m too busy, man!
What I learned from my brief venture into the world of traditional publishing is that I would never be comfortable parting with any amount of my creative freedom. I also learned that hunting for an agent and a publisher is time-consuming and miserable and exhausting, leaving me with insufficient time to create a meaningful finished product. Each day I try to dedicate 30 minutes to reading and 30 minutes to writing/editing. Spending time scouring the Internet for agents and publishers made it virtually impossible for me to adhere to my schedule.
Anyway, I’m excited about this new book of mine, which will be released independently as a paperback in the spring. Maybe someday at a cocktail party I’ll meet a magnificent literary agent who will have all the right connections and who will be a perfect fit for me. Until that magical day comes, I’ll just keep doing my own unique thing and allow my little stories to lead the way through the maze of life.
J.S. Lender’s new short story collection, White Sail, Blue Seas is on sale now! Copyright © J.S. Lender 2022