I feel like I've explained this process at length to many and each time I've done it quite poorly. Since I am a writer for a reason (words seem to flow out onto a page when they kind of get stifled while I try to speak) I decided where better to explain the process than on my blog.
First things first. Finish your manuscript. Polish, spit shine, and repeat (many, many times). When you have a near perfect (I say near perfect because perfection is impossible but honestly as an author you should feel your product is pretty near perfect) book, start your query letter. A one page letter (250-300 words) pitching your 70,000 word book. Yes, slightly daunting and yet still one of the easier parts of this whole process ;)
Along with a query letter, a synopsis (a one-two page document) describing your book. And this time we are supposed to give away the ending (gasp!). I feel like this goes against everything I believe in. I HATE knowing the end of a book, movie, tv series, etc and I actually feel guilty giving away the ending. I just hope this doesn't effect the quality of my synopsis :)
Now time to research agents. Find agents that want my type of book but haven't sold my exact type of book. Seriously it kind of gets creepy how much we're supposed to read about an agent. Luckily not much personal stuff is online but still, we're supposed to get to know their favorite books, their clients, etc.
Once you have a pretty, shiny list of agents, it gets dirty. I'm sending out queries two-eight at a time. Each pretty agent name got highlighted when I sent my work to them and then either re-hightlighted when they requested!!! :) or crossed out when they rejected me (not because of hard feelings but they're off my list).
So this part is funny guys cause there are some rules but anyway let me try to explain. First is the no response. Some agents have a policy that they don't respond to anyone unless they want to see more work. That might seem mean but these guys are getting 100's of these query letters a week so it would be hard to keep up.
Next is the form rejection. This is probably the most common response to a query letter. It's usually a quick reply that they send to every person they aren't interested in seeing more material from. To the tune of, "This project isn't right for me but don't give up because the publishing business is subjective." (Which it completely is! But that is a post all of it's own.)
Then comes the personalized rejection. Guys I know the word rejection should mean sadness but honestly after you get no responses and form rejections a note that is personalized and tells me exactly the reason why the agent didn't want to see more means TONS!!! I've made what I must say (toot my own horn) are wonderful improvements to my manuscript thanks to these.
Revise and Resubmit. I honestly didn't know these existed during the query process because no one talked about them so it makes me wonder if they don't happen all that often but I got one early in my querying process that I thank the agent oh so much for. She pointed out that she thought I started my book in the wrong place and would be willing to look at my query and first pages again if I revised my manuscript. I did and (wow this is happening a lot) I LOVE my new beginning.
Partial request. Oh my, guys, if I thought a personalized rejection was great, requests are the bomb diggity dot com (seriously outdated reference especially for a YA author but I can't use them in my book so blogging world, here ya go). These usually result in lots of jumping and scaring of my five year old. The agent responses to partials are also varied. Again a form rejection could be sent. Or a personalized rejection. Or a request for a full manuscript!!
Full request. This can come after a partial (as mentioned above) or after a query, again the rules aren't strict. This results in even more jumping and usually some screaming.
Oh one big part that I didn't mention before, WAITING!! There is so so much waiting. Between every part of this process. I can wait months from querying until getting a rejection or request and then wait even more months as I wait for a full or partial to be read. As maybe the biggest control freak on the planet the waiting is by far the hardest part for me. I just want to know! :)
Now, this part I haven't experienced but I'm told this is what happens. An agent can call you!! Sometimes they offer you representation on the spot, sometimes they say I love your book but I think these changes are necessary, but I think usually they offer representation (kind of the holy grail of all authors wanting to go into traditional publishing). Quick stats I read from one agent recently. She gets 75-200 queries weekly. She requests about 20 percent. Then she signs 1-3 clients a year. Gotta say those numbers (although they vary slightly from agent to agent) scare the stuffin out of me but at the same time can you imagine the feeling when you defy those odds?? ;)
And then you move onto finding a publisher (basically what you've read above but intensified by about a hundred or so I've heard).
So that folks (if you've made it this far CONGRATULATIONS!!) is the journey I am on. It has been up and down and down again but honestly I wouldn't trade what I've learned or experienced for anything. I guess I'm more of an adrenaline junky than I give myself credit for :)
Any questions? Comment below...