The shameless act of self-promotion

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I am a writer whose dream is to one day find an agent and get published in the traditional way. That is much easier said than done.

The publishing industry has a death grip on their door handle and only a few authors are lucky enough to be invited through that door to the magic world that exists beyond the barrier between us and them. Having a novel that is marketable is one thing, being able to find the ONE agent who happens to be looking for that EXACT story is another.

I have been diligent in doing as much research as I can to find an agent but there comes a time when you have to sit back and take a deep breath. The publishing industry has become so specific about the gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation of the lead character in the story that many books will never find their rightful place on a shelf unless they are self-published. My first novel, The Waking Hours, meets none of the criteria the industry is currently looking for in a protagonist. Although the story is a great read and would make a fantastic movie, I have pushed it to the side to focus on my second novel and have heeded their new guidelines by creating characters who align themselves with the industry’s wishes.

When I began the journey of becoming an author, I thought the writing itself was the hard part. I was wrong. Many times when I sit down to write, the words pour out of me. I can’t type fast enough to keep up with the characters as they will me to tell their stories. I don’t have an outline, I just listen to them. The writing is the easy part, the self-promotion and the marketing are the difficult parts.

I talk about writing on social media. I post to this blog as often as I can. I have created an author’s page on Facebook, all in the hopes that I can create a platform that will be ready to hold me up when the time comes to announce my signing with an agent and a future publishing date. This is a dream I am not willing to let go. So when you see me posting about my writing, know that I am not doing it to inundate you with my progress. This shameless self-promotion is the only life raft I have to navigate these unstable waterways until I can float on my own.

Sending 840 characters into the Quantum Field

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Writers spend countless hours crafting ideas into words, words into a story and a story into a novel. I have likened my experience writing my first novel to birthing a child. Long months were spent nurturing this concept and, once the book was completed, I had an outpouring of emotion and wanted nothing more than to snuggle the pages of my book and weep for the joy I felt holding this thing I had created.

Asking someone to love your child as much as you do can be challenging, especially if that person is a literary agent. They are well aware of the painstaking process from conception to labor and delivery but asking them to love that child as much as you do is a hurdle some Olympic athletes could not successfully cross without incident. Where you reserve no judgement about the beauty of your child, agents are the first to find the flaws. But you are the parent and they are the teacher. Their job is to identify those flaws and to help your child to be as successful as you know they can be.

The query letter is the introduction of your child to the prestigious school you have always envisioned that child attending and the agent is the head of admissions. You have a small window of opportunity to convince that person your child will do great things if given the chance. The query letter is exhaustively crafted based on the agent’s criteria and you helplessly send your child into the arms, in essence, of a stranger.

Social media introduced a new avenue to aid in the effort to place your child with the perfect school. In 2012, PitMad was introduced on Twitter and writers are now able to send three pitches, each two-hundred and eighty characters, not words, into cyber space to catch the attention of an agent. This challenge happens quarterly and the next phase is rapidly approaching.

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On September 5th, I will be sending my two-hundred and eighty characters, three times, out into cyberspace but there will be a decisive difference to my approach. I am going to find the head of admissions and help them to see the potential in my child, and I will be afforded the chance to brag about the second child I am nurturing and will soon be bringing into the family of my novels.

This is my opus. The quantum field of possibilities has been listening to me brag about my child and this child, and my future children, will do great things.

 

 

Weaving a new reality

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I am on an epic journey and it is one I have been on before. Writing a book is a daunting task and one I have come to welcome with open arms. This creative expedition is unlike anything else I have experienced. It is an opening of the soul and a willingness to bleed words until the well runs dry.

The moments I doubt my talent far outweigh the times I feel I have captured lightning in a bottle. For each new paragraph I type, thinking these words will be the ones agents will fall over each other to represent, there is a glaring reminder of how many people are writing books and how few agents are looking for new talent. And yet, for some reason, I am compelled to ignore the obvious and dive head-first into the murky waters of becoming an author.

Call it a misguided faith in my ability or a simple obsession, I want to be known as a writer. I want people to read my books and I want to keep writing for many years to come. I have the ideas, I have the passion to write and I have the tenacity to follow my dream. Deep down, I have always known about this part of myself but I have swept it under the rug called reality. Thankfully, the threads of this rug are decisively coming undone and the definition of my reality is being woven in a new way.

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I am part dreamer, part writer and part spider, weaving the threads of my dreams into a possible reality and hoping to snag an agent in the silk of my creativity.

 

 

I just got “Litt up”

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The title of this post directly relates to the TV show Suits that I have been obsessively watching on Netflix and I am ashamed to admit that I have been neglecting my duty as a writer. I should be actively pounding the virtual pavement to find an agent but I have shelved my book for the last couple of weeks because my spare time is waning and my creativity is in hibernation. Watching Suits gives me the chance to escape into some brilliant writing, but it’s not my writing. I still have a few queries out there and certainly still have some chapters to go through with a fine-tooth comb but the spark of my enthusiasm had almost been extinguished.

The other day, however, I had the chance to speak to one of the people who read my book and my fire was fueled once again. Her rhetoric about my story made me giddy and the child-like excitement I had when I finished writing the book bubbled up inside me and lit a fire within me. She said the story was fantastic and she could definitely see it being made into a movie.

So once again, I am cutting out blocks of time throughout my day to edit what needs to be edited and query like there is no tomorrow. Somewhere out there, an agent is looking for MY book and somehow, when the timing is just right, our paths will cross. I may have been slightly discouraged with the lengthy nature of this process but I also know I am willing to continue the journey and follow it to its happy ending.

 

The waiting is the hardest part

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If I had a crystal ball to look back at all the times in my life I had to wait for things, I would probably be astonished at how many hours I have spent in a holding pattern.  In those moments of uncertainty, time takes on a mystical quality and one day feels like a week, a week feels like a year and anything longer than that feels like an eternity.

Trying to connect with, and build a relationship with, a literary agent has taken waiting to a whole new level.  I have crafted something I am extremely proud of and want so much to find someone as passionate about sharing my story as I am.  But that takes time – a lot of time.  Agents are very busy people and I understand that.  My manuscript is one in a pile of hundreds that they have to sort through to find a collection of phrases and characters that speak to them and that they think they can sell to a publishing company.  I get it.  But that doesn’t make the waiting any easier.

I recently submitted my full manuscript to a literary agent in New York.  Her email, although encouraging, did say it would be a few weeks before I heard back from her.  That email was sent 9 days ago but, in my estimation, it feels like 9 months have gone by since we had any communication.  In that 9 days, my emotion has gone from elation to worry, from feeling confident to being self-deprecating.  It has been a roller coaster of emotion but it is a train I have been hanging on to because that ride up and down those tracks and through those loops is part of the thrill of the journey to being published.  I can only hope that the ride ends well and I don’t veer off the tracks into a wall.

 

Listen to those who have been there

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Knowledge is power, this is a universal truth, and over the last few days this truth has made itself extremely evident.

I have been immersing myself into a world that is new to me and there is a huge learning curve as well as many veins of information that branch out from that curve.  To gain as much knowledge as I can, I have been spending a great deal of time travelling down those arteries of wisdom and storing as many nuggets of information as I can into the recesses of my brain.

Every author I have spoken to about getting published has said the same thing – it’s really all about luck and timing.  I have no reason not to believe them because they’ve been there.  They have pounded the same pavement on which I now find myself so they know this route much better than I could ever claim to know.  I have been spending a great deal of time learning about different literary agents, what they like and what they don’t like, and only adding those agents who may be a good fit for my book.  I have been spending much more time on Twitter as that seems to be a more popular social media site for those in the writing world and last week I was introduced to the hashtag #PitMad.

PitMad is a pitch party where authors have 280 characters to describe their unpublished manuscript.  If an agent likes your tweet, you have the green light to send them a query based on their submission guidelines.  I tweeted my first pitch and sat back, hoping for the best.  But then I wanted to know all I could know about PitMad.  It turns out, you can send a maximum of three pitches for the same book, so I carefully constructed a second tweet and sent it out into cyberspace.  When I checked back a while later, my second tweet had a beloved heart below it.  An agent liked my tweet!  I had the go-ahead to send a query and I did that as quickly as I could so my story was still fresh in her mind.

Luck and timing magically combined and, when I got home from work that day, there was an email from the same agent requesting to read my full manuscript.  I’m not under any illusion that her interest in my book is going to mean that she is going to take me on as a client.  I am quite grounded in reality.  I am, however, under the illusion that her requesting my full manuscript means that my writing has enough merit to make her want to see where I take the story and THAT is a huge step for a new author.

I follow “LitRejections” on Twitter and they post very encouraging tweets to help authors keep writing and survive rejection.  This tweet is the one that got under my skin and keeps me going ~ “Rejection of your writing will not break your spirits. You are going to do this. You will not quit. You WILL be successful.

Looking for a job

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Do you remember when you were fresh out of college or university and wanting to find that perfect job in the field you just spent four years studying?  You got money from your parents to buy the perfect “power outfit”, perhaps an attaché case to look more professional, and then you set off in search of gainful employment.  You arrived on time for each interview and got told the same thing from each prospective employer – come back when you’ve got some experience.  As you left the interviews, the thought in the back of your mind got stuck on a crazy loop in your head and played incessantly – if nobody will give me a job, how can I gain the experience I need?

Looking for a literary agent is much the same for a debut author.  It took more than four years, from conception to finished product, for me to write my first novel.  I put more focus and emotion into creating the story than I ever expended in college and I am truly proud of the finished product.  The people who have taken the time to read it have loved it.

But convincing an agent to give the whole story a chance is like applying for a job with no real world experience.  Those first five or ten pages you submit are like your first two minutes in a job interview, they are introductory and don’t really give the person reading you enough time to see what you are really about.  They can only judge you based on a succinct appraisal that doesn’t give your story time to prove itself and, in the end, they prefer an author who has been previously published.  In other words, they don’t want to give the job to people who don’t have experience.

This post is not an attack on literary agents, by any means.  I get it.  They receive a plethora of emails from thousands of people who think they could be the next Dean Koontz, Nicholas Sparks or J.K. Rowling.  Their email inboxes must feel like a revolving door, having multiple queries thrown at them every time the door makes a new revolution.

My intent with this post is not to blame literary agents for being so busy.  My intent with this post is to merely put a wish into the universe that, one day, that revolving door will find a giant foot wedged into it allowing my query to fall into the right inbox at the right time.  Just maybe, I can impress someone enough to have them read the whole manuscript and to get the job without having previous experience.