I did have an agent once before I went back to school to get my Masters at Johns Hopkins. If you go back to the beginning of this blog, I talked about how I took non-credit writing courses first and ended up in a mystery writers group. My intent was not to learn how to write mysteries but that was the only novel course offered one semester. The little group helped me immensely. Unfortunately, I’m the only one who’s still writing.
The agent (who will remain anonymous) charged me money up front for mailings which I don’t think was such a big deal. However, I wasn’t ever able to find out exactly where he sent my mystery manuscript. Later after I let him go, I realized that he probably didn’t send it anywhere because the two places I sent it, gave me loads of feedback.
The point of bringing this subject up today in rainy Minnesota before I head back to Baltimore, is that the main reason the first small publisher gave me for turning down my book was that it was too sloppy. They noted that I had used “there” instead of “their” one place and something else which I can’t remember now. When I did a search for what they’d cited, I only found three instances of what they had noted. Yet, looking at the manuscript again, I could see even with my inexperienced eye that it needed to be cleaned up in a major way.
Rule #1 — Don’t send out your manuscript too soon. As proud as I was to have completed a book, I should have held onto it for a while and revised again after several months. I would strongly recommend that to anyone who has just finished a book or even a short story. I have seen people who keep revising and never sent out their stories which isn’t good either. It’s good to take a dip in the water once in a while even when you’re in the early stages.
The second publisher was Avon. The editor gave me some useful ideas about how to start a book and actually did contradict some of the comments that I received from Poison Pen. My general impression was that she wanted to keep me around for when I was more experienced but she didn’t personally like the book enough to buy it. Which brings us to my second point.
Rule #2: Some people will like your work and some people won’t. I’ve had people say they hate the way I did my points of view in my current manuscript. That was extreme but useful. I was pleased that they hated one of my main characters. He’s one of those kinds of guys that women love to hate! The people who love my current manuscript, thank you thank you thank you. We will see if it flies! Those generous people do help keep a poor writer going.
We all need to remember that not everybody will like our stories no matter how well they are written. Give yourself a break and send out your manuscript again and again. That little speech is as much for me as it is for you!
Rule #3 — You don’t absolutely have to have an agent. If you’ve never published a book before, it seems like agents are saying come back when you’ve published a book but how do you get the first one published without an agent? Plenty of people have trouble finding one. You can start with the big agencies but my impression is that they very rarely pick up a newby author unless they’ve graduated from Iowa or the agent is just starting out. For most of us, finding an agent is going to take a lot of endurance.
I’ve dipped my toe in the water a little bit before this last round of edits and I think my story is good if I can shine it up a bit. If I don’t find an agent after a year and it doesn’t strike a chord with a small publisher, I’ve decided I will try the e-book route because I do love this one and I don’t want it to languish in a drawer. For my other book, a YA fantasy, I still haven’t decided if I will try to get an agent first. You don’t need to have an agent to submit to those publishers. The genre of your book is a major consideration.