The Journal of Author Peter Dawes
But you can call me Jules...
Ah, here I am just a day late. My apologies; writing projects sometimes get the better of me when my muse is active.
Now... We begin our publishing journey with a look into the wonderful world of traditional publishing. Traditional publishing is basically just a term for the concept of querying an agent/publisher with your book pitch and working with said publisher toward the goal of seeing your manuscript from draft to bound and printed (or e-formatted) volume. Most publishing companies have a staff of editors and a marketing strategy which assists both the company and the author to maximize their profits. When most people dream of being published, they envision one of the "big six" companies (Simon & Schuster, etc.) from New York being at the helm, if not one of their "imprints". (Sub companies of a larger publishing house, usually with a certain market niche it specializes in. Tor, for example, is MacMillan's sci-fi/fantasy wing.)
To most writers, this is still a coveted goal. I have a good friend who is an aspiring YA author and has been soliciting her work to literary agencies with the hope of landing an agent. The market model, though, has come under some scrutiny in recent years and ebooks have a lot to do with all that.
I'll save all that for another post. In this one, I'll focus on how one normally makes it from aspiring author to published novelist in the traditional publishing world.
First and foremost, you can't query publishers directly any longer. Considering the deluge of manuscripts and crowd of aspiring novelists which exist out there, it's a competitive market and the "big six" want something standing between them and the teeming hordes. This is where a literary agent comes into play. Literary agents come in all varieties and each has their own niche. And most of them work out of New York City themselves. Agents accept the queries the publishers don't have the time and manpower to rifle through, and then approach the publishers with manuscripts they think have some viability on the market.
Now, the downside to that is getting an agent will have a lot to do with what is commercial these days. If you've found yourself asking why there's so much crap being published or made into movies or released onto an album, this is why. Movie studios, book publishers, and record producers have a keener eye set on the bottom line than they do the artistic integrity of the work they're unleashing onto the masses.
That's not to say everything publishers publish is crap. Or that a good, original idea will never make it through the steel curtain which is the literary agent model. But what an agent will be looking for is:
1. A completed manuscript, replete with genre, word count, and intended market. The last item indicates to the agent you understand who your audience is. The more niche the market, the harder it will be to find an agent willing to hire you as a client.
2. That said manuscript has been thoroughly read-through; self-edited for continuity issues, major grammar fixes, and plot and characterization; and presents the author's best foot forward. And even then, being involved in criticism groups is crucial. Speaking as a writer myself, if I didn't have another set of eyes on my work, it wouldn't be anywhere near market quality.
3. That the manuscript includes a one page synopsis of your plot, from beginning to end (and don't play the spoilers game with an agent), a briefer synopsis of the book for the query letter, and a query letter which contains the book's "high concept" in there somewhere. (High concept = "a term used to refer to an artistic work that can be easily described by a succinctly stated premise")
For a list of literary agents and their specialties, I highly encourage you to pick up a copy of the Writer's Market for the current year. Most of these behemoth volumes contain tips on writing query letters and will tell you which agents are accepting new clients, what they're currently looking to represent, and how they prefer to be queried. Most queries are e-submitted these days, which also means they have faster response times than the olden days when I was querying. Agents will indicate if they want anything more than a query letter from you at first. Best not to send even a partial of your manuscript unless stated otherwise.
How does that affect your work on dA? While I'm not sure how long things linger on the Google search engines any longer, I wouldn't advise you to take down your work until you're a few months out from the querying process. Glean the benefit of peer review and criticism, and upload your work here under a different title than you intend to query under if you want to make absolutely certain. When you're getting ready to query, then take everything down and unfortunately, I do mean everything. If anyone's had a different experience, please let me know, but the last time I checked, agents and publishers alike do not
want your work available online in any other form than the ones they provide.
There are other options for receiving peer criticisms if you don't want to stand the risk of even uploading your work here. There are sites dedicated to critiques of things like your first chapter, your first few pages, and your query letters. The one I know of best is Query Tracker
, but if you know of any others, please post them in the comments section for anyone who reads this and might benefit from the information.
That's all I have for you right now. Next time, we'll talk about the current market and the pros and cons of traditional publishing.