In the years before I became a published author, I spent many an hour scouring authors’ webpages trying to figure out how they accomplished the seemingly impossible task of getting published. While no one journey in particular held the magic answer for me, I did learn a great deal from reading those experiences. As a result, I thought I would share my own history in a series of posts. As I mentioned in the title, these are my VERY PERSONAL experiences. I am in no way trying to argue that there is one right way to do things.
Ha! Gotta love that title, but before anyone freaks out (Natalie, my glorious agent, I hope you’re not reading this, but if you are, keep going), it isn’t what it sounds like.
As I mentioned in my last two posts, my journey to publication wasn’t without some bumps in the road. Early on, I discovered I had one of those voices that can be polarizing on the Love/Hate spectrum. This wasn’t entirely unexpected. I write humor. Humor is subjective. I also knew this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. You’ll often hear agents and editors talking about the importance of voice, and it’s better to stand out in a crowd than it is to blend in. That being said, it can lead to some difficulties, and, for a long time, I thought my…oh, let’s call it, uniqueness was to blame for my growing e-pile of rejection letters from agents.(Keep in mind, this was months before I decided to submit to publishers directly as explained in this post).
Now we all have to tell ourselves certain things in the wee hours of the morning in order to make it through to the next day, and my mantra went a little like this:
Hey, delusions are good. They’re protective. I don’t judge. But they can also hamper growth, and after awhile, it got really tiresome hearing about other authors who had hordes of agents replying to their query letters.
I decided to put a little more thought into making myself *shudder* marketable. First off, I was writing urban fantasy. UF can be a tough market to break into. There’s a lot of UF out there. But wait, I thought, I’m different…special. I’m writing about a funny superhero wannabe! There isn’t a lot of that out there! Yeah, that can be problem too. You see, some point along the line, I realized that for agents it really is about business (for the most part). Agents want books they can sell. They have to be able to bring to mind an editor they could sell your work to, and if they’re drawing a blank…well, form rejection letter it is.
So where did that leave me?
I took a big step outside my comfort zone and wrote a cozy mystery. Now, now, now, before anyone gets crazy, I’m not going to try to argue here that you should chase the market. I am maybe suggesting, however, that being aware of the market is not a bad thing. Yes, the fact that the cozy market was, and is, a fairly robust market, did appeal to me, but I also felt that the genre would be a good fit for my voice. You can have oddball characters and quirky settings in cozy mysteries – maybe because the mystery format itself is so conservative. So here’s where you really have to know yourself and what you can do. I would love, for example, to write horror novels like Stephen King, but every time I try, I am left…well, horrified with myself.
So what was the upshot of my adventures into cozy land?
I had seven requests for material from my first (and then only) round of queries (I think I submitted to twelve agents).
Make of this what you will.
Next post: Learn Your Craft Dummy