This is a great thread and I thank you for all of your effort.
I have a quick question on what is the best process to choose where to send your manuscript for beginning, un-published, authors.
I know about Preditors and Editors but find it still a bit unhelpful as I have no idea who to send it to still. Should I send it to publishers, agents, or both?
Also I know that I probably shouldn't even waste my time sending it to Tor or Del Ray etc, so when you were going about submitting your novel at first how did you learn who to send it to?
If you feel your mss is ready, the next step is usually to find an agent. You'll have to send out queries, and if they're interested they'll ask for a partial or full to read.
A good place to start is to look at a book similar to yours and find out what agent the writer used.
If you're in North America, a good place to start is the Association of Authors Representatives: http://aaronline.org/ This is the literary agents' professional organization and their members must agree to various business practices. Agents in other countries may also be on the members list, and there may be a British equivalent as well. In the U.S., there is also the Literary Marketplace, a reference directory available at major public libraries. Agents have to meet certain qualifications to be listed in the directory.
Fwiw, they are here, if it is easier than hitting the library for info:
Originally Posted by KatG
In Jim Hines' recent survey of writers about how they made that first novel sale, in recent years the majority of sales were through an agent.
i have 5 books done but im looking for a publisher any hints?
Have you had the work independently critiqued (i.e. by someone who writes that you do not personally know, not a friend or family member)? If not you should do this. SFFWorld can help with this or you could go through Critters.org or Writers Cafe.
Originally Posted by Awakomation
Have you re-written it, tightened the plot, polished the prose, looked at character voice, examined the point of view? Have you checked the spelling, cleaned up the grammar, checked the usage and style?
Have you written a synopsis? Has the synopsis been critiqued and commented, re-written and polished?
Have you written a query letter for the one piece of work you are pitching? Remember that agents publishers will consider one book, not five. You can mention that there are four sequels (if they are sequels) but you are pitching one. Has your query letter been critiqued, re-written and polished?
Then and only then are you ready to pitch your work to a publisher/agent.
Hope that helps.
Now's the time to look at the market and figure out how to present your work to make it the shiniest new toy on the shelf. Ideally, you'd have already shown your books to a panel of alpha readers including male, female, a range of ages (I had about twenty for my first books.) Take any comments they make and see if you can improve your books. Any place (ANY place) where three or more of your alpha readers think the books are boring or confusing needs to be fixed. Editors will pounce on those spots like hawks on a wounded chicken. When you've done all you can for them, you need to start comparing them to existing works (which is how you'll pitch them and how your future publisher will advertise them.) Whose work do you read? Whose books do you think yours are most like?
Originally Posted by Awakomation
If all your books tell one story--in other words, you've got a five-volume novel--then your "pitch" will need to include information about all of them. If any of your books are connected, same thing--individual, standalone, unrelated novels will need to be pitched separately.
Having five books (if they're good books) in the bag will definitely help you both find an agent and find a publisher. The scariest thing for both is the one-trick pony writer, who has one good book (and that's all) in him or her...since first books are usually a loss, financially. Having five books that are (for instance) three-in-a-group and two separate will also help, as it shows you can imagine more than one story and set of characters. However, if you've got five that link, that's not bad.
With this many books, you're clearly out for the long haul of professional writing, so you will want to hunt for an agent. To present your work to an agent, you need a very brief "logline", a synopsis, and a couple of perfect (and riveting) chapters. If there's a writers' organization near you that puts on an "agent-editor" type conference, or an SF organization that holds a convention and has a writing track in programming, it would be worth your time to go and suss out agents. Not buttonhole them in elevators, but watch them, go to any panels they're on, listen to what they say, and see if any of them interest you. Look them up on the internet--who are their clients? Would you fit into that client list? Do you want to be with a big, multi-agent agency? Do you want to be with a small agency? If so, you can approach and ask if you can send them the kind of material they said in that panel they wanted. If you can't do this--too far away, too expensive, whatever--visit author websites of those authors who write approximately what you're writing to find out who their agents are. Then visit those agents' websites to find out what they're looking for, and especially what they don't want. If they don't want what you write (be it urban fantasy or military SF) they don't want it from you, either. The client list will tell you a lot about what they like and what they're good at selling.
Oh, and go read the WriterBeware site--never ever go to an agent who charges fees upfront--those are scams.
Meanwhile, you should be checking out publishers--who publishes the writers you read most? Who publishes the kind of books you think yours are? Look on line for the submission guidelines for every publisher you think might publish your work. Read the publisher blogs, esp. when an editor comments on why he/she rejects or accepts work. Begin to get a sense of where your books fit in the vast prairies and ranges of this set of genres.
Logline, elevator pitch, whatever you want to call it: a very short (~25 words or less) description of your project (first book, if it's a standalone, story arc of multi-volume if it's that.) E.g. "It's the story of a farm girl who wanted to be a great hero and found out what it would cost--but succeeded." (Not what I used, but what I might use today.)
Synopsis: Different agents/editors want different things here: that's why they all have websites now and tell you what they want. Usually they'll want between one and ten pages that tells the story in very abbreviated form. Make it sparkle, but also make it clear and complete. This is not the time to hide your plot twist or hold out...agents and editors need to know how you construct plot.
Chapters: Most agents want to see a couple of chapters (around 50 pages) of your writing. The first paragraph should grab like a shark and hold on--readers want that later, but agents and editors, who have to read a lot of stuff that, frankly, isn't very good, demand a killer first page. If your first two paragraphs are duds, they won't even read the rest.
Cover letter: The cover letter to your pitch should include the genre in which you're writing, the logline, the word-length (approx) of the first book, the number of books in that story, the market you see for this story, and your complete contact information. You may want to hide your real address and phone number from your future readers--but not from your agent or editor. If your other books are not in the same story arc as the first, it's fine to say that. Your having finished five books is a point in your favor, if the books are good. If you have additional special expertise that's relevant to the book (it's a medieval fantasy, but you hold the chair of medieval history at a university and the book is "not just your generic middle ages") you can mention that. If you met the agent at a convention/conference, say so up front: "I met you at X, and you said you would be open for submissions on Y, so I'm sending along the synopsis and chapters as per your guidelines..."
Now approach the first agent on your list (if you haven't already met him/her somewhere.) Is that agent open for submissions? Does that agent prefer a letter first, or a full submission package first? Do whichever it is. If you're just sending a "May I send you some work?" letter, then send cover letter and the synopsis, but not the chapters. If it's OK to start with synopsis and chapters, then do that. Follow agency guidelines on whether they will accept electronic submissions or want only hard copy (a busy office doesn't want its internet connection clogged with big downloads!) and if they want return postage (SASE) or will notify you in email of rejections (and you won't get the material back.) Do what they want...you are courting them, not vice versa. One thing they want to find out is if you're easy to work with or a stiff-necked sort who will be a pain.
Expect rejections. Rejections are part of the game. If an agent rejects you, be polite: thank the agent for his/her time and move on. There's a really pitiful example of handling rejection badly up at The Swivet (blog by a literary agent friend of mine.) Everyone in the SF/F field knows one another--many agents have worked at publishing houses or other agencies, editors flit from house to house, etc. So if you're a bad actor one time, to one agent or editor, you can be smudged, if not blackballed, everywhere else. Nobody likes a drama queen. They may put up with a drama queen whose sales are great--if someone starts nice but gets arrogant later, which happens--but only until the moment when the numbers fall. Everyone writes a less-successful book sometime...and delivering comeuppance is one of an overworked agent's or editor's few recreations.
If your books are commercially viable, some reasonably good agent will take you on. You just have to keep looking. Yes, it's annoying and disheartening but that's (again) the game we're in. While you're searching, you can continue to work on the books themselves, as you gain experience. A book reads very differently six months later than it did the week after you finished it. Put them away, pull them out and re-check. If you're lucky and you find an agent right away, expect that the agent will also get rejections back on your book while trying to sell it. My book got rejections when sent in over the transom (more publishers were accepting over-the-transom submissions then) and more when I got an agent...but it was the agent who finally made a sale. That sale was for the first three books (all on one contract) because the first three books were one story arc. Because they were already written, the publisher was able to bring them out less than six months apart--a great way to build readership.
So: good luck to you!
Whilst editing my novel I have written a couple of short stories to keep the muse ticking over. I submitted them to a couple of magazines last week (mostly e-magazines).
One of these e-magazines has just got back to me and wants to publish my story in its September issue. This is fantastic news but suddenly I am beset by a lot of doubt.
The magazine does not pay for the stories they publish which is fine as the incentive was always to just have my work published. I can then say in my query letter, "I have had short stories published in....." However as this is an electronic magazine, I have no way of knowing how reputable it is and how big it's readership is. I know it has been going for a couple of years now and so it has definitely established a firm fan base, but I am worried if I was to reference the magazine in my query letter in future it might work against me, rather than for me.
Is there any way to find out how some e-magazines are regarded? Should I wait to hear back from a magazine published in the shops and risk losing this offer or should I go for the feather in my cap and lose publishing rights for the story? Help!!!
Check it out on submission tracking sites like duotrope.
I have and it is listed on there. Does that mean it is recognised as a decent publication though?
Originally Posted by zachariah
Hopefully there will be some kind of description and feedback on duotrope, or something telling you how long its been around. If it just has the name there, you're going to have to use your best judgement!
Snikt5 - You can check out the Preditors and Editors site (http://pred-ed.com/pema.htm), though I'm not sure it will be much more helpful than the brief details on duotrope. Still, you can see if they carry a "Not Recommended" tag.
If the site has been going for a few years now, I really wouldn't worry about it. I cannot see any publication 'working against you'.
The one thing I would ask, though: What rights are you giving up in their publishing contract (it should say somewhere)? First world electronic rights? Anything else? Depending on what they're asking for, it may not limit you from submitting the story elsewhere as well.
Snikt5, its not going to work against you.
Generally, you will not have space to mention a lot of short story credits in a query letter. The recommendation I received from an editor was to mention only the two or three you consider the 'best'.
So, if you're worried this particular credit might not mean anything...don't mention it in your query letter. DO mention it if you are asked for a 'full bio', a 'resume' or a bibliography.
They take first electronic publishing rights. Following on from this, at the moment all I have received is an email saying that if it is alright with me and the story has not been accepted elsewhere, they would like to use it. If I were to reject this offer or delay my response, am I allowed to submit elsewhere?
Originally Posted by Sterling13