We want them. Who has them? As writers, we spend a lot of time on the internet, don’t we? We join forums, blog, tweet, and follow every link someone posts about articles written by ‘those in the know.’ We try to stay abreast of publishing, are wary of trends and following them, see what deals are (and are not) being made. We judge our work against others. We sometimes read a book and ask ourselves, “Why this book and not mine?”
We watch the e-book debates with furrowed brows. We read the agents’ posts about the unimaginable number of queries they get in a month, and sigh at the futility of it all. Who are we to think we’re special? That we are so much better than other writers out there? Are we kidding ourselves?
What do agents want? What do publishers want? What do they not want? What is too high a word count? Too low? What genres are selling? What aren’t? Who represents what, and who won’t touch YOUR genre with a ten foot pole? Why?
We have so many questions, don’t we? See? I asked two more. Sometimes it feels like our bitty brains are going to explode from all the questions rattling around like firecrackers in our heads. But take heart, my friends. I will tell you the biggest secret in the history of the universe (aside from the true role of cereal mascots). I know who knows the answers to all our questions.
Don’t believe me? That’s okay. Sit back and relax, grab something to drink, focus your thoughts into your biggest questions, and ask one of yourself. Instead of googling it, instead of scrolling through the thousands of blogs you’ve read, draw upon your memory for the answers. Not there? Try again. It might take time, but you already know the answers.
1. What do agents want? – Books they will fall in love with so they can sell them to the best of their ability. If you’re not in love with your own book, you know no one else will love it either. Would you recommend your book for others to read? Would you proudly proclaim ownership of your book with no apologies? If not, no agent will either. You know this. See? I’m not making this up.
2. Why this book and not mine? – Timing and patience. Your book was not done at the same time that one was. Your book was not submitted to that agent on that day when they had room on their list. Your book was not what that agent wanted. Your book was not ready. It needed more time. It needed more attention, more editing, more revising, more plot resolution. You know this. Publishing takes time and patience. There’s more answers to that question, and I promise you, you already know them.
3. Who are we to think we’re special? -- Rhetorical, you say? No, this is a valid question. And you already know the answer. Each book written is special. It takes us on a journey to new places where we meet new people, and maybe even discover new creatures or strange governments. Like snowflakes (or writer flakes if we’re truly honest), our books are special, as is our ability to tell our stories.
4. What do publishers want? – Books that will sell. It’s business, my friend. You know that. Simplicity at its finest.
5. Word counts, genres, prologues, POV, tense, omg, my head’s going to explode! – The answer to these are so easy it’s ridiculous. What is the right choice? Your way. As long as you’re good at what you do, as long as you’ve honed your craft and can tell a story, none of that matters. Don’t scoff. Don’t roll your eyes at me. It’s true. Go to a Best Sellers section at any bookstore. On those shelves you will see varying word counts, multiple genres, prologues (it’s TRUE!), all POV, varying tenses, and a multitude of ‘mistakes’ we worry about. Stop sweating it. All you need is number 2. No, not ‘number two,’ potty brain. Number 2, above: Time and patience. If you believe in yourself and your work, you WILL make it someday.
And you already knew that.