On schedule, Brad Thor has another book out just in time for my yearly beach trip. I wonder how he does it, producing a fast-paced thriller every single year. For the past seven years, I have been writing the first book of my fantasy series. Shadowed Castles is finally complete, and I have begun the process of looking for an agent and a publisher.. Yes, my book is a bit longer than Thor’s wonderful thrillers, but it took me seven years of waking at 4 AM, drinking coffee by candlelight and wandering far away from this world into the nether reaches of my imagination. Now, it is a habit, but this process of sending the book into the world is alien to me. I suppose that is what all these early mornings are really about though. Why lose what amounts to years of sleep if not to share these tales with the world?
I don’t suppose I will ever be quite so prolific as Brad Thor although I do hope to outpace George RR Martin. As I have been researching agents, I have noticed that they all seem to be looking for the next [insert name of the hottest author in your genre here]. I worry this will be a terrible shortcoming for me. I am not the next anyone. I am the first me. On weekends, days where I don’t have to show up at the office, I will often transfer my butt from my little candlelit office to the neighborhood bookstore so that I will continue writing. Daylight distracts me but being surrounded by books inspires me. I read mounds of them. I love thumbing through the shelves, and of course, I can’t wait to find my book there.
I still look for my cousin’s books. Elizabeth Musser’s Swan House still does very well after more than a decade. She writes historical fiction for the Christian market. She’s eloquent and her style is so well-refined. She lives in France. I wonder if that helps? My father’s book Waldo Chicken Wakes the Dead is harder to find now. He published outside of the gigantic New York publishers, but he is often compared to Terry Pratchett. His book is better than its sales. He writes about a cartoonist who solves crimes with the help of his cartoon characters, a giant and pompous walrus named Waldo and the chicken that roosts on the walrus’s head. Yes, it is hilarious but thrilling. Check it out. You can still get copy on Amazon. It’s a really fun read. Both my father and my cousin, Elizabeth have warned me about the various land mines that is the publishing industry.
For all those like me, hoping to find you a spot on one of the shelves of bookstores all over the country and perhaps the world, it’s best just to write your book. Finish it. Make it the story you want it to be. Tell your story. Then worry about selling it. Last year, my cousin, Elizabeth, graciously introduced me to her agents, but my book, at the time, was not in its best possible state. First lesson, don’t try to sell your book until it is really finished. A lot of agents will do editing, but at that point, it should just be polishing to prepare you project for the appropriate publisher.
I suppose the best way to get an agent is to have your successful writer cousin introduce you to her agent, but I find that may not be the best fit. My cousin and I write in entirely different genres. Her agency, a very good one especially if you want to sell internationally, does not really do fantasy. So I began to search for someone that would be a good fit for me, knowing that I am a pretty tough match. Even for a writer, I am weird, and that’s about the nicest way anyone would say it.
The second best way to find an agent is to go to writer’s conferences. After that, The Writer’s Market is your friend and so is google. I made a list of agents, then I reviewed their submission policies, reviewed their client list, read some from the client lists, and I narrowed the list to a reasonable dozen or so. I then began to search for the agents of my favorite authors in the genres. None of them are not taking on new clients, sigh, and so I took to my list. I spent four weeks writing the perfect query letter for the first one. Personalize those queries. Do not spam out your query letters. This is a job application. I spent another two weeks brooding over it, and then two weeks ago, I sent out my first query letter, No word yet but this morning with my coffee and candlelight, I am preparing my second query and making a list of upcoming writer’s conferences. Maybe I’ll see you there.