Monday, May 13, 2013

Where I'm At With The Book

Two blog posts in one day?? I must have a lot of time on my hands. Yes, I do. (I'm also taking a break from those job applications I talked about in the last entry.)

I don't talk much about the book I've been writing because it's a long-term goal, and the light at the end of the tunnel is still pretty far off. However, I started this blog partially to document my journey, and I figure it's time to let you know where I currently stand in the publishing process. I realize a lot of my audience is not familiar with this process (and I understand as I wasn't either), so I'm going to do my best to explain it. Indeed, it's a rather elusive and mysterious process in the first place and all this is coming from someone not yet involved (and also someone who sucks at explaining things), so I hope you'll forgive me if anything is too hazy.

First, I'd like to address self-publishing. Several people have asked why I'm not doing this. I've weighed the pros and cons and decided it's not for me at this point in time. I think some people believe the creation of a book is as simple as writing it and sending it to the presses. For both better and worse, that's just not the case (even with self-publishers), and that's definitely not how it's happened for any of the books that have actually made it to your bookshelves.

In short: Right now, I want the credibility and backing of a publisher and the expert support and help of both an agent and an editor.

This entry isn't about self-publishing. It's about my journey. For an in-depth view of the (sometimes frowned-upon) self-publishing industry, there are many articles out there available via Google that discuss in-depth the pros and cons I mentioned earlier.

So let me explain where I'm at.

I spent my last semester at university writing a query letter and book proposal. They query is usually a short, one-page letter designed to hook an agent and make them want more info about your project. It contains a synopsis of your book and brief biography of yourself. Generally, you send this letter to agents (preferably ones that work with the genre you're writing in) and, if they think you might be a fit for them, they request your proposal.

The proposal is much longer than the query. It provides a more in-depth overview of the book (including word count and approximate time it will take you to finish the book), a lengthier biography (which is really a place to showcase all the platforming you've done), the market for your book (and an analysis of it), promotion you have done and will do, competing titles (and how your book is different), two or three sample chapters, and sometimes a few other things (tables of contents, chapter analyses) depending on what sort of book or proposal you're writing.

My book is a nonfiction collection of personal essays/memoir, and it generally isn't required you have a nonfiction book completed to get a book deal. Fiction books, on the other hand, usually have to be completed before the proposal (unless you're Stephen King, probably). And, all this being said, there is no one correct way to write a proposal. It just depends on what genre you're writing in and what sort of proposal examples you happen to be looking at. Luckily, I was able to work with a professor with publishing experience who really helped me hammer mine out.

I've sent out my first batch of query letters. I've received three rejections while two others agents have requested the full proposal. People say you should expect to get one request for the proposal for every 10-20 agents you query, so I'm pleased with how it's going so far. 

Of course, whenever I mention a rejection, I'm reminded that JK Rowling or some other author got x-amount of rejections before getting picked up. And that's a great little reminder that I'm in good company, but you don't have to worry about me. The professor I worked with this past semester thoroughly prepared me for the process, and I anticipate more rejections in the future. As Betsy Lerner says in The Forest for the Trees (which I recommend if you're interested in this process), "Do not spend more time with rejection letters than the time it takes to read them and file them away.” Although I will admit one rejection I received, addressed "Dear Bob," was a tad bit stabbing (so feel free to continue with the encouraging tweets!).

Once I (hopefullyyyyy) get an agent, she or he will help me refine the proposal further and then shop it around to publishers. Then I'll begin writing and corresponding with an editor and then a copyeditor will groan and begin slicing up the manuscript with a red pen and then the publisher will work their magic for a while longer and make everything perfect. Sprinkle in some various panic attacks and crying fits on the floor while rubbing ice cream all over my body, and you've got yourself a book. That's the abbreviated plan, at least.

That's where I'm at. I don't claim to be an expert to any of this process. I'm sure there are many, many things coming that I won't expect or know how to deal with. While I've read quite a few books about the process and studied it to the best of my ability, all this is being written by someone who's still on the outside looking in. I'll be keeping you updated on what I learn and how things are going.