So just how do you impress someone who has never heard of you? I mean, you have poor literary agents who receive hundreds of query letters a month and thousands of submissions a year. How do you make certain that your proposal/query letter/novel stands out above the rest?
Well, there are two ways to do this. Either write the most horrible tripe ever imaginable, or write the next classic piece of fiction.
Yeah, that’s what I said after I finished cursing after discovering just how hard it is to get published.
The first three chapters you write have to have the hook in it, as I mentioned last week. If the story isn’t motoring along at a decent pace or has no interesting characters said agent or publisher is going to chuck it aside into the rejection bin and move along. It sounds harsh but believe me, you don’t want these over-stressed people writing “I’m sorry” letters. A quick note from them saying “No thanks” is more than enough.
A friend of mine, The OnyxHawke Agency’s Mike Kabongo, makes a very good point on his company’s website. In the FAQ’s section, he poses the question of “You rejected my novel. You hate me, don’t you?” His reply: It wasn’t good enough, and yes I do hate you, and everyone else. Suck it up cupcake.
The first time I read that, I laughed. Then I realized that Mike, who is a rising agent, probably gets swamped by hundred of submissions a year. And he’s only a one-man agency. He has to wade and sift through so much muck and mud to find his one jewel… I shudder at the thought of what it’s like at a large agency. Probably as rewarding as playing with a cement filled pinata.
When submitting, remember that agents notice spelling errors. They see these and often think “This person wants to be published? Never heard of spell check?” Nothing gets you into the rejection bin faster than horrible spelling.
Oh sure, I’ve seen authors submit novels that have so many spelling errors that I felt like beating them over the head with a wooden spoon. But these authors usually already have a working relationship with the agent or publisher. They’re what’s known as a PPA – Previously Published Author. If their book sell-through percentage was high enough, the agent or publish can afford to look past their incorrect spelling. These authors have a proven record, or got really lucky with a book. Either way, houses can afford to ignore their spelling.
But remember, spell check isn’t flawless. Too many times I typed something along the lines of “He grabbed his shit and threw it on”. It was only later, when I was proofing the novel, did I realize that he should be throwing his shirt on and not his shit. Sure, the last has a certain je na sais quai, but the first is more preferable, especially given the genre I try to focus on the most.
Next week…. avoiding the mysterious plot holes.