I was reading some blog the other day mocking New Year's resolutions, and listing a bunch of common resolutions people make and tend not to bear through to fruition. I think that some people might not grok 'resolution', as in to be resolved. It is isn't a wish, or an ambition. To be resolved is to reach a firm determination on a matter. The word can also apply to something that is already finished, because this level of commitment makes completion a foregone conclusion.
It took me a while to get the hang of 'resolving'. I used to treat it like some kind of health and prosperity, positive thinking, the Secret shenanigans, not really bothering to even keep track. That changed when my downward spiral found me alone in the desert with an empty bottle of scotch and a loaded hand gun, failing come up with a compelling reason not to pair the set. I needed something more than a wish, or an ambition, to keep me here. I needed resolve.
My brilliant cousin has written about the challenges of surviving suicidal ideation with more clarity and courage than I can, so I will just say that not killing myself was the first resolution that I managed to keep. While being very far from the end of that particular struggle, that first year gave me hope. Not a lot, you know, but enough. The mantra that carried me through that year was that I could always kill myself tomorrow.
I made the same resolution each of the next three years, and I count each one of them as a success. I did expand my burgeoning art of self-determination, and have now strung together eight years of fulfilled resolutions.
All of which brings me to my resolution this year: I am going to get this book published. I've never gotten anything published, unless you count the press releases I wrote for some trap rappers, so I don't expect it to be easy. Maybe some of you can help me out along the way, or at least learn from my mistakes when pitching your own book.
I should be clear: I want to sell the book, but will settle for publishing it. But first I'm going to chase that book deal. Looking at the kind of deals first time authors can get, it seems that the substantial deals come from the Big 4 publishing houses, which is no surprise. Those publishers will not even consider your manuscript without a referral or an agent, neither of which I have. I don't even know where I would get a referral, so it seems like getting an agent is the first step.
To my utter lack of surprise, agents are unwilling to read every ponderous draft thrown their way. The literary world has an established path to publication, a path that is guarded by the assistants who surf the slush pile for senior agents. These tireless readers have requirements that vary by agency, with the most common being the Query Letter, Sample Pages, and the very rare request for a detailed Synopsis.
I have to admit that I have some reservations about the process, as most of the agencies ask for the first 5-10 pages. I get that everyone is busy, but the Law of Small Numbers suggests that a sample that is less than 1% of the work is unlikely to give one a great picture of the rest of the work. I hope those readers are great at extrapolating from ridiculously small sample sizes.
The Query Letter is the one constant, the sine qua non of the pitch. To be clear, I have not had any success with the three different Query Letters I have tried, so take my thoughts with a bucket of salt. While each agency may have subtle distinctions in what they want in the letter you send them, they all want it to be about a page long. In that single page, most want you to introduce yourself and give a brief summary of the work you're pitching.
If you are reading this, you are probably aware that concision is not my greatest strength. I don't think that I could even introduce myself in a page, much less include a summary of a book. I change my personal introduction with each batch of queries I send, but the summary stays the same. This is one of the areas that I am hoping some of you can help me out. Below is my summary. Pretend you are an agent. What about this summary catches your eye? What turns you off?
So far I have sent queries to 60 agents, the vast majority of whom say they will not even respond if they aren't interested. I have heard back from about a quarter, all declining to even read the full manuscript. For those interested in such things, Dan Fehr and Sara Crowe have the fastest rejection stamp in the business. Dan might have a slight edge, as his assistant was thorough enough to send me a rejection one day after receiving my query, and following up with another rejection the next day, but Sara was committed enough to send rejections on New Year's Eve, so I'll call it a draw.
I appreciate any feedback on the summary, and I'll keep posting updates as I go. I hope you all had a great holiday season, and wish you all a brilliant 2015!
The book is an urban coming of age story with science fiction elements, a little Douglas Adams meets The Wire, with a bit of an Assassin’s Creed vibe. The first in a three novel arc contesting international sex trafficking, this book explores identity and connection in our digital culture. Set in Seattle at the moment of change, when humanity shifted from being the big fish on our small rock, to being a big fish in a near infinite universe, this young adult fiction boasts a defiant humanist perspective, as youth deal with death, love, loss, and life on, above, and below the city streets.