I’ve had a few people ask me how I got a contract. So here is the condensed version of the process of the last seven months.
I finished my first draft of my novel in the fall of last year. My first draft was only 50,000 words, which for a fiction novel, is very short. After I had some friends, (way smarter than me), edit it for me, I started querying. I knew that self publishing was a viable option for me, but I wasn’t in a hurry to get my book out there and just wanted to see if I could do it the traditional route. (Find an agent, let the agent try to sell it to large publishers, etc.) Now, I got some great advice from a couple of author friends. (And all of this goes for querying publishers as well.) They told me to:
Query to a handful of agents at a time.
Try to find agents that fit your style and were people you would want to work with.
Query your letter to them personally. (Why are you querying them?)
Every rejection you get, send another query out into the world.
I sent out my first query letters in January. I picked 4 agents that represented authors like me, and slowly the rejections came. Some were in the form of emails, and some were just deadlines crossed. (FYI, most agents/publishers will just tell you if you don’t hear from them in 6 weeks, they aren’t interested. How’s that for testing patience! 🙂 I always had 4 or 5 queries out at any given time.
Also, I found the agents I queried by looking in some of my favorite novels and saw who their agents were. Some I found online by simply googling “fantasy fiction agents.” As my husband always says, “When in doubt, google it.” I’ve done more googling in the past year than I ever imagined possible!
Through this entire process I had started writing the sequel to The Door Keeper. It wasn’t long before it was finished also. It too, was short, finished at just under 50,000 words.
In the spring when I wasn’t getting any traction or feedback, I talked to a friend of mine who had written an awesome trilogy and had it published. She said something that changed everything for me! She was honest enough to tell me the book was too short, that I needed to consider putting my 2 books together, and to not be afraid I would run out of ideas. She was right! I had wanted a trilogy so bad and was afraid I would run out of story. So I decided to try it…what could it hurt? If nothing happened, then I could just self publish eventually and re-seperate them.
During this same time, I had also decided to quit focusing on trying to query agents and attempt to query straight to publishers. Side note: most publishers will not accept unsolicited material, but a few of the smaller ones do. Also, some publishers will open their gates for a short, determined amount of time to read unsolicited manuscripts, so you need to keep a look out.
Around this time I also decided to start a blog and Instagram just in case I ended up self-publishing. I wanted to set myself up to be able to build a platform for my writing and have a place promote my book. My first follower on my blog was Royal James Publishing. They were in the first batch of queries I sent with my 2 manuscripts together, and the rest is history.
The main reason I decided to start looking for a smaller publisher was I wanted a partnership. I wanted collaboration. Having lived in the non-profit, social enterprise, small business, and start-up world for the past 5 years…I’m super comfortable here. I watched tiny business explode, watched some grow slowly, and always work hard to achieve success. I enjoy watching and being a part of that process. Plus, I have a weird obsession with getting in with things on the ground floor. I love being able to say I was apart of something back when it wasn’t big or important. (I guess it’s the deep rooted hipster in me.)
Honestly, I was prepared for this process to take years, but thankfully it didn’t. I think the main thing to learn from my journey up until this point is: learn as much as you can about a process and then tailor it to fit you. I’ve learned that the writing world is full of many different ways to get to one final result: a book for sale. Don’t be afraid to go traditional, or to be a trailblazer, or simply do something in between.
And when in doubt, just google it.