Publishing Journey, Sorcerer to the Crown, Writing

My publishing journey: My query letter for SORCERER TO THE CROWN

One thing I haven’t yet mentioned in my posts about querying agents and signing with one is that my method of identifying agents to query meant I ended up with a list of agents who were almost exclusively American. I don’t really know why this happened. (I mean … apart from the American cultural hegemony … but it’s not like the British are wilting flowers either when it comes to cultural hegemony. I ought to know! Plus I actually live in Britain.) Anyway, it’s a bit odd in retrospect. If you live in Britain you should consider querying British agents because I know a couple and they are great and I wish I’d given them the chance to reject me!

I mention this because US and UK queries have a slightly different format. You should pay attention to the specific agent/agency’s submission guidelines anyway, as they will all differ a little bit, but generally speaking, in the US agents just want to see a query letter plus synopsis, and they will decide whether they want to read a sample of the actual book based on that. In the UK you’re usually asked to send in an excerpt of the book with your query, so the agent gets a look at your fiction upfront.

My query to my agent was US-style, so I just sent the following email to her address on the agency website.

(Aw yeah I’m going to get to do a DVD COMMENTARY! I love doing DVD commentaries of my own things.)

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Publishing Journey, Writing

My publishing journey: Signing with a literary agent

As I said in my last post in this series, once I had a complete novel manuscript I had rewritten once, line-edited and proofread, I started querying agents with it.

I’d once read a blog post by a published novelist who said that they’d queried around 40 agents before signing with one, and the process had taken 18 months. Totally arbitrarily, I decided I would only think about rehauling my manuscript and/or giving it all up and running away to the circus after I’d queried 40 agents and/or 18 months had passed without my receiving an offer of representation.

This might seem an odd way to do things, but I find with writing that you really just want to figure out a way to trick your brain into not worrying about the publishing side of things, so that it can get on with the work. (The work is the writing. The writing is the most important thing. I know I keep saying this, but it’s true!) The idea was to buy myself 18 months of peace of mind. As you’ll see, though, I never got a chance to find out if it would have worked!

I’ll talk about my query in detail in another post, but it was pretty standard US-style: I explained what the story was about, talked briefly about myself and ended by offering to send a partial or full manuscript if they were interested. Funnily enough, the chief thing that helped me draft my query letter (and actually just figure out what the book should be about) was Linda Colley’s Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1837 — but I’ll explain that in that other post!

I sent off my queries to 10 agents, eight of whom I’d basically just found on the Internet, and two of whom I’d been introduced to by author friends. Then I sat back, feeling contented with a good nine months’ work, and started thinking about the next project. It was going to be a space opera novella set in a world inspired by the maritime kingdoms of classical Southeast Asia (working title: Space Villette). I figured I’d have time to make a good start on a novella before I started hearing back from agents — heck, I’d probably be able to draft the entire thing by the time I had to think about Sorcerer to the Crown again, either because I had an offer of rep, or because I’d been rejected by 40 agents and had to rethink my approach.

So, er, I was wrong about that. Continue reading

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Publishing Journey, Writing

My publishing journey: Querying agents

In the last episode, I wrote two books and chucked them because they sucked, and then I produced a very rough first draft of a Regency romance/fantasy crossover. This, unfortunately, sucked as well. But I could see within it the bones of something that could maybe not suck, so I thought I’d see what I could do to draw that out.

I put the draft novel aside for a month to rest in its juices, and in that month I researched. When writing the first draft I’d based my conception of the world on all the Regency and Regency-set books I’d read: Austen, Heyer, O’Brian. Now I read actual history books: books on Britain and its inhabitants in that interesting time, but also books about the transatlantic slave trade, Chinese emperors and Mughal India. I also read fiction and nonfiction from the actual period (thank you, Gutenberg!) — one of the best parts of writing historical fiction, IMO.

My head brimming with Regency-appropriate slang, I then re-outlined the book and wrote a second draft, cannibalising a fair amount of the first. By mid-2013 I had a complete redrafted manuscript that was as good as I could make it by myself. I wrote a query and synopsis, made a list of agents, and queried the first eight or so on the list.

(There is an additional step I could’ve taken between completing the second draft and querying agents. I should really, if I’d been properly conscientious, have asked a couple of my smart, generous writing friends to beta-read my manuscript, and done another revision pass based on their comments. I didn’t lor. I was too impatient! Anyway, you cannot escape the work that has to be done, as you’ll see later.)

On how I chose agents to query: I looked in the acknowledgments pages of books by authors I liked, who had careers I would like to have, and whose books were similar in some way to mine. I picked out their agents’ names and googled them to see if they were taking new clients, and if they were I added them to my list. Also, kind of randomly, I looked at QueryTracker’s Top 10 Most Queried Agents list and picked a couple to query, on the assumption that all those other queriers must have done their research and known what they were doing.

There are a couple of things I should mention for context, that happened around this time.

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