Allan Mayer’s Weblog

You Too Can be Like Johnboy…

Posted on: May 13, 2008

I remember watching as John Walton Junior struggled to become a published author.

‘I’ve had so many rejection slips,’ he remonstrated, ‘that I could paper my room with them.’

Now considering that Johnboy grew up during the Great Depression, using rejection slips in this way sounds like a great enrepreneurial idea. So, as we face recession, here is how you too can cut down on the cost of decorating.

Firstly- you need the ‘Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook.’ There’s a new one out every year, and its articles do reflect changing trends. I’m still using the 2007 edition. I have a pact with it: when it helps me to sell my book, I will use some of the money to buy another one- and not before.

Writers and Artists has articles not only advising you on how to submit your work to agents and publishers, but also contains information on alternative forms of publishing such as self-publishing and print on demand.

But if we’re honest, I suppose the overriding attraction is the information and addresses of agents and publishers.

It is generally recommended that you get an agent. Avoid anyone who asks for payment before you publish because real agents never do this. They will cream off about 15% of what your book earns, but because they live and breathe the world of publishing they will negotiate for far more than you ever could and save you from the pitfalls.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? The downside is that agents and publishers’ prime concern is not purely to promote quality- it is to promote what will sell.
There is a clear preference these days for the single genre high concept novel, typified by Dan Brown, and a whole range of clones.

But… people get published- why shouldn’t it be you?

Agents requirements vary. They will ask for about two chapters, a synopsis, and a covering letter- I won’t go into any more detail here because the Year Book covers that. Just make sure that you give exactly what each agent asks for- not a page more or a page less.

Don’t be fooled like I was into sending your submissions out one at a time. It can take weeks to return. I always send them in threes now. And you’re better assuming that ‘it’ (that is your A4 stamped, self- addressed envelope) will return. It stops your heart from sinking too far when you hear it land on your mat- your returned extract, and more wallpaper.

The annoying thing about agents’ letters is that they are standard. You don’t know if your work just isn’t what they are looking for, if it’s almost good enough- or if it’s irredeamable slush.
One agent’s letter said that they received 300 submissions per week and only took on three writers… PER YEAR.

But they do take them on. So why shoudn’t it be you?

One of the key characteristics at this point is tenacity. Believe in your work. Never give up. And remember-

a book is not just for bedtime: it’s for life.

And if it takes you years to get published, just think of all that free wallpaper.
My Zimbio
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