Saturday, September 26, 2009

Being An Unpublished Author is Hard Work!

Being an unpublished author is hard work. I wonder if it isn’t harder work than being a published author.
I have three as-yet unpublished books that are complete. Each one is different. There is CONFESSIONS OF AN HONEST MAN. This is a loosely autobiographical novel about growing up with a violent mother and a kind but workaholic father who lacked the time and resources to understand that his home had the ambience of a concentration camp. This book is honest, compelling, funny, very hip and possibly healing. I hope so, I hope the book helps readers deal with their own problems and understand that they’re not alone. We share our common humanity.
The next book is a science fiction epic, GODS OF THE GIFT. This is a wild journey into another kind of universe. It has a moral center, a point of view about matters of power and the abuse of power. It’s very cinematic, i.e. people who’ve read it tell me it seems like they’re in a movie.
I have a non-fiction travel memoir called MIRACLE HIGHWAY. It tells the story of how my lady and I changed from living in a nice house up in the hills to becoming full time residents in a 38 foot motor coach.
In order to deal professionally with literary agents, each book must have several items pertaining to its ultimate sales potential. I need a short query letter for each book, no more than four paragraphs. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Right. The query letter is the most important sales tool in the entire process. Paragraph one has to grab the agent and convince him/her that this book MUST be read. Paragraph two outlines the important plot points. Maybe that can go to a third paragraph. Paragraph four is a short biography and resume, citing publishing credits (if there are any) and a bit about one’s self.
I must write one of these letters for each book. The number of attempts, false starts, revisions and corrections boggles the mind. The query letter must be PERFECT! I’ve written fifteen or twenty queries for each book; and I’m still going.
Every book needs a Table Of Contents, or a TOC. This gives chapter numbers and/or names and a brief description of each chapter. As I work on the revisions of each book the chapters change, page numbers change, everything changes. So the TOC changes.
Each book needs a synopsis. This is a three or four page outline of the plot architecture. It must be magnetic, hypnotic, somehow distilling all the book’s magic into a couple of pages. Try it, Sancho Panza. It ain’t easy.
For non fiction books, like MIRACLE HIGHWAY, a Book Proposal needs to be written. This is a formal document answering such questions as: What genre is the book? Who is the target audience? How is it different from its nearest competitors? What books does it resemble? There must be the obligatory TOC and often a sample chapter or two.
This, my amigos, is writing that is done OUTSIDE the creative writing of my current “work in progress”, my WIP, a book called THE SHADOW STORM. It’s an historical novel with the twist that it’s not Earth’s history, but a planet called Freeth. The time is much like Earth, circa 1914.
Let’s take a look at the last several responses from agents to whom I have
emailed this material.

Thank you for your recent e-mail. I regret to say that I don’t feel that I’m the most appropriate agent for your work. However, opinions vary considerably in this business, and I wish you the best of luck in your search for representation

thank you for your query. Unfortunately, your manuscript doesn't sound like something that’s right for us. We wish you the best of success in placing your work elsewhere.

Thank you for submitting your query to The -------- Agency. While your proposal shows merit, I'm afraid it's not right for us. As I'm sure you know, this is a very subjective business, and no doubt another agent will feel differently. Best of luck in your writing career.

We decided to pass on requesting part of your work because we have a full client list and can only occasionally review and take on new projects. All the best, good luck, and thanks for thinking of our agency.

I have hundreds of these. Hundreds.
I have a job. I still need to make money to survive. I work at a very humble position, the kind of job that is synonymous with “failure”. I don’t feel like a failure. I’ve succeeded in learning how to write good prose. That is no small achievement. I estimate it takes a minimum of twenty years of obsessive application. Now all that remains is to convince the rest of the world that my writing is brilliant.

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