Book Two: Mixed Reviews

I know I haven’t posted in a while. A lot’s been going on in my life and it’s been hair, teeth, and eyes everywhere at work more often than not. My husband read my second book and he had mixed reviews. He likes the characters and the story in general, but has a problem with Kalyn being romantically involved with someone so much older. I told him, “Anselm’s 790 years old; it’s not like she’s going to catch up to him.” He still thinks I need to go back to my first book and up her age by a year or two.

So I’m waiting for some of my female readers to read through it and give me their opinions. So far, in theory, neither is averse to this May 2009-December 1219 romance, but as my boss pointed out, women, in general, are  all about romance, and the particulars aren’t quite as important. I know I don’t really see a problem; it’s a loving, permanent relationship. Sex is incidental, not instrumental. All around, it’s a better relationship than many that older women find themselves in.

Still, I’ve put a hold on sending out query letters for a while. What if it does turn out that I need to up her age (as silly as that is; absolutely nothing about her character will change, just because she’s a year older)? I’m starting to think that I might want to wait to query until I get all three books more or less done and get feedback on them, because I can always go back and change things like someone’s age while they’re still under my control, but once published, they stay published. Then the only option, if the agent and/or publisher pitches a fit about a sexually active 16 year old, is to take that out of the second book. And then it messes up everything. Better to up her age than change the plot that dramatically.

One benefit to waiting longer to query is to let the current vampire fad die down. The market is saturated, and I know that counts against me in a major way.

So, that’s where I am now. The road to getting published is never a straight path.

Book Two, Soon in Proof

You may have noticed that my blog has grown rather quiet over the past two weeks. That’s because I’ve been engaged in the final edits of the first draft of my second book. This morning I ordered my first proof.

Why am I going forward with my second book when I don’t even have an agent for my first one? For one, I am a big believer in writing when I have an idea; if I wait, I lose the idea. If I waited however many years until my first book gets published, I might forget everything I had ever planned to do with my second and third. But, primarily, it’s easier to write than to agent-shop. My book does not reject me. In fact, I get a high over finishing it, and then I get more highs as friends and family members read it and give me feedback. Sending out queries is a very depressing activity, and there’s only so much rejection you can take before you have to stop and do something else for a while. So, while I’m waiting to get un-bummed, I might as well write books two and three.

Stats and Formatting

How many of us have heard something along the lines of “you have as much chance becoming a professional [insert sport here] player as you have of winning the lottery” ? Some of us may have even had parents or teachers crush that dream when we were still young enough to believe that is possible.

I am coming to the conclusion, though, that getting published is the same way. I have now seen two agencies say they take 1% or less of all people who query them. One agent said she gets 1,200 queries a month, ten months a year. That’s 12,000 query letters a year, but 120 or less will be selected for representation. Yes, you must have a good book and a good query, but there’s also an element of luck in there–meeting the right agent at the right time in the right market.

Here are some formatting rules that I have seen for submitting requested materials to an agent or publisher:

  • 8.5 x 11 page
  • Double-space
  • Left-justified (not full align, as it would be in a published book)
  • Put your name, page number and book title on the bottom of every page (use footer)

Most agents want the sample / synopsis (if they want it at all) pasted into the body of an e-mail. I have seen one agent ask for this to be double-spaced, left-justified, so if you have full formatting capabilities on your e-mail, do it. (I don’t think you need to double-space your query letter or bio, but yes on the synopsis and writing sample.)

I use CreateSpace.com to make proof copies of my books so I can let friends and family read them and, also, it makes proofing easier (for some reason it’s easier to catch typos in print than on a computer screen). If you want to format your Word document for print, here are the settings:

Print margin size:
Top: 0.6
Bottom: 0.6
Inside: 0.5
Outside: .75 

Mirror margins
Page size: 5.13 x 8

*Note – My old version of Word is on crack, and it confuses the inside margin and the outside margin. What you are really doing is setting the inside margin to be wider than the outside margin, in order to allow room for binding. If your word processor is not on crack, you will want to reverse those numbers.

Rejection

File:Emelyn Story Tomba (Cimitero Acattolico Roma).jpgWell, back to the Pit of Literary Despair; my partial was rejected.

I was riding a high for a little while because I was asked for it–and that made it easy to shrug off other rejections of my query letter–but now it’s been rejected, and I think that’s worse than a query letter being rejected. Because if it’s just the letter, you think, “How can a letter of 250 words or less show the awesomeness of my book, the depth of my characters, the suspense of the plot?” But 50 pages? A rejection of my first 50 pages sounds a lot more like the first 50 pages of my book suck.

File:WLA lacma The Death of Lucretia.jpgTo throw myself a bone, I have now seen two agents mention, on their websites, that they only take 1% of all people who query them. Those are the odds I’m playing every time I send out a letter: am I going to be the lucky one out of a hundred?

I have exhausted my second list of agents, which means I need to find another list. 44 query letters out, and it’s coming up on a year (Sept 8th).

File:Herbert James Draper, Ariadne.jpgGetting published is harder than writing a novel. And it’s taking longer.

 

 

Score!

I have been sending out queries again (total count so far is 41) and this morning someone asked for my synopsis and 50 pages!

Speaking of which, I joined AgentQuery Connect yesterday (it’s a free forum for writers) and read that a general rule of thumb is that your query letter should generate a 10-20% positive response. In other words, of all the agents you query, 10-20% of them should ask for more material. If you’re not getting that (and I wasn’t getting anywhere close to that before), your query letter is probably the problem.

Query Letter, Version 4

After helping other people with their query letters (which is, amazingly, easier than working on my own), and getting help specifically with mine, I’ve produced yet another version of my query letter. And I feel much better about this one than the previous three incarnations.

Query: Urban Fantasy Novel

Dear ___________:

Kalyn Reid is a different kind of debutante. On her sixteenth birthday she is publicly presented to her family, friends and neighbors as an adult, and is given a pearl necklace to mark the occasion. Then she is bitten by a vampire.

Thus Kalyn enters adulthood as a Yaechahre—a group of humans who have served vampires for over 2,500 years. In the days following her Acceptance, Kalyn thinks her only problem in life is how to maintain her dignity around her vampire mentor, Anselm. She has a desperate crush on him, which often leaves her bumbling like a fool. He sweetly smoothes over the awkward moments, but makes it clear that things are “just business” between them.  

But in the blink of an eye, Kalyn’s entire world is engulfed in flames as her father, mother, and group leader die in rapid succession—murdered by a strange new breed of vampire. She, Anselm, and his brother, Micah, suddenly become involved in a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse as they try to find the murderer before he finds them.

Thrown together in a desperate struggle for survival, Anselm’s resolve to keep business separate from pleasure begins to crumble, and Kalyn finds herself closer than ever to realizing her dreams. But as she watches him execute their enemies with medieval ruthlessness, she finds herself asking, “Do I really want him?”

Per the submission guidelines on your website, the first two pages of my novel are below, along with the full synopsis.

Thank you for your consideration. 

Keri Peardon
[contact info]
https://keripeardon.wordpress.com/

 Now, back to the grind of sending out queries. I won’t be doing bad until I have 30 more rejections under my belt.

Inspiration to Persevere

This is an article about the author of The Help (admittedly, I’ve never heard of it, but I’m not the type to read most bestsellers). She describes the exact same thing I’m going through right now: the high of finishing a book, the high of sending out a query, the high of getting your first rejection, the high of getting a request for more materials, and then the crash when you count up 30 rejections/no-replies and there’s no happy ending in sight. It’s a tough row to hoe.

But seeing someone who not only succeeded after a protracted battle, but has become a bestseller, with a movie on the way (what I dream about!), it renews my dedication to work on getting my book published. Sometimes, when you hear that someone really successful–like J. K. Rowling–got 12 rejections, you aim to send out 13 query letters. When all of them flop, though, you feel disappointed. Then you may find out that some other famous author got 24, and you recommit to sending out more letters. When rejection number 25 comes along, you’re in the dumps again. This time is no different, but now I have 60 to aim for. I’m halfway there!

I am back to rewriting my query letter again. I’m still convinced this is my Achilles’ Heel, because I can’t seem to describe my book or characters without people asking to read my book. But to describe it that way in 250 words or less? I’m at a loss. If you haven’t yet noticed by my posts, I don’t do short when it comes to writing. (Twitter is right out.) So I’m over on the NaNoWriMo Forums, getting a critique.