In a hurry? Here’s the fast version: Hey! Submitting my novel, VampCon, to agents kind of sucks. But I do it anyway because it’s the only way to get published by a big press, it makes me stronger, it forces me to write precisely and adopt a global view of my books, and it helps me see my book not only as an artistic work but also as a commercial product.
the long-winded version (for those of you with some time to spare):
I started submitting the query letter for my novel, VampCon, to agents in August 2011. Since then, I have submitted query letters to over 70 agencies. A few never responded. Most of them sent me a short, generic rejection note. A few of them asked to see part or all of the book and then rejected it with a note. (Usually something like: “I/ we thought the writing was good, but I/ we am/ are not the right agent/s for this book.”) In their rejections, none of the agents (not even the ones who said they read the whole book) have ever mentioned the name of a single character, scene, or plot point from VampCon, or anything about the structure. So- truth be told- I can only guess at the reasons for rejection.
While I am pretty sure that VampCon will not be picked up by any literary agent and that, in the end, I will probably either sell it to a small publishing house or self-publish, I still intend to keep sending query letters out until I finish out my list of 100-110 agencies that represent speculative fiction.
Each time I approach an agency, I have another chance to consider my novel as a professionally-crafted product for the market
The obvious question: Why do it? If I’m 99% certain it will amount to nothing, if it takes about a year to complete the cycle, and if it occasionally makes me feel lost or depressed, then why bother with agents?
Well, below is my list of answers:
1. It’s the only way to get my book to one of the big publishing houses. It’s like the old saying: You can’t win the lottery if you don’t play. Of course, I shouldn’t expect to “win” the lottery either. But there are some other good reasons too.
2. It toughens me up. The more rejections that come my way, the better I get at dealing with them. I try to invest very little emotion into the process, and I don’t expect anything to happen. Does this always work? Nope. Do I get bummed-out from time to time? Sure. But I am getting a thicker skin all the time.
3. Writing a synopsis: Most agents require a synopsis, and the definition of synopsis varies greatly by agency. Some want only a sentence. Many require one-two paragraphs. Some want one page. Some want multiple pages. Over the last year, I have been forced to consider, write, and edit a summary of VampCon several times. To begin with, it isn’t easy. It took me three weeks to work out the two page summary I am currently using, and several more days to come up with a one-sentence “blurb”, but creating these synopses force me to practice my writing skills, and made me look at my novel from a global perspective, a great skill for outlining future works.
4. Familiarizing myself with selling my work as a product: Each time I approach an agency, I have another chance to consider my novel as a professionally-crafted product for the market. The process of revisiting this notion itself is helpful. It helps me develop the skills, and a mindset, for future promotion regardless of whether the novel is accepted by a big publisher, small press, or self-published. Of course VampCon is more than just a product, it has an artistic side as well, but if i want to share my artistic vision with as many people as possible, I have to be able to consider the book as a commercial product as well.