These days, when people ask what I do, I tell them I’m a writer. Declaring our intentions aloud and publicly has power. And I do spend a large portion of each day writing: editing my women’s fiction novel, writing for this blog, working on the first draft of my next (third) novel, a cozy mystery. I also spend several hours each month on editing and critiquing for other writers, as well as studying the craft of writing in books, on websites, or by taking writing classes. I don’t just sit around thinking writing thoughts, I’m BICFOKTAM for hours every day. (For you non-writers, that’s Butt in chair, fingers on keyboard, typing away madly.)
“What have you published?” they ask.
Actually, nothing. Aside from this blog, I’ve published nothing—yet. But I’m working on it.
My goal is traditional publication, so in addition to producing the best stories I can, I must also craft the perfect query letter, synopsis (a one-page and a longer one), logline (the essence of my story in one sentence), an elevator speech for in-person pitches to literary agents…There’s a lot involved in finding a literary agent to represent my work, which is my best shot at traditional publication. There are small publishing houses that will accept un-agented manuscripts, but I haven’t yet explored that possibility.
I’ve now reached my twenty-fifth “No, thanks” from literary agents for my first and second novels, combined, plus one for a creepy little short story I sent off to Ellery Queen magazine.
But am I bothered? Dejected? Ready to give up? Certainly not. I hear from fellow writers that many get fifty, seventy, or sometimes over a hundred “No, thank you’s” before they finally get that golden “yes” that leads to publication.
And then they start all over again.
“Why don’t you just self-publish?” you ask. I may eventually do that. My first novel is—well, it’s a first novel. I don’t really expect it to hit the New York Times’ Bestseller List, but it has good bones, and I think that certain readers—namely, teachers and former teachers—would enjoy reading it. The dead body discovered in chapter one is the principal’s, and what teacher hasn’t dreamt of that scenario? (Sorry, good principals.) I need to tighten up the beginning, ratchet up the suspense in the first third of the story. If after another fifty or so queries I get no bites, I’ll probably self-publish that one.
No doubt, there are some wonderful works of self-published fiction out there. I haven’t read one yet, but indie fiction is a growing market. I have purchased several non-fiction e-books, and only a few were total crap. But there is still a stigma attached to self-publishing, alas, because far too many writers don’t spend enough time getting critical feedback before they press the “publish” button on Amazon (or what have you).
So for now, I remain an unpublished writer, ever hopeful that the next revision of chapter one, the next polishing of my query letter, will catch the eye of that agent who’s out there waiting to find Lola, my protagonist, and champion her adventures to publishers great and small. Wish me luck—and Lola too.