If you've ever thought about writing a book...read this.

  • thatirishbast...

    Posts: 3523

    Dec 09, 2012 10:37 PM GMT
    Many people say they're writing a novel, or that they'd like to. Few have any idea of what it takes to get a book on the shelves. Besides blood, sweat, and tears.
    Here's an outline though. May you read it and have respect for those who know all this and do it anyway.

    Write the novel.
    Let the novel sit for a month.
    Reread the novel and realise that it sucks as is.
    Rewrite the novel.
    Edit the novel, filling in all plot holes, cutting characters, streamlining, moving scenes, cutting scenes, adding scenes.
    Let the novel sit for a couple of weeks.
    Edit the novel again, focusing on the writing, on the technicalities, on style choices, and all the nitty gritty.
    Give the novel to a beta reader or critique group.
    Edit the novel again, incorporating what fresh eyes took away from it.
    Let the novel sit for a month.
    Edit the novel, focusing on making sure each word is the exact right one.

    Congrats, you have a completed novel.

    Now you must write a query letter. You must streamline your work of 80,000 or so words into less than 250. The query letter is the first piece of writing sent and is what gets the agent's attention.
    So write the query letter.
    Rewrite the query letter.
    Edit the query letter.
    Go over the query letter with a fine toothed comb.

    Now you send your query letter out to literary agents. Agents are those people who sell the novels to publishers. The average agent receives 4,000 queries a year and accepts 10 or so new clients, give or take a few.

    You research agents to figure out who represents your genre, what they've sold, and if they're accepting queries.
    You send out your query letter (possibly the first five pages as well) in batches.
    You wait anywhere from 1 to 3 months to hear a response as the pitch for your masterpiece lies in what's called 'the slush pile,' waiting for an intern.
    Virtually every single response will be a form rejection, (unless you followed all the previous steps and have serious quality work.)
    Out of near one hundred submissions, a quality and lucky writer will get four or five requests for partials.
    So you send in the partial.
    Wait another 1 - 3 months.
    If your work is very, very good, one or two agents may ask to see a full manuscript.
    So you send in the full
    Wait another 1 - 3 months.
    And by some miracle, or fate, an agent loves your work and wants to be your agent! But she has some suggestions to make it more able to sell.

    So you edit. Again.

    You turn in the new manuscript. She loves it. You sign a 1 year contract.

    Now you have someone to sell your novel! Someone who knows everyone in the business, what's selling and what's hot, and who's buying.

    So you wait. Anywhere from 2 weeks to a year or more as your agent does what you did and shops around your work.

    The chances of getting someone interested at this point are pretty good. Every agent has work they cannot sell, but they're in the business for a reason.

    Several houses may be interested, but they've offered some suggestions.

    So you edit. Again.

    Finally, after months, a publishing house makes an offer. If you're lucky, two or more will have a bidding war.

    You sign the contract. Average advance for a book is about 10,000 dollars and 10 percent for every copy sold after 10,000. (This is average. Can be much lower or higher). This is after taxes and the 15% that goes to your agent.

    Six months later, your book hits the shelves! Average sale for a new work of fiction is 6,000 copies sold nationwide.

    This is how 90% of fiction on the shelves gets into print. Keep that in mind next time you drop by Barnes and Noble.

    But also keep in mind that most novels that don't make it into print die on step one. Getting it written down. And that agents, editors, publishers, and authors are almost universal in their advice for making it into print.
    Write Well.

    If you're still reading, I hope you were all duly impressed by this insight into the books on your shelves.
  • thatirishbast...

    Posts: 3523

    Dec 09, 2012 11:54 PM GMT
    yourname2000 saidHmmm....no n00dz. icon_confused.gif



    I hope you're not too devastated.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Dec 10, 2012 12:08 AM GMT
    A year ago a friend of mine, a beautiful grandmother who presents well and is tailor-made for the talk show and book store circuit, approached me to write a query letter for a children's book manuscript she had in tow and had me read. I knew nothing about query letters or publishing but I knew it was the most horrific thing I'd ever read. She then casually mentioned she wanted the letter written because when she told a personal acquaintance, a published author himself, that she'd drafted her first children's book he said he'd arrange lunch between him, her and the director of sales of one of the world's largest publishing houses. Then even more casually she mentioned an idea for a second book which I thought was so brilliant that I told her to stall the lunch, go with that concept and write a new manuscript, making sure that the execution was as good as the concept, because she didn't realize what an opportunity she had and that she had only one chance to make a good first impression.

    I ghostwrote the query letter, my first and only, based it on her concept and without any template, and she ran the letter by her published author friend and, regardless of whether he knew she didn't write it, he declared it perfect. There's just one problem - the manuscript was worse than the first. While it took her months to draft a manuscript I spat out an alternate and far better one based on her concept in 20 minutes to light a fire under her ass by showing her how easily the her great idea could be co-opted and instead of reworking the manuscript with her own verse she began incorporating parts I wrote that she liked into her story, making it even more disjointed than it had been. Aside from that she refuses to rewrite her original manuscript, saying she went through too many rewrites already and just wanted to get it over with. (In fact she'd never rewritten a thing other than adding a line or two so in love was she with her original prose.) I told her to either go with her version or mine but not to stitch parts of my work piecemeal into hers, misrepresenting my work as hers. Allegedly, after a year of false starts she decided to ignore all of my advice about everything except the query letter and is finally setting up the lunch in the coming weeks where despite my ignorance about the publishing world I'm sure she'll be wasting an opportunity that any budding author would kill for, where the two men will say it's a terrific concept and other nice encouraging things to this yet-another-grandmother-that-can't-write-who-thinks-she-can-write-a-children's-book, pat her on the head and send her on her way, never to be seen again. I'd be more aggravated but frankly I spent a fraction of the time accomplishing more.
  • thatirishbast...

    Posts: 3523

    Dec 10, 2012 12:16 AM GMT
    eagermuscle saidA year ago a friend of mine, a beautiful grandmother who presents well and is tailor-made for the talk show and book store circuit, approached me to write a query letter for a children's book manuscript she had in tow and had me read. I knew nothing about query letters or publishing but I knew it was the most horrific thing I'd ever read. She then casually mentioned she wanted the letter written because when she told a personal acquaintance, a published author himself, that she'd drafted her first children's book he said he'd arrange lunch between him, her and the director of sales of one of the world's largest publishing houses. Then even more casually she mentioned an idea for a second book which I thought was so brilliant that I told her to stall the lunch, go with that concept and write a new manuscript, making sure that the execution was as good as the concept, because she didn't realize what an opportunity she had and that she had only one chance to make a good first impression.

    I ghostwrote the query letter, my first and only, based it on her concept and without any template, and she ran the letter by her published author friend and he declared it perfect. There's just one problem - the manuscript was worse than the first. While it took her months to draft a manuscript I spat out an alternate one based on her concept in 20 minutes to motivate her to work harder and faster to show how easily the idea could be co-opted and she began incorporating the parts I wrote that she liked into her story, making it even more disjointed than it had been. Aside from that she refuses to rewrite her original manuscript, saying she went through too many rewrites already and just wanted to get it over with. I told her to either go with her version or mine but not to stitch parts of my work piecemeal into hers, misrepresenting my work as hers. Allegedly, after a year of false starts she decided to ignore all of my advice about everything except the query letter and is finally setting up the lunch in the coming weeks where despite my ignorance about the publishing world I'm sure she'll be wasting an opportunity that any budding author would kill for, where the two men will say it's a terrific concept and other nice encouraging things to this yet-another-grandmother-that-can't-write-who-thinks-she-can-write-a-children's-book, pat her on the head and send her on her way, never to be seen again. I'd be more aggravated but frankly I spent a fraction of the time accomplishing more.


    I'd be curious as to who that director of sales was and who he worked for, since from all I've ever heard, meeting with untested, unpublished authors with manuscripts falls just behind Chinese water torture in 'Things People in Publishing Enjoy Doing.'
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Dec 10, 2012 12:22 AM GMT
    I'll let you know who it is when I know the outcome. He is legit, and it's a major, major house. The idea of agreeing to meet an untested author who'd yet to present a query letter or concept, much less a manuscript, for lunch via a mutual acquaintance struck me not only as a rare, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity but a bit strange. I considered it more of an opportunity for mentoring/advice than an actual book pitch or (gasp!) deal. She'd have stood a much better chance at landing one with my version, but then I'm biased. I just ultimately stood by her by providing her with the best query letter I could for a concept I believed in but an execution I did not. After all, even though I consider her incredibly untalented and lazy she may be onto something as her path to publishing is pretty simplistic:

    Write the novel after being prodded by someone else.
    Have that someone else write the query letter.
    Pitch the novel not to an agent or intern but a top publishing house director over lunch.

    I'm just trying to figure out if I'm missing a pertinent step, like sleeping with someone.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Dec 10, 2012 12:26 AM GMT
    Do I have to read this entire thread, or can I just wait until the movie comes out? icon_confused.gif
  • HottJoe

    Posts: 21366

    Dec 10, 2012 12:36 AM GMT
    I've had two novels published, and you're right about the struggle and how little money there is. Editing and working on the craft shouldn't be such a drag, though. Those are the aspects I focus on every day. My advice is to have multiple novels and short stories to rotate through, so you don't get burnt out from just one project. That, and read, anything and everything.

    Writing is a form of self expression, whether you're doing literary or genre work. If you're devoted to your craft, you'll find that the struggle is necessary. It's how we learn to get better.
  • AMoonHawk

    Posts: 11406

    Dec 10, 2012 12:56 AM GMT
    DudeInNOVA saidDo I have to read this entire thread, or can I just wait until the movie comes out? icon_confused.gif

    I'm willing to read the cliff notes
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    Dec 10, 2012 1:37 AM GMT

    lol, I gave up on the query letters, although I did get a letter written back to me from one of the publishing companies, a very large one. icon_redface.gif

    It was the chief editor and she loved the story. However, she couldn't get the OK from the.....number crunchers, who apparently want a book they're sure will sell enough to make 'immediate millions'. She made a great suggestion as she wanted to see the finished product.

    So, we went to an online self-publishing company and put it out in hard-cover (my sis is illustrator). From there I walked into Rain Coast books one fine day and their mouths dropped open. It did look pretty good. icon_redface.gif
    One of the editors saw it, picked it up and started reading it right there at the front desk. I made incoherent rambling chitchat with the receptionist. Partway through the book, the editor asked it she could have it. I said sure, and gave her a return postage paid envelope in case they didn't like it.

    Protocal says wait a few months and not call them...so I waited. At month five I called and was told Raincoast had just downsized a month before and had let go all of its publishing staff. I got back my book, and will always wonder what would have happened had they not just become a distributor instead of publisher.

    We're persistent, however, and ordered books by the box and handed them out to doctor's offices, dentists, etc. My sister gave the local newspapers copies. We got written up. One day I walked into a public library with the book and they asked for a copy. Then another library wanted four...some of the staff had them seen it in....their doctor's office, lol.