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Beginning of the Journey : Agents, Queries, Manuscripts

It’s fair to say that I had no clue what I was getting into when I first decided to write a book and get it published. Truth be told, I still have lots more to learn. I decided to write this post as I go through the process, sharing all the ups and downs. Hopefully, in the end, I will have a finished book to share.

I had a great plan. I was going to write this fantastic book and get it published in a year. Bold claims to make when you have no clue about agents, query letters, or unsolicited manuscripts. The only thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to write picture books.

I soon figured out that there were basically two ways to get traditionally published. You either needed an agent to represent your work to publishers, or you needed a publisher to accept your manuscript. Publishers generally require you to submit via an agent, especially the major players. Still, there are some, who accept “unsolicited manuscripts” that is, submissions from authors directly.

So, armed with this information, I diligently researched all the Literary Agents and Publishers that even remotely mentioned being interested in picture books. I eliminated the ones who wanted only author/illustrators. Don’t get me wrong, I love to draw, but all the talent in that department goes to my eight-year-old. I am patiently waiting for the day when she can illustrate my books.

Once I had my list of agents and publishers who seemed like the right fit for me, I started drafting my query letter. A query letter very simply is what entices an agent or publisher to read your work. Hopefully if they love what they read you get an offer of representation or publication contract. It’s pretty important. A standard query letter contains a well-written synopsis about your book as well as a brief bio. It often includes references to similar books on the market as well as outline why your book is different. Query letters need to be tailored to the particular agents and publishers you are querying. You need to demonstrate that you did your research into what they represent/publish and why you are a good fit. Online tips also mention referencing your connections in the industry, your writing experience, and credentials. In short, everything I don't have. Nevertheless, I persevered, I sent out about 20 submissions and waited.

The replies started trickling in with phrases like “unable to connect “or “didn’t feel that spark,” basically rejection in all shapes and sizes. I had only been sending out manuscripts for maybe a couple of weeks, but still, the more I read online, the more hopeless I felt. Some people were writing and sending out manuscripts for years and still no luck.

Then COVID 19 hit, and everything changed. Getting an agent just got a million times harder. After all, why would someone take a chance on an unknown in these times? I realized that I would probably have to wait for things to settle down in the world again before even having a shot. That may be a year from now or two or five. I didn’t want to wait that long on something that may never happen for me, at least traditionally. Enter the idea of self -publishing. I knew enough from my research to stay away from those “vanity presses".Those are publishers who YOU pay to publish your book. So my other option was to do it on my own and hire the experts when I needed them. Before any of that though, I needed to make sure my manuscript was the best that it could it be.


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