I’ve finished my fourth draft. It’s a masterpiece (I think). Now what? Well, I had looked a little into this after the third draft. First off, no publisher will take unsolicited submissions. So I found a list of literary agents who Thomas Nelson (the biggest Christian publisher) deal with, and found that almost none of them will take unsolicited submissions either. I revisited this list shortly before I finished my fourth draft and chose three agents who looked like a good fit, and if those didn’t work out, there was a promising service that hooked you up with agents who work with Baker Publishing (the other of the big two Christian publishers), and these agents were actually looking for new clients.
Within a couple hours of finishing my fourth draft, I sent in a query letter to one of the three literary agents. This was, of course, a bad idea, but I was excited and got carried away. This guy had some good gimmicks and I felt like it was meant to be, but in retrospect he didn’t even work in my genre. He only took submissions for a few months out of the year, and if you didn’t hear back from him in 14 days, you weren’t going to hear anything from him. Apparently he gets so many of these query letters that he or his intern don’t have time to click reply to your email, paste ‘Sorry, not interested,’ and then click send. In fairness to him, he may feel that a rejection should come with a reason, and he doesn’t want to take the time to do that. I did buy his book about how not to get your query letter rejected, so it’s a pretty good scam on his part.
After 14 days were up, I saw that the other agents on my list didn’t want a query letter, which is one page, but wanted a full proposal, which includes what you would put on the jacket cover of the book, a brief bio, manuscript history, head shot, your marketing analysis and strategy, social media presence, personal connections, three page summary of the book, and finally the first three chapters of the book. I sent my proposal to the next one, and he came back in only a couple of days and told me he wasn’t interested in taking on new authors as he had just had a bad experience with one. I appreciated his promptness so I could move onto the next agent. He also gave me some good advice about why he thought he couldn’t sell this to a publisher—namely, it was still too preachy. I agreed, and wrote draft five based on what he pointed out (and I knew deep down). I toned down the preachiness, and removed a chapter that wasn’t pertinent to the story and wrote a new one in its place.
Next, I submitted the third proposal—this one to the king of all Christian literary agents, who even though he has his own firm, still takes blind submissions. I sent in a hard copy because he says he responds to all of those, but it’s past the time frame he gave for responding and I still haven’t heard back. I believe he’s sincere as I’ve heard from another first-time author who has dealt with him. Maybe I’ll get something from him, maybe I won’t, but I don’t care anymore. One day as I was whining to myself about how agents care about the wrong things, like social media presence, of which I have none, and not the quality of the work, I felt like God told me I was supposed to self-publish. I bet that last sentence looks as obnoxious to you as it does to me. ‘What, your books sucks and you can’t find a publisher, so you decide to be one of the billions of people who throw their crap up on Amazon, and blame God for this decision?’ This is how I felt, so I fought it for a while. And when I say, “God told me,” I don’t mean by an inner voice, so ‘told’ isn’t a great word, but it’s the best way I can think to phrase the impression I got about self-publishing, I think, from God.
There’s more to my decision to self-publish, but that’s enough of that. So now that I’ve decided not to try to get matched up with an interested agent (for Baker Publishing), I looked at my next steps to self-publishing and saw that I needed to get my manuscript professionally edited. I had done this for about 10 chapters after my third draft, which was helpful, but I wasn’t completely satisfied with the editor. This time I went onto Reddit’s self-publishing forum and found an editor who not only did line editing for cheap, but also ended up throwing in copy editing and manuscript editing. I still had some preachiness to extract, and I still had a (flashback) chapter that didn’t tie in well enough to the story. So I wrote my final draft, draft six, in which I applied most of his suggestions, including removing another chapter and adding a new one, and completing the character arcs, which had been too loose. I’m thrilled with the final product! In my next post I’ll write about self vs. traditional publishing.