A few months ago a monthly Youtube show called PubTalkTV launched, much to my delight. Like anything I get excited about I started tweeting about it, sharing it on Facebook and sending it to my writer friends. Many of them responded with, “What is this?” Or later on, “Oops, I still haven’t watched this!”
The latter statement always leaves me scratching my head. Why? Well, if you’ve been a part of any writing community, especially on Twitter, the topics of agents and querying are always popular ones. Writers always have a lot of questions and frustrations about the querying process. So why then wouldn’t you grasp every opportunity to learn as much about it as possible? Let me rewind and tell you what PubTalkTV is all about.
Three agents (Jessica Sinsheimer, Monica Odom and Roseanne Wells) and two authors (Summer Heacock, Kelsey Macke) get together in their respective homes (except for Jessica and Rosie who have been sharing a screen) and chat with us the audience about all things publishing. From querying, to pitching at conferences, to the first three pages, every topic I have ever wondered about is covered. The best part is, you can actually submit your own questions for them to answer on air. Yay!
So many times I’ve spoken to author friends who are mystified by the querying process, who are intimidated by agents, and terrified of asking questions. First, agents are people too. I am lucky enough to count a few as friends and they are probably some of the nicest people I know. Second, I know I always say this but it’s not enough to just write your book and hope something good happens. That’s really only part of it. Becoming an author is full of seemingly scary tasks that you have to overcome. It’s a rite of passage, especially for the less than extroverted among us. I remember when I had my first book signing, I had to pinch my own leg to stop from shaking I was so nervous. It was scary! But I did it, and now seven book signings under my belt, I really look forward to meeting readers at signings – it’s one of the fun parts! And I know I’m going to sound crazy here but…isn’t querying sort of fun too?
I mean I know it’s hard, the rejection, the waiting, and repeat. But it’s also filled with moments of excitement, there’s so much possibility in that waiting, and even with rejection you sometimes get advice that can help turn your story around completely. There’s also a tremendous sense of community. You can connect with fellow authors while you’re querying, share success and horror stories, insecurities and questions.You can vent to one another without the drama a twitter rant will cause (DO NOT), and you can cry on each others shoulders, virtual or otherwise, as you receive yet another rejection. There’s something to be said for having the support of those going through the same thing as you. I know my non-writer friends wouldn’t quite understand the pain that comes with querying. No, it’s a special kind of suffering that really only a select group of people understand.
And on the flip side, there is nothing better than seeing a fellow writer get a yes from an agent. Especially after months (or years) of waiting and rejection. It’s a wonderful feeling, especially when you realize you could be next.
So, what’s my point? In PubtalkTV, the panel of agents and authors have given us writers a chance to ask questions, to listen to them talk about and explain things that could otherwise cause hours of agonizing (like “how exactly can I make sure my query formatting translates from my word document to the the email without getting all messed up?” Or, “should I send a rewrite on my MS before I’ve received a response from an agent?”) It’s also pretty fun to watch, and I find myself laughing along with their jokes and silly antics (query squirrel anyone?). It’s a way to feel like a part of the publishing community which can sometimes feel so out of reach, a chance to see agents for who they are, taking some of that scare factor off your plate as you send your babies (aka your MS) into the world.
I think it’s super important to use all the resources we have at our disposal to make sure that our manuscripts get their best possible chance of being read and considered. I think it’s unfair to bash the publishing industry, agents, and the querying process (which I see writers do A LOT) unless you have really put in the time and effort to learn the business of writing, and how to take your book to the next step by finding an agent. If you don’t read the instruction manual, don’t get upset with the manufacturer when you break the machine, know what I’m saying? And I know, I know: THE BUSINESS OF WRITING doesn’t sound anything like a passion, or calling, or glamorous career, but guess what? If you’re going to be any sort of author, there is business involved. There are contracts, and percentages, and conferences and meetings. And waiting. So.much.waiting. So if you can’t take a few hours out of your day to learn not just about how to write well, but what to do with your book once it’s finished, to be patient enough to let the process work without thinking it needs to happen on your time then what are you really doing it all for?
Are you okay with blindly jumping into something, knowing you might not get a second chance to take that leap? I know I am not. Although I do want an agent, I also want to understand what it is they do, how we will work together, and what I can do to increase my chances of getting one. I want to build a career, have longevity as an author. This is not my hobby, it’s what I want to do with my life, and I want to put in as much effort into that as humanly possible. I just see it as part of my work and journey as an author and if you want agent representation you should too!
There are so many submission guidelines, rules, etiquette to follow and it often changes from agent to agent, agency to agency, but one thing, in my opinion, remains the same: If you do the research, you will have a better chance of getting a solid response based on your writing and not a mistake you made during the querying process itself. So, long story short
Watch PubTalkTV tonight 8PM EST, have some laughs, learn a little something, and get one step closer to your next step as an author.