When you submit to an agent, you use what’s called a query letter. They get a bad rap, but I actually found it fun to write.
There’s a chicken-and-egg problem with agents. You need an agent to get published in the trade world. You won’t be able to look out for your own interests without one, and many publishers won’t even talk to you unless you have an agent. That said, if you’re in the pool of unpublished writers who they’re an agent’s phone call away from greatness, well… get in line.
I don’t fault agents for this, because there are so many millions of bad manuscripts floating about, but even getting your manuscript read is an accomplishment at first. You have to start your search for an agent with little to show anyone. Thus, it takes a long time. The whole publishing process is that way. If I pursue trade publishing, I’d be lucky to get Farisa’s Courage in the world’s hands by October 1, 2019. (October 1st is the titular protagonist’s birthday.)
I haven’t ruled out trade publishing. I’ll pursue it if I’m offered a deal that better suits my goals. I care about readership and cultural influence and beating up the world– not getting an advance. (Advances no longer exist for most writers, but that’s another discussion.)
If I self-publish, I’d like to hit October 1, 2017. I believe that I can achieve this date while producing a professional-quality book. To make it clear, self-published doesn’t mean “half-assed”. I’d hire an editor (more on that) and make sure the book was up to “Big 5” standards before sending it out. If it takes longer than I expect, then I’ll wait. Quality is worth waiting for.
I wouldn’t have written Farisa’s Courage if I didn’t think it had the potential to be a great book. Outselling George R. R. Martin is… not what I expect, but within my 95%-confidence interval. (I’m not saying that I’m better. I’m saying I have more than a 1-in-40 chance.) Still, just having a great book doesn’t guarantee speedy process– especially if you pursue trade publishing. You’ll get rejected a lot. Everyone gets rejected a lot. Hell, I’d be thrilled to write a book that got rejected by (i.e., wasn’t bought by) only 99% of the reading public. That would mean selling about 1.5 million copies. (Selling 10,000 is no small accomplishment.) Rejection’s one thing, but you may have to wait a year before you find an agent. If this is because your book isn’t ready, it’s worth waiting. That said, I’d like to believe that one grows more as a writer by getting great work out in a timely fashion, than by waiting for publishing bureaucracies to recognize work as great and green-light it. I could be wrong. I don’t know this game, and the exciting (but risky) thing about the self-publishing game is that no one really knows how it works. This is a lot of words to say that, on self-publishing versus trade publishing, I’m undecided.
If I pursue self-publishing, I will probably be using a crowdfunding platform to raise money for editing– no matter how good you are, you need an editor– as well as cover art and promotion. I will, of course, have to convince the public to buy in to my idea.
On that note, it shan’t hurt to query the public as well. Here is the current version of the bottom (non-personalized) component of my query letter.
That said, I am at least two self-edit cycles and a professional edit cycle away from considering the work “done”. It’s beyond readable and, quite frankly, already better than a decent percentage of prestigious published work. That said, I’ve been studying writing and editing toward the goal of making it even better.
Farisa’s Courage is a complete, polished, 124,000-word epic fantasy novel. It tackles contemporary issues including race, inequality, demagogy, gender and sexuality. Although written with series potential in mind, it offers a satisfying ending and can be read as a standalone novel.
A girl runs through a city she’s never seen before. Her memory has been wrecked by magic gone awry. Confused and desperate, she knocks on a stranger’s door in the middle of the night. He identifies her by the scar on her left shoulder. “Get the hell in here,” he says, “before anyone else sees you.”
The next morning, she remembers her name: Farisa La’ewind. She stands accused of two crimes. One, she couldn’t have committed. The other, she did— as a child. A powerful enemy— a company controlling 70 percent of the known world’s wealth, and in every business from alcohol to railroads to murder— has put out a bounty. Civil war is breaking out all over the world. Her best friend’s in danger. She is in danger. With guns, magic, intellect, and a power that comes from a place of deep love and even deeper mystery, Farisa will fight to survive. She’ll encounter creatures including orcs, skrums, ghouls and flayers— not to mention spies and hit men working for her enemies. Yet the greatest danger, to her and to millions of others, is something in her past. Her recent past: eight hours before. If only she could remember…
Between 2011 and 2016, I ran a technology-industry blog that received over 4,000 unique hits per day at its peak. Some essays garnered over 300,000 page views. I covered topics as diverse as artificial intelligence, programming languages, organizational dynamics, mathematics, business ethics, and the economics of software. When active, my blog was considered one of the most important blogs in its industry (many of my readers were Silicon Valley venture capitalists) and it was among the most popular ones without corporate backing. Farisa’s Courage, for which I am seeking representation, is my first attempt to publish fiction.