You’ve Written The Thing, Now What?

November 18th, 2004 · No Comments
by Booksquare

Soon, a heaping lot of people will have completed 50,000 words of a novel (we plan to be one of the elite, but realize we will be nowhere near finished). While we’d normally linger on the joys of revising, today we’re going to pretend we’ve done so and move on to what one does with a completed manuscript. We’ve heard of various uses: some use them as lovely, if a bit ragged, doorstops. Some pile them under beds, presumably as secondary support in case of unexpected collapse. Others use the blank sides of the pages for scratch paper. Some even put them in boxes in closets. This we do not understand at all.

Then there are those who, if we may, attempt to publish their work. This leads an author down all sorts of exciting paths, many of which end in a land called Rejection. Do not fear Rejection — it is a natural part of the process. Rejection helps you develop a thick skin — think of it as a tan for writers (naturally pale creatures, that lot). This thick skin will come in handy when you face such creatures as readers and reviewers. From what we’ve been lead to believe, getting published is as easy as…hmmm, looking back there is not a single clever way of describing the ease of becoming a published author. Surviving a medieval torture rack or suffering multiple compound fractures without morphine both come to mind.

Enter the agent. They exist to help you, doing all manner of wonderful things:

Instead, agents serve as first readers, skimming the quality from the dross and as such they are valued by publishers and authors alike. It’s important to remember that while they may do some editing, agents are primarily businesspeople, not literary critics. In “The Middle Man,” Paul Reynolds, whose father established one of the first literary agencies, tells how Thornton Wilder published “The Bridge of San Luis Rey” without even knowing he had a contract, and many contemporary authors are no more knowledgeable about the business aspects of publishing.

The agent knows what editor has just quit or been hired, who is in an acquiring mood, who has recently had a bad divorce or nervous breakdown – in short, who’s hot and who’s not. Assuming there is a market for your book, the agent should know where it is and therefore who to show your manuscript to. No point in sending a touching family novel to an editor who specializes in tough-guy detective fiction.

Yes, yes, to publish you must acquire one of these creatures (or not, but that would be another post). More than one if possible (we’re joking — they’re possessive little devils). We will allow you read the articles to discover how you too can acquire and nurture your own agent (hint: do not show your side until much later in the relationship — it is a given that you’re a little weird; no need to let it all hang out, so to speak). The second article offers additional advice, nothing new, but always worth repeating (though we remain skeptical on the subject of freelance editors — perhaps someday we’ll feel in an investigative mood* and explore this concept).

* – Investigative Mood: Wherein one feels like throwing money around without care or concern.

File Under: Agents