Seeking a mainstream publisher first continues to remain the best choice for most writers. And, yes, even with all the self-publishing options now available. One of the best articles I’ve read in a long time is by agent Howard Yoon on “How to Make a Bestselling Book. I believe that Newsletter subscribers will find this article worth the time to read. And perhaps extremely so, as Mr. Yoon does a fine job, in my opinion, of substantiating the reasons why writers should continue to seek a mainstream publisher first–and stay with it for as long as possible. Of the many fine points he makes, one stood out for me. It parallels my longtime mantra: “None of this [meaning, what writers accomplish] happens fast.”
Mr. Yoon explains that THE GOLDFINCH, Donna Tartt’s novel, which won the 2013 Pulitzer for fiction, and ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr, which is a finalist for this year’s National Book Award for Fiction (to be announced November 19), each took ten years from inception to publication. So please understand why I become concerned when a prospective client is distraught after 50 queries and no bites and throws in the towel.
I have a client who during this past year sent out more than 400 queries before he secured an agent. The signing occurred just this past month. I’ll be discussing his book in future Newsletters and placing this author’s opening chapter on my Critique Blog. This fellow is a retired journalist who enjoyed an excellent career and understood and accepted the “agenting process.” He was willing to take the time to fully source the agent market.
Easy? Of course not. But please read Mr. Yoon’s article (here’s the link again). Perhaps this will ameliorate some of the disappointment at not having Stephenie Meyer’s success at querying just 13 agents before signing with one and an ensuing seven-figure deal from a publisher. There are indeed other stories like hers (okay, to some degree or another).I routinely cite those I learn about in my Newsletter broadcasts. But each month someone wins the Powerball as well. However, what are the odds? And this is what it gets down to. Writers must make the effort to help their chances. This involves exploiting the avenues that are a decent fit. Even if this means for most of us sending out 400-plus queries. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but this is what we all signed up for.