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Submitting to agents

Hello everyone. Long time no speak. I've been very quiet on the blogging and social sites for months and months now, while I've been busily writing and editing book one of my sci-fi/fantasy series. Writing, editing, promoting, conducting workshops, pitching, and I still have to juggle a full time job, housework, exercise, and family and friends. This would be so much quicker if I could just write every day, but I also want to live. Which leads me to the next bit.

Two of the most often asked questions asked of writers are:

1. How long does it take to write a book?
2. How long does it takes to get that book published?

There is no definitive answer. It takes as long as it takes, and with most writers having lives and jobs, unless we can write full time, it is going to take longer. But with practice and a lot of discipline and ignoring friends and hygiene, you should get better and therefore faster.

I set a personal goal a few years back of having two books written per year. I have to say that I'm on track in some ways but not on track in others. I did get two books written in a little over a year but by the time I add in the edits for book two it will probably be more like one book per year.

Just to give everyone an idea of who much work goes into the writing and publishing process, I thought I'd share the timeline for my latest book:

WELCOME TO THE APOCALYPSE is an adult sci-fi/fantasy series. I have 3 books definitely planned, perhaps up to 6.

Book One:
Feb 2014            Writing commenced
May 2014           First draft finished, 118,000 words
May 2014           Editing commenced
Aug 2014           Book one completed, 127,000 words
Aug 2014           Submitted to publisher
Sep 2014            Followed up with publisher - received but not read, asked to check back in a few months
Dec 2014            Followed up with publisher - still not read, asked to check back in the new year
Feb 2015            Followed up with publisher - still not read, asked to check back in two months
Apr 2015            Followed up with publisher - advised should have an answer soon
May 2015           Publisher passed but provided feedback
May 2015           Re-writes began
Jun 2015             Re-writes finished
Jun 2015             Query to agents

Book Two:
Oct 2014            Writing commenced
Apr 2015            First draft finished, 124,540 words
Jun 2015             Edits will commence- once I have finished sending the queries out to agents.

I'm going to do things differently this time. I'm going to submit to agents first.

Does a writer need an agent? No. There are many publishers who accept submissions from unagented authors. BUT once a publisher says no you can't go back to them, and this can leave an agent with a reduced number of publishers that they can push the book to. Maybe they have a better rapport with the publisher and maybe they can sell the book, but not if a publisher has already said no.

When you send off query letters you must keep a register. I use excel so I can record the agent's name, the agency, the date I queries, what I sent such as query letter and first ten pages, what the usual response time is if listed on their website, plus the email address.

What is VERY important to remember at this stage is that you MUST follow the submission guidelines. Every literary agency has them. Some want five pages, twenty, nothing but a letter. The reason it's so important to follow these guidelines is that you don't want to give them a reason to say no.

This can make the query process a lengthy one. You need to read each submission guideline, you need to read the agent profile so you're sending your submission to the best agent.

For example:

Jun 6, 2015       Submitted to 5 agencies:
  • one page query letter x2
  • one page query letter and first 5 pages x1
  • one page query and first 10 pages x2

June 7, 2015     Submitted to 10 agencies:
  • one page query x1
  • one page query and first 5 pages x4
  • one page query and first 10 pages x2
  • one page query and first 20 pages x1
  • one page query and first chapter x1
  • one page query and first 50 pages x1

Well, I am off to write some more query emails (there are hundreds of agents I can approach and I will) so I will keep you updated on the progress. Just a quick note on queries to agents. I've discovered that they expect you to send queries to multiple agents. So don't bother with exclusivity at this stage, or at any stage for that matter - until someone is sending you a contract there IS no exclusivity. Still, this doesn't mean you can't tailor your query to suit the agent. Use their name in the email and if they have any interested in the profile it's nice to mention them. After all, they are human too.

If you have any similar tales I'd love to hear them.

Till next update, take care.

D L Richardson

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