2013 and the Start of Something Big

With the holidays over, the big writing push is on. I want to finish the second book in a detective series before summer. In the meantime I’m trying to find an agent or a publisher for the first book. Depending on how that goes, I’ll have to decide by summer what to do with the project: keep flogging or go independent.

I’ve spent the last eight months learning about social media and marketing, independent publishing and e-books, forcing my mind to make the transition from “unpublished writer” to “unpublished writer welcoming the idea of having to sell one’s own books” to “unpublished writer on the verge of becoming an entrepreneur.” The concept didn’t frighten me so much as, with most things, it forced me to wrestle with the fear of the unknown, always a poor starting point.

One thing I know for certain: There are more options than ever for writers who want to get published.  Which may be why Vantage Press is no longer with us. I know nothing of the company and its situation, other than when I was 14 years old and had the beginning of the writing bug I still have today, I sent for information about the company and found it it was a vanity press. In a an episode of the television series “The Waltons,” John-Boy, the fledgling writer, chooses to publish with such a company, to find out that what he got in the bargain is a box of books and not much else. This steered me away from the whole idea of self-publishing for many years.

But of course things are different now, and the demise of Vantage may prove it. With the new year, I can see hard choices coming my way. My being 14 was some time ago. My desire to be published hasn’t abated. But the core of that desire has always been writing. Some will argue that a person isn’t a writer until they are published. I don’t know that that is necessarily true. But I understand the  point. There’s a certain satisfaction in seeing your words in print that cannot be found elsewhere.

So much too look forward to in 2013!

Happy New Year — what are you looking forward to?

Lions and Tigers and Queries, Oh My!

Well, I’ve stepped into the breach. Manuscript finished, edited, polished.

Now the hard part. The dreaded part. The part that sends most new writers back home to momma.

Sending out the query letters.

When I looked up query in the dictionary, I fully expected to see some variation of the definition of masochism. Doesn’t it feel like we’re being punished for something we love?

But no, query has honorable roots, going back to Latin: “Quaerere — to ask.”

Ask.

So my query letter is merely asking a question.

What a loaded question.

“Dear Agent: Will you please take an interest in something I’ve been working on for god-knows how many years, in the hope that someday before I die I will see my words between the covers of a book, with my name on the front, and whatever title some editor dreams up?”

If only I could send out such a letter.

As a friend of mine would say, “This ain’t my first rodeo.”

I’ve sent out queries before, lots of times, with no takers. And looking back, I didn’t deserve any. The letters weren’t very polished, and the manuscripts were mediocre.

Now I suppose I’ll find out if I’ve improved any.

But that raises the big question in publishing these days, doesn’t it? Does my success or failure as a writer depend on the say-so of literary agents? We all know the publishing world’s pecking order and “business model” and sure, agents are important.

But times have changed.

I don’t need to list the reasons why here. The point is, with today’s social media and electronic publishing, an unpublished author has many more options than ever before. Going through the query process is only one devilish route to publishing success.

Perhaps my future self will be an independent author. That does not change the fact that I think writing a good query letter and asking for an agent to become a partner in a published venture is a bad way to go. It’s an important one.