Poised For Success or Rejection
If you know anything about what I do, do you see a problem with this pitch? First, I have never worked in science fiction and rarely even read it. This author had obviously pulled my agency and submission email from some place but was sending off a random email in hopes that someone would be interested in his material.
I responded with a couple of ideas and he wrote back his appreciation. Then he added, "You are the only person who has responded to me."
Once again this would-be author has pointed out the massive amount of material which is floating around in publishing offices for magazines and books. In one way, this author already has some strikes against him--and he doesn't even know it. If you are a novelist, your absolute last course of action in my view is to self-publish--unless you have a large platform or reach to be able to sell many copies of your book.
Why is self-publishing the last resort for novelists? Because to the editor or literary agent you appear impatient--and many of the self-published books in this category are not edited and poorly-written and poorly-produced. It is not impressive to an editor if you've sold 100 copies of your self-published novel. It's not even impressive if you've sold 2,000 copies of that self-published novel. My advice is to think before you leap in this direction.
Yesterday I sent out a tweet about bestselling author Steve Berry. I pointed out this recent article in Publishers Weekly and notice that Berry was rejected 85 times before his first novel was published. Most authors lack the patience and persistence to be rejected 84 times before finding a publisher. Are you poised for success or rejection?
Before you fire out your latest submission to a bunch of publishing houses, I have several suggestions. First, if you are approaching the publishers and the agents at the same time, then possibly you have eliminated yourself from getting an agent. Why? Editors keep records or logs of their submissions. If you get an agent, your agent will not be able to easily approach those same publishers. Yes, it is possible but you will need a whole new title, opening and many other elements to successfully make that pitch a second time.
I have a free list of over 400 agents that you can get here. But do not simply use this list to add to the glut of submissions. You need to create a plan of attack, then work your plan.
One strategy is to use John F. Baker's excellent book, Literary Agents: A Writer's Introduction as one education strategy. Baker, a long-time writer at Publishers Weekly profiles long-established literary agencies and includes information about the different specialties of each agent. A careful reading of this book will help you select some agents that you want to approach. Unfortunately this book is out of print but do pick it up on the used market or in your library.
For a second strategy look at what David Henry Sterry suggests in this brief video. (I put this out on twitter several weeks ago. I suggest you follow me on twitter if you aren't already). He suggests looking in similar books to your book for agent names. I met David several years ago and I love his co-authored book, Putting Your Passion Into Print.
Before you send anything to a publisher or agent, make sure you are sending them something they could potentially be interested in reading. Read their guidelines and see if your idea is in the range of possibilities. Just this step alone will save you lots of rejection.
Also download this free material from Noah Lukeman and study it before sending anything out into the market. As a writer, you have an obligation to learn everything you can about your craft and the business of publishing before you send your submission.
Finally persevere because at the end of the day, your submission still needs to reach the right person at the right place at the right time with the right idea. Plan to be poised for success.