Every Writer’s Least Favorite Subject: Querying

And now for the post I wish I could have stumbled across on someone else’s blog some time early last fall:

Here, for your convenience, in one single, centralized location, I have gathered everything I learned over the three months (two in preparation, one in actual outreach) that I invested in seeking representation.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I can now happily say that I am one of the fortunate ones, having recently signed with a literary agent, and while luck no doubt played its role – so, I sincerely hope, did the quality of my work – none of it would have mattered if I hadn’t figured out whom to contact, and how to go about it. That is what this entry is about.  For those of you who are not writers yourselves, this may seem like something of a boring topic (unless of course you are the tinkering type who likes to understand how things work, in which case it may be of interest, and may even provide useful analogs to your own vocation/avocation), but for any aspiring authors in the audience… trust me, this piece may be a bit long, but it’s one you definitely want to read.

Before I discuss the hows of the process, however, let’s take a brief moment to talk about the whens.  At what point is it time to start looking for a literary agent?  The harsh truth of the matter is that if you’re a first-time novelist like myself, you shouldn’t even think about contacting agents until you have produced a finished manuscript.  And when I say that,

Where a novelist should be before commencing the querying process.  (By the way, I hope you don’t mind the repeated use of this graphic – just so you’re aware, given how long it took me to make the darn thing, I will be getting my money’s worth out of it…)

I mean a polished, beta-read, proofread, good-as-you-can-make-it, final draft of a book – no ifs, ands or buts.  To any of you who may be just starting out, this may sound like a bit of an undertaking.  And I hate to break it to you, but… it is.  If you don’t feel a true pull to begin working on a manuscript simply for its own sake, you should probably reconsider the idea.  Writing a novel is a long and arduous exercise even when you love the craft, and there is absolutely no guarantee you’ll receive any kind of reward at the end; as a consequence, if you don’t have a story inside bursting to come out, my advice is that you hold off on sitting down at the keyboard until you do.

Ah, but you are a fellow soul afflicted with that irresistible need, you say!

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One Hurdle Cleared

Today is a big day.  It follows a big email last Wednesday, a big meeting over cocktails Monday evening,* and a big exchange of correspondence regarding a draft agreement yesterday afternoon.  And then, just a few minutes ago…

I received a countersigned contract from Matt Bialer of Greenburger Associates!

It may not look like much (hey, my scanner is on its last legs), but it means a lot to me.

Greenburger (officially known as Sanford J. Greenburger & Associates) is one of the more storied literary agencies in the business, with long-time roots in the practice of editorial scouting (bringing European clients such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Franz Kafka to the United States), and a roster today that boasts some of the most popular authors in publication.  More importantly (to me anyway), the firm, and Matt in particular, represents some of those I consider to be the very best fantasy novelists currently writing, including one of my early influences, Tad Williams, and perennial bestseller, Patrick Rothfuss.  Oh, and as an added bonus, based on my dealings with Matt so far, he also appears to be one heck of a nice guy.

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Why I Finally Started to Write Again

As this is my first post, it seems only fitting that it should be about why, and how, this whole (writing/blogging/rambling aimlessly in print) thing got started.  If you’ve read my About and Biography pages, you know I’ve already touched on the story in both, but now that we’re here, at the beginning of what will be an ongoing string of commentary and vignettes centered primarily around my writing, I feel I should explore the subject in a little more detail.  I don’t think the account will turn out to be too redundant to what I’ve previously shared, and if it does… ah well, not to worry – subsequent posts will bump this one back down the page soon enough.

A classic of children’s literature – also an inspiration to unpublished authors everywhere.

First of all, I should mention that this isn’t really the beginning at all.  Like many authors, first picked up the proverbial pen sometime in my youth – although in my case I honestly could not tell you when exactly that was.  I’ve certainly been reading for as long as I can remember, and in fact, far longer than that.  According to my parents, when I was as young as three years old, I would continue story time well after they had left the room by reading aloud to myself (“I pull the likes of you?  Indeed not!“), and it was not long before I was the sort of little boy that could be left for hours upon hours by myself in my room with a book (or, to be fair, Legos).  Looking back, I now realize that this time spent retelling other people’s tales (and developing backstories for my Lego creations) must have been the first precursor of what would eventually become my ever more intense interest in spinning my own yarns.  At first these were always in the context of schoolwork, as creative writing essays quickly became my favorite assignments, but at some point in junior high or high school, writing evolved into something I wanted to do for myself, and that I dreamed of doing professionally.  So, I began to dabble in my free time, working on snippets of short stories, as well as some poetry – and, if I recall correctly, some of that early work showed a fair glimmer of promise, especially given how young I was when I produced it.

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