As a writer, I’m constantly challenged to add to my character descriptions. In my middle grade/young adult novel series, Sammy and the San Juan Express, I constantly search for ways to define the protagonist (hero), Sammy. Recently a dear friend and editor, Vera Haddan, reminded me of this quote from Maya Angelou that helped me add to Sammy’s identity. This is what I hope Sammy does in her adventures, Sales the Deal, Presidential Bear, and the upcoming Alpha She Wolf.
It’s been some time since I’ve updated my writer’s blog. Last post I was traveling in Thailand and Cambodia, gathering information and inspiration for a new Sammy novel. Since I returned, over a year ago, I’ve been busy publishing the first in the Sammy and the San Juan Express series—Seals the Deal. I thought writing was a challenge until I waded into the world of publishing. Little did I know the work that would be involved in contacting agents, talking with publishers, and ultimately learning publishing and the world of marketing books. I’m happy to say, the novel is now available at www.sanjuanexpress.com, Amazon.com, and at Barnes & Noble online. in both paperback and Kindle.
Do first time writers have a chance in the world of publishing if they don’t know anyone in the industry? Little, I would say. I contacted almost one hundred agents, only to receive almost one hundred rejections, some, I should say, with nice compliments, but no takers. I gave up after that and want directly to online publishing.
I’m now finishing book two in the Sammy series and may try again with traditional publishing. I’ll keep you posted.
A mauve light stretches across my Necanicum this morning. Silver-green reflections ripple on the river and kiss a blue horizon under a waking pink sky. It is a new year, a new life.
A seagull swoops, another chasing, then twenty and more. Farther out, a cormorant glides, black wings spread wide. Two mallard ducks, flap wildly, skimming the water’s surface, and the glory of life breaks wide open, spilling across the breadth of my river’s yawn, as a string of glorious Canada Geese glide past—I catch my breath.
Stuck in time for the past two weeks, my writing stagnated, bogged down—rubber boots in mud—I am filled with renewed energy. This river, flowing for eons from mountain to sea and giving life to so many creatures, now extends a finger and touches my forehead as a monk might christen a new born—the promise of new creativity.
A small V shaped armada of geese swim their way up river, churning the silence of this brightening morning. My sight adjusts, from their beauty beyond, to a tree on the near bank, only fifteen feet away. My friend, a large blue heron, nearly as old as I, sits on a branch, surveying this morning’s majesty. “Good morning,” I whisper and bow my head, “and happy new year.”
WIND OF THE WILD
It’s a wonderful day to be at the beach. Driving rain, steady winds of thirty to forty mph, with projected sixty to seventy mph gusts. I’m happy to be sitting inside our little cabin, writing book two of Sammy and The San Juan Express, and watching the world blow by.
In summer, and some holidays, we let our cabin, on the Necanicum River, out as a vacation rental. Often guests will leave us with comments expressing amazement at the profusion of wildlife they’ve seen from the front windows. It’s unusual, however, to see images. Our last guest was kind enough to send an image of the elk herd that, one evening over Thanksgiving week, left them awestruck. It must have been quite a scene to watch over sixty elk meander through the yard and swim across the river. A good time for Thanksgiving.
In a writer’s critique group I presented my Agent Query process. I hadn’t realized how comprehensive and time consuming the process had been over the past three months. I thought it might be helpful to others.
I begin by completing my manuscript. It has had a multitude of readings over the past years by many fellow writers and friends. It is ready to send out.
I then prepared a query letter using research online at:
Many agents request a query letter only, but some also asked for a synopsis—your kidding, right? Nope, absolutely true, and when you think about it, with all the queries they receive, reading a synopsis before requesting a partial or full manuscript makes sense. I researched and created a two page(ish) synopsis of my 66,000 word novel. I used the same resources listed for researching the query letter.
Finally, having finished my novel, and creating a query letter and synopsis, I am ready to send them out … almost. Yet another step is acquiring or building a database of agents. (I’m estimating the next few steps take about one hour per agent, after creating the query and synopsis). I identify agencies that handle novels for my market, Young Adult and Middle Grade, and enter them in a spreadsheet. The resources I use for my agent research are:
- ARA—Association of Authors’ Representatives, Inc.
- Guide to Literary Agents—Book and Online at Writer’s Market (Subscription required)
- Directory of Literary Agents
- Literary Marketplace-Directory of Book Agents
- I subscribe to Publishers Lunch by Publishers Marketplace
- In addition to these online resources, I am a member of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators). Their membership manual—The Book—has a comprehensive list of literary agents.
Once I compile my database (I build it fifty names at a sitting), I research each agency to identify the specific agent I will query, their current authors (hoping to find something similar to my work), and personalize my query. I also, very carefully, read their submission requirements, (some want query only, some want query and synopsis, some want query, synopsis, and partial manuscript). I give them exactly what they ask for.
Finally, after this time consuming, but fruitful, exercise, I email (or mail) my query to the agent (I’ve sent out twenty so far).
Enough already, I’m exhausted. Time for a coffee break, then back to agent queries for Sammy and The San Juan Express.
Eighteen queries emailed and my first milestone—I received my first rejection email. My first for Sammy and The San Juan Express, that is. I’m not sure if I should be pleased or upset. On the one hand, one agent … wait, another email. Make that two agents, did not feel my novel fit their needs. On the other hand, this puts me in some good company. If the web is correct: Agatha Christie received five years of rejections, J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter)= twelve rejections, Louis L’Amour= 200, Dr. Seuss= numerous rejections with a note: “Too different from other juveniles,” Chicken Soup for the Soul=140, Stephenie Meyer’s (Twilight)= fourteen rejections, and one of my favorite authors, Jack London = 600. Needless to say, even the very best receive rejections, and even some of the very worst are published.
And, as Literaryrejections.com says, “Rejection is an imperative test of one’s character.”
Isn’t life grand.
Where did the idea for Sammy and The San Juan Express come from? Years ago I vacationed with my two children in the San Juan Islands. We’d spend two or more weeks on a 28′ Chris Craft with a small sailing dinghy in tow. It was magical watching how they adapted to their new environment. Two urban kids suddenly transformed into sailors, fisherman, divers, and explorers. During the day they would swim in warm coves, or spend lazy afternoons in the dinghy. In the evenings, with no television or radio, we’d play card games, and I would make up stories about pirates, goblins, and lost children living on the islands. And so, some thirty years ago, the seeds of The San Juan Express were planted. Many years later, they began to sprout.