That’s Queries and Agents to you.
And now back to our post.
The whole process of getting published, at least for a first time fiction author is, well, a carriage-before-horse deal.
Let me explain.
The common route to publishing runs thus:
- Write a novel-Duh!
- Re-write/Edit said novel
- Get an Agent.
- Agent pitches book to Publishers.
- Publishers acquire the book, via a monetary advance.
- Publish book.
- Hope and pray that the sales exceed the advance so you can cash in on the royalties
- Lather, Rinse and Repeat 1-7 (hopefully skipping step 3).
- Book gets edited some more.
Pretty straight forward, no?
Except for Step 3.
That’s where the carriage gets flung in front of the horse. You (the writer) have to convince an agent (through a query letter/submission) to represent you. The query letter is like a reverse resume, where in you have to convince the person you want to hire to come and work for you.
Well, it goes something like this. Agents are in the business of representing writers. With me so far? Good. But in order for them to take a client, they have to know that said client has a product they (the agent) can then sell to a publisher, because it is from the sale of a finished manuscript that they get their cut. That’s right, no reputable agent will ask you (again that would be the writer, for those keeping score at home) for cash upfront. They make money when you make money, or at least a good 15% of said money in commissions. No book to sell, no advance and therefore no commission.
It also means that the agent is a sort of gatekeeper, convince him or her that you (you know who you are, ummkay!) got what it takes, and they might take you on. Once that is done, the next step is polishing up your manuscript further and hunting down the publisher that will turn it into a real book.
That is the reason why the mythical query is so important. It is the single most important document (after the Manuscript and the Contract) on your path to publication. Craft a good enough query and you snag the agent of your choice. Do a lack luster job and your masterpiece will stain the bottom of your drawer/hard drive for a long time.
And now some music to sheer you up in your quest for eternal publishing glory! Enter Lily Allen: