Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Plan B

DSC00843_zWhile I was looking for blog posts to tweet last week, I came across a site where a blogger was particularly dejected over a rejection.

The blogger had met an agent at a conference, established a solid connection, and sent a manuscript to the agent, as invited to do.

The blogger is active in the online writing community, writes well, and follows industry news.

He’d been doing everything right, and he was getting frustrated. He mentioned throwing in the towel.

That’s a very natural response. I sent off each of my carefully-written, carefully-targeted queries with a good deal of hope and optimism.

When I’d see my SASE back in my mailbox, I can remember the sinking feeling I’d get. Some days I’d rip the envelope open quickly to get the pain over with—sort of like tearing off a Band-Aid. Some days I’d open everything else in my mailbox first…even the bills.

Either way, it felt like a punch in the gut. Particularly when I felt like the agent and I were a good match for each other.

So I wasn’t having any luck. My agent search was now stretching over the space of years.

Finally, I decided to go to Plan B. I’d keep the agent queries in circulation, but I decided to go ahead and submit directly to some carefully-targeted publishers, too.

I approached this a couple of different ways. I did submit directly to editors at smaller and independent publishing houses that accepted queries from the unagented (I usually got the editors’ names from the thank yous in authors’ acknowledgment pages.)

I also, I’ll admit, submitted to larger publishers who were closed to queries from the unagented…and a couple that were closed to queries altogether.

Sometimes, I think a different approach is really the only way to keep moving ahead. Obviously, you’ve still got to really make sure that the publisher is the one that fits your manuscript. You need to have a great query. You need to address it to the right editor.

But you don’t have to have an agent first. I’d rather have done it that way…but at the time, it wasn’t going to happen. And it ended up working out well for me—I ended up with a book at mid-sized mystery publisher Midnight Ink and interest from Penguin books, resulting in a new series. And, soon after that, an agent.

Change it up, go to Plan B. But please, don’t throw in the towel.