Matt King

author of The Circle War series

The Road to Publishing Godsend, Part 1

I finished editing Godsend sometime near the end of summer 2012. By that point, I'd put the book through multiple polishing stages, refined it using beta reader feedback, and workshopped it fully through the Raleigh Novel Group, a collection of talented writing buddies including Barbara Davis, Doug Simpson, and Lisa Rosen. It was edited, formatted, and scoured for plot holes. August Dillon was ready for his close-up.

Not pictured: August Dillon...but this is who I imagine playing him.

Not pictured: August Dillon...but this is who I imagine playing him.

Right away I had a choice to make: Did I want to go the traditional route of acquiring an agent and publisher, or did I want to try my hand at indie publishing and cut out the middlemen? I solicited a lot of opinions and read a ton of success stories on both sides. I ultimately chose the traditional path.

Here's what happened:

In September of 2012, I started sending out query letters. For those that don't know, the publishing process goes like this--you write a letter to an agent with a short pitch. If they like it, they might request a sample chapter or two. If they like that, they'll request a full read, which is the last stop before an offer of representation. Once you have an agent, they will start to shop your book around to publishers. Without an agent, it's virtually impossible to get your foot in the industry door. Most publishing houses won't deal with authors directly. If they do, they're so swamped with submissions that you're essentially a drop of water in a sea of other writing hopefuls. It's a system that's dying a slow death, but it's still the only system there is, so you either play along or you accept the fact that any success you have will be done without the help of professionals who have been doing it for decades.

The first batch of letters went out to a handful of agencies. Maybe five in all. The average response time is somewhere around six to eight weeks. All the work you've done--the writing, the editing, the years of publishing short stories to build your resume--all of it comes down to a busy agent reading your query in a stack of a few hundred other emails and deciding on the spot whether your two-paragraph pitch is enough to make them want to sell your book. The success rate is somewhere in the neighborhood of around 0.5%.

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Nothing came of the first batch. I either never heard from the agencies or they sent a friendly form letter. My usual method is this--if I get a rejection, I pretend that my feelings aren't hurt and then send out two more queries. Nothing like pulling the slot machine handle again just after you've lost your money, right? The power of hope compels you! You'll show that stupid handle who's boss!

Roughly 35 rejections later, I finally did it--I got my first bite. After taking two months to read a 10-page sample, someone wanted to read the whole thing. They requested 12 weeks to make a decision, a window I was happy to give. I played it cool while I waited. No truth to the rumor that I lost the paint on my F5 key during this time.

16 weeks went by. Then 20. After requesting an update, I got nothing. I let another month go by and then asked again. The agent eventually sent me a form letter. "Sorry, this isn't right for us."

A form letter?

Transient

After making it nearly to the end of the process, they couldn't even write a personalized response? That's like getting to final call on movie auditions and then getting a letter that says, "To whom it may concern."

"Golly," I said.

That's not true. What I actually said sounded more like this.

It's at points like these where I think most writers quit. Not surprisingly, this is also why most writers fail. I wasn't about to fail, not after all the work I did.

And that's when I got "The Call."

(to be continued in Part 2)

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