Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Why can't you just send it in to a publisher?

I was talking to my Mom on the phone yesterday. I told her I was moving on to the next stage of the judging process in a writing competition I had entered and she was happy for me, but more than a little confused.

"What kind of contest is it?" she asked.

"Just a small one that I entered." I then proceeded to try to explain the Third Campaigner Challenge excluding words like tacise and wastopaneer.

"Oh," she said after a pause. "So... what do you win?"

I told her that I actually couldn't win anything because I wasn't yet a Platform-Building Campaigner as I had just discovered there was such a thing as a Platform-Building Campaigner on the same day I entered the contest, but that it was very exciting to have my work noticed even if I didn't go any further in the competition.

Another pause, and then "Remember that story you wrote about the magic hat? I loved that story. Why don't you send it in to a publisher and make it into a book?"

Oh Mom, if only I could.

Do you remember way back when you first started writing and you thought about being a published author? I'm talking waaaaaaay back before you knew what query letters were and you thought agents were nice people who contacted you to get your novel? When you thought the process of getting published vaguely resembled finishing your book, sending it off in a beautiful package, and becoming a world renowned author  six months later?

I do.

"Mom, it isn't like in the movies. It's really hard to get published. Once you finish your book you have to edit it and then you have to write your query letter [an aside: have you ever tried to say query out loud? cause I have and I definitely know I'm not saying it right] and then you have to edit that and then you send your query letter out to a bunch of different agents who represent the genre you are writing."

"And then you get published?" she asked hopefully.

"No. And then, if you're lucky, an agent requests to see a synopsis of your book. If they like the synopsis they might want the first three chapters. If they like those-"

"Wait," she interrupted me. "Why doesn't the agent just ask for you entire book right away?"

"I don't know, Mom! There's a process. You have to follow the process. Anyways, if they like your query letter and synopsis and the first three chapters they might ask to see the entire book."

"And then you get published."


"This sounds like a lot of work, hunny. Why don't you just send it straight to a publisher or a magazine? You know that's how Stephen King got started. Writing articles for magazines. And I really think that story you wrote about the magic hat-"

"Forget the magic hat, Mom. So after you're done editing your book your agent sends it out to a bunch of publishers to try to sell it and then, if you're really lucky, it gets bought," I finished triumphantly.

A pause.

"And then what?"

"And then it gets published, Mom. Have you been listening to me at all?" 

"Of course, sweetie, of course. So where are you in all this? Do you have an agent? Have they sent your book out to publishers? Oh, maybe they should send it out to Stephen King's publisher! Ask them if they can do that. Ask them."

This time it was my turn to pause.

"Well, I'm not quite at that stage yet... I, um, am still working on finishing my book. But I have a good idea for a query letter."

"Oh. That's nice. I have to make dinner for your Father now. I'll tell him all about the contest you're in. Good luck!"

"Thanks Mom."


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