Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Bumpy, Baffling Road to Publishing 2

In Part 1, I wrote how the lowly wannabe author (me) tries to attract a Literary Agent by crafting a catchy and cool query letter so that said agent will help me get my book published, remember? Now, I’m going to (piss off PETA) and whack the dead horse a few more times, just for emphasis, if you don't mind. 

In my quest to become a published author, I did my homework. And believe me, I’m no fan of homework. Actually, that’s not true. I like homework now. In fact, I’m addicted to homework, spending many, many hours on the couch, munching on junk food, expanding my waistline while expanding my knowledge of the publishing world and how I might be able to grab a tiny piece of it for myself. Just an eensy tweensy piece, please?

Fortunately publishing information abounds on the Internet. In addition to a gazillion websites with lots of up to date information, many literary agents have their own blog. One strategy is to make yourself one of the several thousand or so regular commenters in hopes that maybe the agent will get familiar with your name, thereby upping your chances of getting a hit on that (impeccably written) query letter you sent her. I tried this and when I was rejected anyway, I said, “[bleep] them” and unsubscribed myself. But you might have better luck.

Sometimes, I’m a glutton for punishment, visiting sites like, “How I Got My Literary Agent” for instance. On this site, writers who’ve been successful at scoring an agent that landed them a contract with one of the Big 6 (more on that in a minute) share the query letter that made the grade. The premise being that we can learn from the successes of others. Good premise, right?

Want to know what I learned?

I learned that agents like to go with Sure Bets. They’re more likely to notice writers who already have an expansive list of literary accomplishments under their belt. If the wannabe writes on her query letter, “I took first place in the Keyboard, Mouse, Monitor & Tangle of Cords Writing Competition six years straight” she’ll probably get noticed. Further, if the writer is already a published author with six best sellers to his credit with pending movie rights on five of them, the agent will probably want to see the author’s manuscript. Agents like to go with sure bets. If you think I’m being overly dramatic, well I am, but that’s beside the point. Consider that on December 5, it was announced that Amanda Knox had already scored agent representation for a book deal. And with the same literary agent that represented President Obama. See? Agents like sure bets. Famous people who write books are sure bets. Most wannabes aren’t sure bets. 

Now that I’ve gotten all of that out of my system, I’ll be ready to discuss Option 2, the second fork in the road to publication next time. Hopefully you’ll be back if I haven’t bored you to tears.

Just for fun, see if you can name The Big 6 New York Publishing Houses. No cheating, ‘kay? If you get them all, you’ll win………………high praise from me.   


  1. Regardless the situation out there.
    There is always room for creativity.
    Don't worry - I'm pretty sure you will find a way.
    Don't give up if that is your heart's desire.

    In the sea of green monotone forest - a tiny red flower stands out the best.

  2. Oh my gosh Grace. What an adventure you are on. It sounds scary and intimidating to this girl that's for sure. Perseverance, faith, and a joy for what you do will hopefully bring you success in this field. There is a publisher out there waiting for the gift of writing that you have. Hang in there.

    Love and hugs ~ FlowerLady

  3. Grace, I am quite interested in following this journey of yours. I am always wondered how people navigate those waters. Sending you best wishes! And..I can't name one of the big six.

  4. How frustrating I cannot name the Big sad is that...

  5. I think getting published is one of the hardest fields to 'break into'. I have heard there are places online where you can self-publish....just a thought. As for naming the big six publishing houses....ummmmmmm, nope, can't say I know them.

  6. Grace, I can't name the Big Six either,but I know Random House/Bertelman is one of them.

    You might try university presses --they often have excellent editors and some distribution and more prestige than self-publishing.

  7. I may know some of them from my advertising days. The head copy writer was always talking about her big break and frequent submissions. Random House, Penguin, Simon and Schuster and Little Brown. But then, they may not be in the top six anymore and I have no clue if they are all in NY. And I don't even have writing aspirations, (or the talent either). Good luck on your quest, it sounds like you just need to find just one to listen and read your work. You have to print the Top Six. You got me interested.


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