"Joan, when WILL I be able to read The Best Girl???"
Ah, this is a loaded question! I know that all of you are anxiously awaiting the publishing of my book, The Best Girl, and since many of you have asked me how it’s going, I thought it was time to give an update.
There are currently two basic avenues to publishing – traditional and self-published and I’m currently pursuing traditional. In the case of memoir, this means sending what is called a query letter and proposal to agents currently representing memoirs. The proposal is an all-inclusive review of the book and must include the following:
- An author bio, including why the author thinks they are qualified to write the book
- A detailed summary of the book
- A review of the target market – who is going to read it and why?
- A review of other books on the market that are similar, including why they’re similar and how well they sold
- A summary of any research that was involved in the writing of the book
- A detailed summary of your promotional plan, including links to all social media accounts along with data to show a growing number of followers/supporters
- A 3-4 sentence summary of each chapter
- Three or four of what the author considers the best chapters
- A short summary of future works, if any, that are planned.
I completed the proposal for The Best Girl about 2 weeks ago; it took me 3 months to research and write and is 70 pages long. The proposal was almost as challenging as writing the book itself! Now that it’s done, the next step is to find an agent. How does an author find agents? Good question.
I started by combing through websites and books that list literary agents across the country – there are thousands of them. The next step was to determine which ones are currently looking for a memoir to represent. Of those, I did further research on each one to make sure they are seeking the type of memoir I’ve written – some only accept queries from celebrities, some only if you have over 20,000 followers on Facebook, and others have even more specific criteria. Once these steps were completed, I had a list of about 300 agents.
I started e-mailing documents to the agents on 7/22, and, as of today, have sent to 45. It has turned out to be a slower and more tedious process than I anticipated because despite being told “every agent will want a proposal”, which I could just copy or attach to the e-mail, relatively few actually do! Some want only a query letter, some want a portion of the proposal and a letter, some want the first five pages of the book, some the first fifteen pages and an author bio . . . and on and on. The bottom line is that I need to create 300 customized query/proposal e-mails and hope that at least one agent likes what they see. If I miss even a minor submission requirement, the e-mail will be rejected. For instance, I sent one with the following in the subject line of the e-mail:
Memoir/Query: The Best Girl, Attention Jeff Anderson
The rejection came almost immediately. The reason? The requested format was this:
Query/Memoir: The Best Girl, Attention Jeff Anderson
Even though I had all the required information in the subject line, it was in the wrong order leading to an automatic rejection. Live and learn.
I’m tracking what I’ve sent, and to whom, on an excel spreadsheet, pictured below. The highlighted lines indicate rejections, the others are still pending. Some will respond only respond if they are interested in the project. Some will respond within two weeks, others up to six months. Some will never respond.
If my letter, proposal and other documents do spark interest, the first thing the agent will do is check to see that I’m actively marketing myself and the book – even though there isn’t a book to sell. The agents are especially keen on looking at the author’s social media presence. How many followers? Is the number growing? Do the followers post comments regularly? Is the blog up to date with regular postings? The agent will also want to see that the author is doing speeches and other types of presentations, as well as writing essays or short stories to be published in journals and magazines.
Should an agent still like what they see, they will work with the author to bring the proposed book to a variety of publishers, i.e. "shop it around". Should a publisher become seriously interested, the author may then be offered a book deal and eventually a release date is set. The entire process may take over a year.
Followers, this process is more than a full-time job. Add in daily household chores, a part-time job, a husband and two dogs and the result is one exhausted author. But – I continue. Why? Because I truly believe this story needs to be told. The issues that surround domestic violence situations have not changed over time, and it feels as though it is still a very hush-hush topic – no one knows what to do or what to say. I want to change that. I want to see the change at a grassroots level all the way to a national level. Publishing this book is only a start on that process.
Last week I had a friend contact me about a woman she knew who was being abused- in fact, she felt her life was in danger. My friend didn’t know how to help, the woman herself didn’t know what to do. I was able to provide a crisis line phone number and walk her through the idea of an order of protection. Wouldn’t it be great if women knew right from the start what to do, and that society supported her in every step of the process?
Okay – excuse me for going off on a tangent – back to the publishing part. Now that I’m well on my way with the query/proposal process, I need to get back to my regular blog postings and pursue the other marketing ideas. Please mark your calendars for October 3rd, 2017 – I have a special event planned that you won’t want to miss! The invites go out later this week – via snail mail, e-mail, website and Facebook.
Stay tuned . . . one day, in the hopefully not too distant future, you WILL get your chance to read The Best Girl. I promise.