By Randy Susan Meyers
Writing a book resembles entering a reverie where the entire world is your playground. Birth, death, war, and peace—it’s all in your hands. Then you finish. It’s the next step and you can’t get a handhold anywhere. Control is gone. You are subject to the whimsical tastes of agents and editors who hold the key to your future.
The books below are for when the writing (seems) finished, and you are about to enter the dreaded world of querying agents (immediately followed by checking your email every .5 seconds) or for when you finally have an agent, and she’s passing along notes from potential editors reading which say: this book is well-written, but too quiet, too loud, too happy, too depressing . . . simply not right for our list.
These books are for you:
THE RESILENT WRITER: Tales of Rejection and Triumph from 23 Top Authors, by Catherine Wald.
Because we need some support! This collection (including interviews with Brett Lott, Arthur Golden, Wally Lamb . . .) saved my life many a night. Read and re-read with each rejection letter. This book provides rejection-tonic.
THE FOREST FOR THE TREES by Betsy Lerner
Betsy Lerner, an agent, a former editor, and a writer, takes us on a journey through the world of publishing: querying, rejection, success, and everything in-between. In a former blog I called her An Instant Shrink for Writers, where I wrote, among other praise: Clear as water, cool as the same, and welcome as a brownie to a food addict, her words entertain, teach, and soothe. For this writer, it’s self-prescribed two ways: 1) take as needed. 2) Read minimum once per year.
YOUR FIRST NOVEL: a published author and top agent share the keys to achieving your dream by Ann Rittenberg and Laura Whitcomb
This book takes you through every step from writing a novel to finding an agent to getting it published, from first sentence to editorial production—even how to break up with an agent. Warm, chatty, eminently readable—a book I turn to on every step to publication.
MAKING THE PERFECT PITCH: How to Catch a Literary Agent’s Eye by Katherine Sands
This series of fascinating interviews with agents illustrates how different their wishes can be, as regards writers and their query letters. Sands provides a grounding book to read before setting off on the querying journey.
HOW TO GET HAPPILY PUBLISHED by Judith Applebaum. This bible provides the steps towards getting published and is especially useful for nonfiction writers working on book proposals.
AGENTS, EDITORS AND YOU, the INSIDER’S GUIDE to getting your book published edited by Michelle Howry
A collection of enlightening articles by and about agents, editors, including deconstructed query letters for fiction and non-fiction.
THE SELL YOUR NOVEL TOOL KIT: Everything You Need to Know About Queries, Synopses, Marketing, & Breaking In by Elizabeth Lyon
Filled with advice we all need, including querying, formatting (yes, she’ll tell you what font to use!) and how to look at your manuscript with the cold eyes you need.
FORMATTING & SUBMITTING YOUR MANUSCRIPT by Neff and Prues
A reassuring set of rules for everything (fiction and nonfiction) submission-related. Because we all become get obsessive at a certain point. How do you write a synopsis? An outline? It’s all here.
ROTTEN REJECTIONS: THE LETTERS PUBLISHERS WISH THEY’D NEVER SENT by Andre Bernard
Because sometimes nothing but a bit of schadenfreude will do: Among the gems of editorial misjudgement included in the book are: “You are welcome to Le Carre – he hasn’t got any future.’ (The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, 1963); ‘It is impossible to sell animal stories…’ (Animal Farm, George Orwell, 1945); and ‘We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias.’ (Carrie, Stephen King, early 1970s).
Of course, most agent searches begin online. To that end, some of my favorites are:
agentquery.com: The best nuts and bolts site for researching agents (vis a vis their preferences, requirements, etc.) and for finding what they require with a query.
Preditors and Editors: Tops for quickly checking out if an agent (or editor, etc) is trustworthy.
Agent Turn Around Time: For the truly neurotic (yes, I used it. Time and again.)
Next up: Part Three, After The Book Is Sold