Venus on Mars

Multiple Submissions, Multiple Masterpieces

Posted in Author's Notes by janmillsapps on July 12, 2011

It’s not enough that I’ve written a great novel; now I have to compose a brilliant, mesmerizing, self-aggrandizing, and succinct document – the all-powerful, one-page marvel called a query letter. And as soon as I’m done with it, I have to turn around and do it all over again.

The super-helpful literary agent  I talked to last week (who passed on my book but gave me lots of advice) encouraged me to shop my manuscript around, widely and simultaneously. You should contact thirty agents and publishers at once, she said.  The only problem is that if every hopeful and industrious writer is getting this same advice (and they are), there’s a flood of submissions out there (and there are). The only way to swim rather than sink is to ace the query letter, each and every time. Multiple submissions, sadly, means the writer must generate a masterpiece with each and every query letter. Boilerplate copy just will not do.

Pumping out an original and  masterful query letter time after time requires unflagging energy, the brainpower to compose a freshly original letter each time , the ego to continue believing you’re really as amazing as you say you are despite contrary evidence that most of your efforts thus far have resulted in naught, and the courage and resilience to continue in spite of it.

I have lots to say about “Venus on Mars,” but I’ve said most of it already. I’ll spend two,three hours refashioning the same thoughts into a glitzy new package and then once I’ve sent it out, immediately I have sender’s remorse about what I should have said.

I ordered the book my non-agent (but the closest I’ve gotten to having one) says will help me – Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers Editors and Literary Agents. I never heard of this Jeff Herman, but I’m willing to give him a chance. It’s more-than-a-thousand pages lists publishers big and small and literary agents, and includes rousing how-to essays (on the topic of the query letter he suggests, “write one that sizzles.”)

Skimming through its entries, highlighting the ones that seemed promising brought me full circle when I came upon this what-we-are-looking-for listing:

“literary fiction…historical fiction, new fabulist and literary speculative fiction…popular science…women’s issues…”

Right-on accurate!!! That describes my work, without a doubt!!!

It was the agent who’d just rejected me.


One Response

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  1. Lyn Alexander said, on July 13, 2011 at 4:30 am

    Hello Jan:
    Been there, done that. I feel as if I’m a member in the largest club in the world, the Club of Rejected Authors. One wonders why the writer is treated by both agents and publishers as a silly, rather mindless adolescent. Where would they be without their writers?
    And the answer is…
    They are looking for the sure-fire, best-seller, million-dollar blockbuster. Preferably a series.
    Which, these days, means Potboiler. Preferably a series of potboilers.
    You do not write potboilers. I do not write potboilers, I write modest little historical novels, based in Europe, mainly in the period between 1900 and 1950. I have no mass audience. I have no agent, no publisher – though like you I still have hopes. Sunday week I sent an email query letter directly to a publisher in England. You know the feeling: you send it out, you put a mark on the wall, you wait.
    Within hours the publisher sent back an email: Please would I consider sending him the entire ms in a Word document .
    I sent the entire ms.
    THEN I thought to look up this publisher in Amazon. (Lord lord lord, am I stupid???) Yes, he has a hundred-odd titles listed on Amazon. Whew. He is legitimate. (Well, I knew that, I’d read four of his modest little historical novels.)
    A week and a half later I’m still waiting for a response.
    You know the schtick: the longer the wait, the better your chances.
    I just tell you this, and anybody else like us out there, that there’s more than one way to skin a cat.
    A publisher buys a manuscript. An agent buys the writer.
    My plan, if this publisher likes my novel, will be THEN to find an agent to represent me. Living in Canada, I will look for a Canadian agent. It sounds simple-minded, but that’s me. KISS.
    BTW, at least that agent gave you a personal rejection letter of encouragement with some advice attached. That same agent sent me a form letter, ‘Dear Author’…
    You must have impressed him!

    I am: lynraa
    website: lynalexander. com

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