PUBLISHING 101

THERE IS NO PERFECT TIME TO PUBLISH. THERE IS NO PERFECT CLIMATE. PUBLISHING WILL ALWAYS BE IMPOSSIBLE.  REMARKABLY, POEPLE STILL GET PUBLISHED EVERY DAY.

FINDING AN AGENT

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at time. How do you find an agent? One action at a time.

Separate your publishing journey a into bite sized pieces of a publishing pie. For example, this is how I tried to find an agent.
  1. Made a AGENT FINDER SPREADSHEET. Agent Name, Agent Agency, Agent Website, Agent Email, Agent Physical Address, Submission Guidelines
  2. Bought Writer’s Market Guide to Literary Agents
  3. Asked my writer friends who they might recommend I contact for representation. I never asked any published friends if I could use their name in my query, or if they would recommend me. If your writer friends want you to, they will tell you to. Don’t be pushy. Thank them for their recommendation and add those names to your list of potential agents.
  4. Compiled a list of 20 agents.
  5. Wrote my query and tailored it to my five top agents.
  6. Sent out queries, waited two weeks and then sent out five more.

OPPORTUNITY COST

The value you place in your writing will reflect how much your are willing to tangibly and intangibly invest.

Do not be afraid to spend money on your way to publishing. Budget a portion of your income to your dream of becoming a writer. This is important. How much would you give to pursue your dreams?
  • Attend writers conferences. At writers conferences you can meet fellow writers, but also befriend potential agents or editors.
  • Becoming a member of your state SCBWI chapter (Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators)
  • Pay an editor to review your work. I’ve spent a couple thousand dollars on my work and the money was well spent.
  • Attend a quality MFA in Writing program. Bias aside, Hamline University’s MFAC Program (Masters in Writing for Children and Young Adults) is the best in the nation. If you are going to spend money on an MFA, spend it at Hamline.
  • Purchase a good notebook for journaling. Buying something quality will make it easier to write in.

QUERY LETTERS

Sample Query: modified from Linda Sue Park

1/6/2014
Sample Literary Agency
444 West 5th Street, 4th Floor
New York, NY 1001
444-444-4444

Dear Mr. Important:

Enclosed for your consideration are the first five pages of a middle grade mythic legend.

  • Title: The Boy, the Beast, and the Wind
  • Setting: the Inuit High North
  • Protagonist: Aput, a 15-year-old boy, named for his albino skin

Synopsis:

In a village haunted by the ferocious bear Nanuq, lived a white-skinned boy named Aput.

When starvation forces the village men to brave Nanuq and hunt on the ice, young Aput is left behind. Not wanting to starve with the women and children, Aput sneaks off to join the hunt. But, the hunting party is viciously attacked by the giant bear with razor fangs. Nanuq traps Aput, pins him beneath his massive paw, and before delivering the killing blow, stops suddenly and tells Aput he’s his son.

Aput returns to the village with the realization that his parents are not his parents, and that his father is a murderous bear. Aput goes to the village Shaman for answers. The Shaman, like Nanuq and Aput’s surrogate parents, will not tell him the truth. Instead, the Shaman offers Aput an exchange: “I am in need of three tokens. For each token I shall reward you with a story, a tale of the truth.”

Each token Aput finds brings him closer to discovering the unspoken mystery of why his father is a bear. But each story the Shaman tells reveals a more unfortunate and unforgivable tragedy, and suddenly the truth that Aput wanted so much becomes his living nightmare.

Bio:

I am a graduate of Hamline University’s MFA in writing for Children and young adult program. I’ve worked as a janitor at a preschool, mentored inner city youth in Minneapolis, and am the newly christened (drooled-upon) father of a seven month old girl (LaVonne). I write picture books, books for young readers, and middle grade. Currently, I’m revising yet another middle grade book loosely titled Of Hamsters and Wizards.

This query is being submitted to multiple agents.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Daniel Bernstrom
222-222-2222
** I by no means am a query master. But I did try several different style queries with agents and publishers and this style of query received the most personal rejections.
My book was rejected not on my query but on my sample pages. This was wonderful. I, like Linda Sue Park, believe the simple approach best. Thank you Linda Sue Park for this excellent Query Template.
** Make sure you follow the literary agencies guidelines. Give them what they ask for. If you notice on the bottom that I included a phrase, “This query is being submitted to multiple agents.” Some may say not to do this. But I never received a negative response because of it. I usually heard back from agents within two week’s time.