Pitching the novel
For those of you playing along at home, you may have heard me mention the novel we here at &yet worked on this year, Something Greater than Artifice, like a jillion times. For those of you who haven't: Hello! Welcome to the Internet. Please enjoy the heady melange of cultural experiences but for God's sake don't read the bottom half of anything.
Anyway. Something Greater than Artifice (or SGtA for you TL;DR folks). If you don't know the story behind it I'm sure it's floating around somewhere (subtle hint: that link takes you to the RealtimeConf site, which is both cool and awesome). Main thing is that I wrote a pretty good book and a bunch of cool people helped me turn it into a pretty very good book. Because without Amy illustrating and Jenn editing and Adam occasionally saying "that part with the thing doesn't make sense" this thing would be not as pretty very good as it is.
Okay, fine. More than pretty very good. Doubleplus pretty very good. Because–if you'll abide a moment of hubris–the book was actually selected as the Kirkus Reviews Indie Book of the Month Selection (caps theirs). Which got us to thinking that maybe, just maybe, we could take this thing which started as a conversation between Adam, Amy, and I and turn it into something greater.
So we decided to get the dang thing published.
(And you thought all we did here was make awesome codes. Ha and ha.)
But to get published, you kind of need to follow...The Process.
- Write an entire book
- Edit it a bunch
- Send a query to a bunch of literary agents
- Do this for maybe ten years
- If the agent is interested, they might request a sample (turn time 4-8 weeks)
- If they’re very very interested they might request the full manuscript (turn time 1-6 months)
- If they decide to represent you, they will send a contract giving them 15% of your total book earnings (20% international (usually))
- The agent will then shop the book to editors at publishing houses (i.e. Penguin, Random House, Macmillan)
- If the editor is interested, they will read the book (turn time ???)
- If they agree to publish the book, they will provide the author with an advance (anywhere between $3k and $300k) based upon projected sales. No matter how the book does, the author does not have to pay this back ("Woo hoo! Free ampersands for EVERYBODY!").
- The book goes through the editing process (turn time up to three billion years or longer)
- The book goes on sale
- A small percentage each book’s sale price (royalty) is used to make the up the difference in the advance. After the advance is “paid off,” the author begins receiving royalty payments. Most books do not make enough to pay back their royalty (but the ones that do make up for the rest of them)
- The author can then write another book and take it directly to his agent, who will more than likely help them turn it into something salable, thus short-circuiting the process (steps 1, 2, 7-13)
So: first an agent, which is a trick in itself. Some authors go their entire careers without landing one of these beautiful, legendary creatures.
Lucky for me, the first nibble came this summer, when I was interrogating a fellow author on how she acquired her agent. As we sipped beers in the too-hot Vegas twilight, she explained to me that she met her rep during a literary conference.
Hey Mike, my internal narrator said to me.
What? I asked.
You know that’s like the fifth person to tell you that, right?
The revelation was like a fat desert moth to the face–shocking but not particularly painful. She was the fifth in a series of indie authors–nobodies like me–who met their agents and pried their way through those oft-sealed doors via the expedient of going places and meeting people.
A-doy, my internal narrator added.
SO. The Algonkian NY Pitch Conference. Four days, four editors from major publishing houses, listening directly to me as I lobbed my best work at ‘em.
The NEW Process (As Dictated by Old Man Circumstance)
- Write a book with friends
- Edit and edit and edit and eat every bacon and edit and cry
- Get some book reviews
- Meet some editors, get them interested in the book
- Send queries to agents, letting them know that I already have editors on the hook, and that all they need to do is broker the deal for me
And with &yet footing the bill and sending me on with their love, I had just enough chutzpah to believe in that sweet sweet heady sweet dream of traditional publication.
I had a grip of resolutions when I arrived in NY, promising myself to write about my experiences every day, but I gotta tell ya, friends, there hasn’t been a single day this week when I didn’t walk back to my hotel, open my laptop, and then proceed to work on SGtA for another few (ha, “few”) hours.
You know, SGtA, the book we already published.
Because (and spoiler alert if you’ve never written a book or written a book well), writing is rewriting is rewriting is rewriting.
Brushing up on the novel. Removing about a half-jillion instances of the word “was,” since it has somehow been breeding exponentially in the interstitial period between Ago and Now. Punching up the language even more.
But most importantly: refining my pitch. Which–when you get right down to it–is just a query letter (which is itself a HUGE weak point for me). Just 200 words–less than a minute–to convince some of the biggest names in publishing that my book is worth the electrons it's printed on.
It was to be my biggest challenge to date.
P.S. Do you like literature? What about adventure? How about books where cello-wielding heroines kick all the asses and save all the days? Well then head over to Amazon or 0s&1s and pick up your very own copy of Something Greater than Artifice! I literally (figuratively) guarantee you'll love it.
P.P.S. Do you like reading fun stuff like this? Howzabout getting regular updates on the goings-on around &yet international headquarters? Of course you do! "But how?" you ask, all eager anticipation. "Shhhh," I say. "Don't worry, friend. There's a mailing list where you get get all the fun delivered to your very own inbox." Check it out below!