When I started publishing articles on Associated Content in February of 2009, I “met” and started reading and commenting on the articles of about twenty or so other “newbies.” Many of them (nearly all of them) have surpassed me in clout level, and I am truly happy for them. Someday, I will join them and perhaps make a buck or two on Associated Content.
For now, my Holy Grail lies elsewhere. I was bitten by the “I- want- to- write- a- book” bug in June of 2009, just about one year ago. Specifically, I decided I wanted to write a mystery novel. I had the kernels of a story in my head and before a week went by, I had six pages written (whoopee).
I preceded to hand those six pages out to my fiancé, and all my closest friends. I hounded them all with questions like, “Do you think it’s good?” “Should I continue?” “What do you think of the characters I’ve introduced so far?” Of course, I got a resounding positive response. After all, they all have to live with me on a daily basis.
Knowing that those responses to my budding mystery novel questions were naturally skewed towards the favorable end of the scale, I decided to forge on anyway. I figured if the book stunk, I would be justly bounced immediately by any publisher I attempted to contact when it was finished.
I did do myself one favor before plunging head-first into my mystery novel. I bought, devoured, dog-eared and underlined/starred many a passage in the book, How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them-A Misstep-by-Misstep Guide by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman.
Trust me, the authors didn’t sugar coat anything and I learned a lot from this fantastic book. (I warn you: There is foul language in the book, but it is presented in a humorous way to beat into the reader’s head what works and what absolutely doesn’t.) I highly recommend using this book as a guide if you decide to write a book of any sort!
Fast forward one year. It was now the end of May, 2010. I decided the book was DONE. I felt I couldn’t add another page or plot twist and I didn’t want to fill it with flowery, boring descriptions of every scene in the book. (I call this type of book, “eye-gouge” reading. I just want to gouge my eyes out trying to wade through the fluff and get to the end already. But I have digressed.)
Then, I found to my dismay, there was a problem. It seems most traditional publishers want a minimum of 60,000 words. Say what? My book was FINISHED at 40,000 words and some change. I frantically browsed through my 2009 Writer’s Market volume, and found just a handful of publishers who will accept a manuscript of 40,000 words, mostly those who publish books for young adults. Undeterred, I decided to contact my first publisher.
I cleaned everything up, wrote a cover letter (there are excellent examples of these letters to send to publishers in the 2009 Writer’s Market volume), a synopsis, double-spaced the first three chapters, and included a self-addressed stamped envelope as per request of the first publisher I targeted. I sent the packet off June 15 and prepared to wait.
The publisher’s online writer’s guidelines informed me that they would get back to me within two to four weeks if they were interested in reading the entire manuscript. I figured after four weeks, I would attempt to rattle their cage and contact them about it.
To my surprise, I received my self-addressed stamped envelope back, just one week and three days later on June 25. Before I opened it, I assumed it was a resounding rejection and vowed to shake it off and try another publisher.
But wait! The contents were surprising! The letter enclosed was neither a rejection nor an acceptance note. It simply informed me that my mystery novel must be between 50,000 and 70,000 words before the publisher will consider it at all. They invited me to resubmit it when I have accomplished this task!
How do I feel about all this? I have mixed emotions. It may take another year to expand what I have already written at this point. I have also decided that I will attempt to get to 60,000 words, as long as it does not become an “eye-gouger.” That way, if this first publisher bounces it, I’ll have many more publishing options available.
I have also added the possibility of publishing my mystery novel as an e-book to my list of options, thanks in part to a great article by Michelle Starkey: “Self-Book Publisher Goes Digital.” You can read her article for yourself here.
So that’s where I am, as a new novelist. I hope my experiences thus far encourage others out there to attempt to get published if that is their dream, too.
Source: Personal Experience