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Behind The Fiction, Past
A Fiction Column
By Michael G'Francisco


"THE END". There itís done.

Now, gazing at those two words, a sparkle twinkles in your eyes. Youíve plumed yourself on your skill in creating a "killer novel".

Then, you let out a brief sigh of relief, which is quickly interrupted by the thought of a perplexing question. "Should I get an agent or submit my manuscript directly to publishers of my genre?"

The answer, in reality, is neither because your work has just begun. Your next effort should be to create a marketing plan to sell yourself and that newly created "killer novel" to an agent or publisher.

And this can only be accomplished if youíre confident that the manuscript has been professionally edited and is ready to be submitted. Youíve spent months or longer carefully concocting a well-written novel, but how do you sell it as an unknown writer? Answer: A superb marketing plan and a marriage, if you will, with an agent or publisher.

The first paragraph of your novel has a hook to draw the readerís interest and youíve woven suspense, drama, action and romance with a splash of dry humor in perfect sequence throughout the chapters. The setting of your novel invites visits to foreign places and the hero gets the girl and they live happily ever after. Believe it or not, this is not good enough to sell your manuscript.

Without convincing an agent or publisher that you can assist in selling your brilliant work, itís all been in vain. Agents usually want you to give them something that they can sell to a publisher beside a well-crafted manuscript, and thatís a well-developed explicit marketing plan, which becomes their tool to grab the interest of a publisher. Then, the editor uses these tools presented by the agent to sell the manuscript to the publishing companyís board members who actually appropriate the money to publish your work.

Publishing is a business and its investments in authors must return a profit or at least present the opportunity to do so. Usually, this is the format that makes it happen. Unless your manuscript falls into a market niche like J. K. Rawlings, of the fantasy Harry Potter series, and like her are lucky enough to get an agent / promoter to market your work, you probably wonít become a "rich and famous" writer.

It takes a whole lot more than the love of writing to become a successful author. The ability to accept rejection hundreds of times, plus writing thousands of edited words, are needed to complete an apprenticeship in the writing profession.

Once you have completed a marketing plan, then you must put your expertise to work developing a query letter that will arouse the interest of an agent or a publisher.

How you present this form of introduction will give them an idea of your writing skills. This is assuming youíre not a published author with past successes.

Once youíve got their attention they will ask for a sample of your work. Again, be sure itís ready to be submitted. Because if it isnít, a rejection letter will waste that SASE that you included with your query resulting in having to start the process all over.

There are plenty of books in your local library to assist you on how to write a proper query letter. Itís best to keep a query letter to one page. Its intention is to spark an interest in your work, so that its receiver will request your manuscript. It is not a cover letter, which is used to accompany a manuscript.

In other words, a query letter is used to sell your work and a cover letter identifies the manuscriptís title and you. The less you say in your cover letter may coax the agent or editor to read your manuscript.

Please remember when writing a query letter that it is most important that your lead paragraph should have a solid impact. Make the beginning kick start the agentís or editorís juices flowing, so they wonít lose interest in the rest of your letter.

Lastly, keep focused on your love of writing because once you begin the process of searching for an agent, you have entered their world of "subjectivity". In other words, what tickles their fancy is most essential to them.

Here are some helpful hints to find an agent or publisher:

  • Attend writerís conferences to network with other writers/authors. If they are already published and have an agent, ask them to introduce you to their agent. Maybe, the agent will like your work and accept you as a client.
  • Join writerís groups. You never know whom you will meet. They usually have guest speakers, and here again is where networking becomes very important.
  • Enter writerís contests in your genre. They can be found by typing the words "Writerís Contests" into any search engine.
  • Visit major booksellers (Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, etc.) and see whatís hot on their shelves. Always try to keep up with the current readerís market trend.
  • Become familiar with agents and publishers that specialize in your genre. You can do that by obtaining current copies of Fiction Writerís Market or The Everything Get Published Book by Peter Rubie. If you canít purchase one of these books, the library has them, plus many other books on the subject.

Here are four basic publishing methods:

  • Traditional royalty publishers do not charge for printing a book, usually extend an advance payment and pay royalties to authors. Most major publishing houses generally will not consider an authorís work that isnít represented by an agent. Smaller publishers (presses) will consider manuscripts from authors without an agent, but vary on extending advances. The major publishers arrange marketing programs for their authors. The smaller publishers (presses) do not have marketing programs, but there are those who have readerís clubs and their own online bookstores to sell and promote their books.
  • Subsidy publishers expect the author to pay the bookís production costs and take little effort in promoting or marketing a book. Most subsidy publishers have stringent editorial standards. They are often confused with POD (print on demand) publishers. Their selling hype is usually more than is delivered.
  • Vanity publishers can be Internet publishers, which use text files to produce a POD (print on demand) book or eBook at little or no cost to the author. Some even pay small royalties to authors. Other Vanity publishers will charge exorbitant fees for a bookís production and render no assistance in marketing or distribution. The significant characteristic of these publishers is that they will publish anything for a buck and have no publishing ethics. Caution is advised when doing business with this type of publisher.
  • Self-publishers are authors who incorporate to produce, market and distribute their own work. This doesnít mean that they wonít hire other firms to assist them or handle the printing, promotion and circulation of the book. This method is expensive and takes a good deal of business savvy to accomplish.

I hope all of the aforementioned material will pave a smoother path on your publishing journey.

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