Those who read this blog - both of you - know that I've started submitting Akeldama to literary agents. Literary agents are the gatekeepers of the publishing world. Yes, you could try to submit your work to a publishing house cold, with no solicitation from them, and your work will probably end up in the slush pile. If your submission is extremely lucky, some overworked junior editor's assistant might look at it. Nicholas Sparks was discovered this way, and it gives hope to everyone who just prints off their work and mails it off to a publishing house, but the usual course of action is for things in the slush pile to end up in the trash, unread.
But a literary agent has connections within the publishing world that could lead to your novel being read by someone with the authority to get it on a shelf at Barnes & Noble. It's exceptionally hard to get published without one, so these are the folks who must first approve of your work.
Literary agents only get paid when the author they're representing gets paid, so they're very picky about selecting new clients. Since they're overwhelmed with everyone who thinks they're the next Ernest Hemingway - or Stephanie Meyer, if that suits you - they can't pay a lot of attention to unknowns who have no track record of success. An unknown has to show them something so mind blowing that it grabs their attention immediately, or that person's work gets shunted aside instantly.
I've discussed the frustrations of the query letter before, and it plays in double here. The query letter is your knock, and sometimes you get to submit a few pages with it, but you never send a full manuscript unless it's asked for. And that's the most frustrating part. Most writers, myself included, feel that folks would enjoy their books if they could just get someone to read them.
When an agent, or several in the past week in my case, tell me they aren't interested, based on the query letter and a couple of pages that don't allow a book room to breathe, it's both annoying and very hard not to take personally. Even though this is never the intent, it feels like they're slapping a sticker on your forehead:
I will continue to query and do my level best to know that these gatekeepers aren't intentionally stomping on me. When I can start attending conferences - the next available one for me is at the Hawaiian Hilton next September - maybe I can make better contacts and get someone to give me more than a cursory glance. Until then, I keep slogging through.
Next time - a sample chapter from Salvation Day.