I know everyone is tired of hearing about the snow. I was briefly enchanted when I heard the snow was being carted off to snow farms–I imagined a red barn and perhaps a petting snow area, tiny snow animals frolicking (because any snow farm I’m imagining is cage-free)–until I learned that snow farms are merely huge lots where they dump the snow. Not so very exciting, is it? And, according to Boston.com, we’re expecting up to 21 inches more. 21. That’s right. On top of all the other snow we’ve got (I assume that everyone has already seen the Shaq/snow comparison?).
Wednesday is pretty much guaranteed to be a snow day. There’s been speculation around the schools that tomorrow could be an early release day or even no school. And if it doesn’t stop early enough on Wednesday, we could have a snow day on Thursday. Without these snow days, school is already in session until June 24. Legally, they can only go till June 27, which is just one snow day away. I don’t know what happens after that. And, more importantly, I’m not sure how I’ll keep my children alive one more snow day. I’ve run out of activities. Scratch that. I haven’t run out of activities. I’ve run out of the will to supervise such activities. And it couldn’t come at a worse time because my agent gave me a ton of suggestions for my novel and I’m supposed to be working on a rewrite. So shoveling snow is not at the top of my priority list, nor is making snow forts, snow shoeing, throwing snowballs, or even making hot chocolate.
Hey, did you see what I did there? How cleverly I snuck in the “my agent” part? You probably didn’t even notice. So I’ll tell you again, a little louder this time: HEY, EVERYONE! I GOT AN AGENT!
That okay? Not too subtle?
For all of you people out there who do not toil in the world of publishing, I will tell you that this is A Big Deal. I know a lot of folks think, “Hey, you write a novel. You give it to a publisher. They publish it.” But unfortunately, it’s not so easy. First you write your book. That’s pretty much the only given here. You write and you write and you write some more. **Then you submit it to your friends, your neighbors, your family, to anyone who will read it and give you feedback. Then you rewrite. And rewrite some more. **Repeat from here as many times as needed, generally at least two times, but it can go on for seven or eight times.
And now you have your novel. But the thing is, so do, oh 30 zillion other people out there. So publishers won’t look at anything you send directly. Once upon a time they did. And people still try. Manuscripts sent blindly go into what is called the slush pile. And once every blue moon, some editorial assistant might go through it. I know. I was once an editorial assistant. Slush was always the last priority. But, as I said, most publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. (From the Random House web site: “Like most big publishers, Random House only accepts manuscripts submitted by an agent–the volume of materials we receive is just too large to accept unsolicited submissions.”)
So you need an agent. Ah, the agent. The agent is, in a sense, the gatekeeper. Instead of publishers being flooded with manuscripts, agents are. According to former agent Nathan Bransford, “Most agents receive between 5,000 and 20,000 or more submissions a year.” Writers create a query letter–no easy feat, summing up your years’ of work and hundreds of pages into a single, one-page description that includes any credentials you might have. Then you send them out to agents you’ve researched (are they accepting submissions? is your book similar to something they’ve already done? do they represent the type of books that you write? You don’t want to send a sci-fi manuscript, for instance, to someone who only represents romance). The query letter is as important–maybe more so–than your novel itself. Then you wait. And wait. If they like your query, then they ask you for a partial, which is about 50 to 100 pages of your manuscript. And then if they like your partial, they’ll request a full manuscript (some agents just simply start by requesting a full; my agent requested the partial first).
And then, I got what is referred to as The Call. I actually thought I was being called to be told I was *this close.* Occasionally, an agent will call to give you suggestions and ask you to resubmit to them in the future. This agent who called me had tons of critiques for me. Really good suggestions. My fingers were itching to get started as she was talking. And then I waited for the kind let-down. But it didn’t come! Instead I got an offer of representation! Whoo hooo!
So now, it’s back to work. I have revisions to do! Lots and lots of excellent revisions. Once I’ve revised and submitted again to my readers and then revised a little more, I’ll send it back to my agent. At which point the process, basically, starts all over again, but with my agent doing the submitting. She’ll send it to editors she thinks will like the work and she’ll try to sell it to them. By no means is this a fast process. And there’s no guarantee the agent can sell your book. But the process is started and that’s all I needed for now. Not only that, but having an agent justifies the hours I spend writing. Today I spent a couple of hours in my “office” (my office being the cubicle in the back of the third floor of the library, where I’m not distracted by the crumbs on the floor nor by the siren call of the refrigerator), doing revisions. I am legit!
And I can’t wait to finish my revisions. You know. When the snow stops. In July.
(Did I mention I have an agent?)