Thursday, February 18, 2010

Yes, Virginia, there really are nice people in the publishing industry.

Last September I completed the novel I am now shopping around to agents and I thought 'what now?'  Then, as though sensing my need for a compass, my sister (who read my book and loved it.  Bless those beta readers) emailed me a link to a writer's conference not far from where I live.  I thought 'okay, that's what now' and I went.

To me that was my first step onto the tremblingly fragile and at times seemingly insurpassable construction of queries, synopses, bios, agencies and agents that are supposed to help the unpublished author cross the chasm between where they are to the fantastical realm of the published.

The conference was well worth the time, money and drive, but the most important thing I came away with was a referral to a professional editing company, Precision Editing Group (the link to their blog Writing on the Wall is on my blog roll).  I visited their website and found that they provide a free, yes, free, utterly free, no strings attached, no credit card number required before they proceed, truly free sample edit of the first ten pages of anything. 

With no further ado, I emailed them the first ten pages and was so impressed by what I received back that I immediately contracted them for the rest of the project.  The edit I got back was great! And not only that, it was such a light edit that they gave me a fairly hefty discount. Not convinced of their niceness yet?  Just wait. I also got out of this experience an email correspondence with one of those mythical, unreachable, untouchables; a published author.  She was responsible for editing my manuscript.  Not only did she edit, she also helped me with the query, provided other invaluable advice and very recently, just because I asked, gave me the ungettable get; a referral to an agent.  During the course of all this I realized that she WANTED to help me navigate that fraught and frightening path to publication.

In my aimless and endless search of agents's and writers' blogs, I've come to realize this is more the norm than the exception.  Take for example Query Shark (also in my blog roll).  The teeth behind the shark belong to a New York literary agent, Janet Reid by name.  Guess what?  You can send her your query and she will revise it for free.  Granted she uses her sharky mouth to rip it apart (in a most constructive and helpful manner) in public, but she also gives you as many chances as you want to put it back together in a way that works. 

Nathan Bransford, a literary agent based in California (and so to my mind rendered slightly less intimidating) provides a number of helpful columns on his blog (surprise! also in my blog roll) specifically for unpublished authors.  He also encourages, like really encourages, new writers to query him. 

I've visited a myriad of other blogs i.e. The Rejectionist (hilarious), Dystel and Goderich (intimidating, but also helpful), Jennifer Jackson, she reads all queries she receives and blogs about them (encouraging and discouraging at the same time), among others.  All of them, despite the different angles of their blogs, provide free advice to help writers GET published. 

And sure despite this outpouring of kindness from literary types around the nation, I may still find that bridge to publication barred by some machete (or at least rejection letter) wielding scion of the publishing world.  So far, however, the people I've found to help me across have had nothing but helping hands and encouraging words, including most of the rejection letters I've received.  Even the form ones tell me to keep submitting, keep writing, keep trying and so I will.

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