After the Draft: Episode IV, The Waiting Game
Good morning, everyone. It’s been two weeks since I came home from WorldCon San Antonio. It was a productive convention, and in the aftermath Any Port in a Storm was sent out to an agent and an acquisitions editor (my friend Michael R. Underwood has some smart things to say about attending conventions as an aspiring author, btw). The invitations to submit meant my little novel needed a query letter. There are many good resources online that can help you write a solid query letter, but I thought it might help if I included what I drafted up for my little novel that might:
Mr. [Name omitted],
[Name omitted] introduced us at WorldCon. I had a blast talking with you and everyone else over the weekend, and hope you did as well. As I mentioned yesterday morning, I’ve recently finished a new fantasy novel named Any Port in a Storm that I think compliments [Publishing House Omitted] already impressive line of sci-fi and urban-fantasy titles. So here goes:
Any Port in a Storm is an epic fantasy novel weighing in at 108,000 words, including a short glossary and character list. It was written with Adult fans of fantasy and swash-buckling adventures in mind, but would also be a great fit for NA audiences.
My work has appeared in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, The Crimson Pact Anthology series, and The SFWA Bulletin. I’ve also written tie-in fiction set in the BattleTech universe for Catalyst Games, and am an active member of SFWA. I hope you enjoy the book, and I look forward to hearing from you.
Patrick S. Tomlinson
And that’s it. I’ve reminded them of our shared conversation, explained why I think my work might be a good fit for their company, (which also shows that I’ve done a little market research) given a short summary/pitch for the book, given it’s length and intended market, then a short review of my past accomplishments. Query letters/emails should be short and to the point. Much longer than this and you risk an agent or editor glossing over your letter or skipping right to the next one entirely.
It’s been two weeks since I sent this letter out, and since then, nothing has happened. Well, nothing on my end. There has been no reply from either person, nor would I have expected one yet, or for many weeks or months more. Typically, you can expect that your novel manuscript is going to spend anywhere from ninety days to an entire year in the hands of an agent or editor before you get an answer. During this time, there really isn’t anything you can do to help the process along. After ninety days or so, it’s not considered impolite to drop a brief note reminding the recipient of the manuscript and gently asking if they’ve had a change to review it, but that’s about as far as you should push it. The waiting game can be the most nerve-wracking part of the job.
However, there is one thing you shouldn’t be doing while your manuscript cools its heels, and that is sit around waiting for the phone to ring or your email notification to beep. You’ve probably been writing and revising for a year, perhaps more by the time your book is in good enough shape to send off, so take a break if you feel it necessary, but don’t let that vacation stretch on too long. There isn’t much down time if you want to be a writer, and the best way to increase your odds of success is to get on to the next project.
As of right now, I have two novel manuscripts in the hands of two different editors. Since sending Any Port in a Storm out, I’ve also sent a short story to the Writers of the Future contest, written another short story and submitted it for an upcoming anthology, outlined two additional shorts set in the BattleTech universe, and started working up character studies for a third novel. The BattleTech shorts I’ll have done by next week. The novel I plan to have finished by the end of the year. This is not to brag about my work-ethic or boundless creativity. There are many writers that crank out far larger volumes than I do, of better quality. The point is to drive home the importance of not waiting around. Not only will the next project get your mind off the fate of your manuscript as it works its way through the Labyrinth that is the journey to publication, but it will give you yet another chance to wow someone and get that all important ‘Yes’.
If you put enough torpedoes in the water, you’re going to hit something eventually.
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