The Literary Jungle

Moved, no doubt, by some forlorn quixotic impulse, last summer I hauled out a ten-year-old fantasy epic that was, in its original incarnation, quite hopeless. I put new tires on it, reupholstered the interior, considered but rejected dual carburetors, checked the fan belts and the transmission, tightened the bolts on the suspension … and now I have the first volume of a Young Adult fantasy epic ready for submission to publishers.

I happen to like this story a lot. Don’t know if anyone else will. I’m not in control of that.

The thing is, the book business is (a) a business, and (b) extraordinarily competitive. To find a publisher, you need an agent. And literary agents are frankly inundated with queries from wanna-be authors. Those who are not yet blind from reading submissions are lined up to buy flame throwers so they won’t have to.

The good news is, I do actually know how to write. This puts me in the top 10% of aspiring YA fantasy authors. Quite possibly I’ll be able to find a literary agent who is naive or desperate enough to sign on to represent this project. All I have to do (aside from working on the rough draft of Book II) is hide in the duck blind with a great big butterfly net and make noises like a best seller.

Or, I could be a little more scientific. Online I found a long list of websites of agents who sometimes represent children’s or YA fiction. A really long list. I had no idea there are so many literary agents! Plodding through the list, I’ve been weeding out the duds and noting the names of individual agents who might be right for this project. I now have my own researched list of more than 30 possible or likely agents … and I’m only up to the letter H in the scatter-shot list I downloaded.

The average response time for an agent these days is somewhere between 4 weeks and forever. Forever as in, “If we don’t respond, you may take it that we’re not interested.” That being the case, it would be foolish indeed to query one agent at a time. On the other hand, I don’t want to slam all 30 (or 50) of them at once. That would create layers of confusion. It might lead to bad feelings and ill will. And what if three of them all say “yes” on the same day?

Based on their web presentations, I need to go back through my list of possible agents (more days of research) and sift the list into categories A, B, and C.

Alternatively, I could self-publish. But that route has never appealed to me. I know it’s a lot easier these days than it was 25 years ago. I know that if you’re relentless in your self-promotion (and have a good book) you can make just as much money while selling far fewer copies, because you don’t have to cut up the pie, feed the big slice to the publisher, and set aside another slice for your agent.

Possibly my thinking is too negative (it often is), but it seems to me that if 50 publishing professionals think there’s no market for your book, maybe they’re right. So before I contemplate self-publishing, I have to head out into the jungle with my big butterfly net and make noises like a best seller.


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1 Response to The Literary Jungle

  1. Pingback: The Perils of Publishing « Jim Aikin's Oblong Blob

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