So You Can’t Seem to Land an Agent—Now What?

In the past three weeks, I have received several email messages from individuals trying to get published. They are frustrated because they can’t get an agent to represent them. Yet, they know that most publishers, Thomas Nelson included, won’t consider proposals unless they come through an agent. If you find yourself in this situation, read on.

Road Closed Sign - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/archives, Image #6380129

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/archives

First of all, let’s revisit the facts. Last year, more than 560,000 new books were published in the U.S. alone. About half of these were self-published or “print on demand” titles. In addition, industry experts estimate that there are another four million manuscripts completed that have not yet found a publishing home. That’s a lot of competition.

Conventional trade publishers, like Thomas Nelson, receive thousands of unsolicited book proposals every year. We simply don’t have the staff to wade through these book proposals. Frankly, we can’t justify the investment. It is like looking for a needle in a haystack. The vast majority of proposals we get are not commercially viable.

As a result, we use agents to do the initial filtering and evaluation. This is one of the places (among many) where agents add value to publishers. They are in the business of sifting the wheat from the chaff. The economics of agenting dictate that they can’t afford to spend time with authors or proposals they don’t think they can sell. Therefore, we let the agents do the screening, knowing that if they send us something, they think it is worth the investment of their time—and ours.

The system is not perfect, to be sure. We likely miss a few bona fide opportunities that simply can’t cut through the barriers we have erected to keep our lives manageable and to ensure that our companies remain profitable. However, you are not going to get very far by railing against the system. It is not likely to change any time soon. I think you have to accept it as a given, and simply work the system.

But how do you do that, especially when it has led to what looks like a dead-end? I would like to offer eight concrete actions you can take if you find yourself in this place:

  1. Re-evaluate your commitment. Maybe you thought your idea was so good that agents and publishers would be clamoring to talk with you. Now that you have had a head-on collision with reality, it’s time to re-evaluate. You have no doubt already invested hundreds of hours in writing a book proposal (or the entire manuscript) and trying to find an agent. So far, you have nothing to show for it. Are you willing to invest the additional time and energy it’s going to take to see your book into print? This is the time to think soberly about the hard work still before you.
  2. Embrace the challenge. Getting published is not easy. Instant success is not the norm. And even if you got it, it wouldn’t be good for your character development. What happens to you in the process is as important as what ultimately happens to your book. You will need this same tenacity again and again. Trust me, once you land a publisher, you will face a whole new set of challenges. All this to say, don’t resent the challenge. Stop complaining about how difficult it is. Nobody cares. If you convey—even subconsciously—an attitude of resentment or entitlement, it will make the challenge even more difficult.
  3. Ask for feedback. Accept the fact that virtually no one will have the guts or the time to tell you what they really think. No one wants to hurt your feelings. This makes it particularly challenging to get at the truth. Whatever you do, don’t console yourself with some illusion that God told you to write this book or that you just know in your gut it’s going to be a bestseller. None of this will help you get published. In fact, both responses will turn off legitimate agents and publshers. Worse, they will keep you from discovering what is missing in your proposal or what is included in your proposal that is causing it to get rejected. Instead, ask, “What are the two or three things I could do to make my query letter or proposal more attractive?”
  4. Revise your proposal. If you are fortunate enough to get some feedback, then go back to the drawing board and re-tool your query letter and proposal. Whatever you are doing is simply not working. Shopping a book proposal is like writing direct mail copy. You have to find a pitch that will connect with your intended audience. This is also, by the way, why I would not pitch every agent at once. I would approach them one at a time, and revise the proposal as you get additional input. Like anything, you will get better at this over time. You don’t want to burn up all your contacts with your first effort. If you aren’t sure of whether or not your query letter or proposal has all the right elements, start by reading one of my eBooks on Writing a Winning Book Proposal.
  5. Widen your prospect pool. You can start with my list of Literary Agents Who Represent Christian Authors. However, if you have already worked through that list, you might need to buy the 2010 Writer’s Market by Robert Brewer or the Christian Writers’ Market Guide 2010 by Sally Stuart. You should also try to network with agents, editors, and published authors through Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and writers’ conferences. Sometimes, just the right person can give you an introduction that makes all the difference.
  6. Build your platform. By platform, I mean an audience—people who want to hear what you have to say. I can’t overemphasize how important this is. Getting your book into print will require a big investment on the part of your agent and publisher. Both will be looking for ways to insure their success and minimize their risk. If they know that you have already built an audience, they are much more likely to take you on. The good news is that it’s never been cheaper to build a platform. That’s not to say it’s easy. It’s not. But with blogs and other forms of social media, you can begin building a tribe of followers. Frankly, this is often as important as the book itself. You might want to start by reading two of my posts: How Can You Get Published If You Don’t Have a Platform? and The Importance of Building Your Platform.
  7. Resubmit your proposal. Yes, you can resubmit your proposal to agents who have rejected it previously. However, you have to be very careful. First, don’t send it to agents who have previously told you they don’t represent your genre or aren’t taking on new clients. You will just be wasting everyone’s time. Second, don’t resubmit your proposal unless you have significantly re-tooled it. Also, acknowledge that this is a resubmission and tell them why you think it’s worth a second look. The last thing you want to convey is that you simply don’t “get it.” Third, wait a few months. Don’t re-submit it right away. The market can change in the intervening months. Something that didn’t make sense then, might make sense now.
  8. Consider self-publishing. If you have built a following, you might want to consider publishing the book yourself. Make sure you do your research and don’t assume that this will be a cake-walk. It is not a panacea. Self-publishing will have its own challenges, not the least of which is that it will be up to you to create market demand for your book. (The truth is that you will have to do a good deal of this yourself even in a conventional publishing arrangement. Just ask any published author.) However, if you have the confidence, the money to invest, and a good marketing plan, it is worth considering this option. And, no, I don’t think it hurts your chances of getting picked up by a traditional publisher. It certain situations, it can help you. We offer this kind of opportunity through our WestBow Press imprint.

Finally, don’t lose heart. Most authors have rejection stories. I have at least a dozen stories just from our company. Here are three that come to mind off the top of my head:

  • Ron Hall and Denver Moore’s book, Same Kind of Different as Me was rejected by fifteen Christian publishers before we finally accepted it for publication at Thomas Nelson. It’s now been on the New York Times list for one hundred weeks.
  • Andy Andrews book, The Traveler’s Gift, was rejected 53 times before we (Thomas Nelson) accepted it for publication. In fact, we rejected it twice before we finally said “yes”! It went on to become a mega-bestseller, staying on the New York Times list for months.
  • My first book, The Millennium Bug, was turned down by twenty-six publishers. I had almost completely given up when Regnery Publishing finally agreed to publish it. It ended up on the New York Times list for forty-two weeks.

Rejection is part of the process. It doesn’t have to be the end. Like I used to tell my children, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

P.S. Rachelle Gardner, one of the premier Christian agents in our industry, wrote on the same topic today. Her post is called “Wake Up and Smell the Coffee.” I love her kick-in-the-pants honesty. Her post provides some much-needed perspective.

Question: If you are a published author, what other advice would you offer to authors who are in this situation?
Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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  • Colleen Coble

    What great advice, Mike! One really important thing you mentioned is the refining process that goes into the struggle. It took 7 years for me to write my first novel and get it accepted. I believe I wouldn't be the same person today without the changes caused by those rejections and the struggle to believe in myself.

  • Mark I. Sutherland

    Great advice. I had the advantage when writing my first non-fiction book of having an already existing relationship with a publisher and some big names collaborating with me. But my next book will be fiction so I will be working within the system, or self-publishing if needed. So the advice above is appreciated. Bottom line, write for the joy of it, and if your work gets read my more than your friends and family then that's a plus.

  • http://www.rachelhauck.com Rachel Hauck

    Mike, I think you summed it up really well. Great advice. I might add that every author has a unique journey designed by God for them. If you gathered testimonies from authors, you'd discover each one has a defined moment when God touched their heart about writing, opened a door, promoted them in some way and encouraged the journey.

    Getting published can be a hard, frustrating process. Staying published is another thing. It can be more frustrating with more heartache than getting published in the first place. You can gather author testimonies on that issue too and find all kinds of success and failures. Know that you want to do this because the journey doesn't get easier once you sign a contract.

    I think some people want to be published because they don't know what else to do. Writing seems to be the low road to someone's 15 minutes of fame. I think getting a few minutes on American Idol try outs might be easier.

    Keep your ear to the heartbeat of Jesus to discover your destiny. If it's writing, go after it hard. If it's not writing, go after whatever He tells you to do with all your heart.

    Rachel

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Chris_Tomlinson Chris_Tomlinson

      Rachel,

      What are some of the pitfalls or frustrations of staying published?

      ct
      My recent post There Must Be More Than This

    • Kathleen L. Maher

      Rachel, you are spot on. I read today on Seekerville about an author who wrote in isolation for 25 years, and when she finally queried, it only took her 3 months to get a 3-book contract. Each journey is unique and God-engineered. Life is the great equalizer.

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  • http://www.MarriageStudies.com Dr. David Frisbie

    Michael, this advice is spot-on. Thank you for this clear, immediately useful post.

    Lisa and I would add: Get out there and attend writers conferences and events. Go to the Jerry B. Jenkins writers guild event in Colorado; attend Mt. Herman or the San Diego Christian Writers Guild conference. Go to places where editors, agents, publishers, and writers gather. Bring small samples of your best work, but come prepared to listen and learn — not to tell the world how talented you are.

    Attending even a handful of these conferences will give you a broader understanding of the market, the process, and the key players. And — by the grace of God — you may get 15 minutes with an acquisitions editor who understands your story, and who wants to help you tell it.

  • http://twitter.com/kenstoll @kenstoll

    I needed this today, thanks for your helpful advice Michael.

  • http://collectiveinkwell.com Sean Platt

    Excellent and concise, Michael. Number Six and Eight seem to go hand and hand. These days, building an audience is paramount. Not only will you have a better shot at getting a response, you will have far less risk if you end up taking the self publishing road.
    My recent post Dreaming of Becoming an Author? You’re Not Alone.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/RachelleGardner RachelleGardner

    Terrific post, Mike. I guess we're both thinking along the same lines – I posted on the same topic today, although your approach is kinder, gentler, and much more informative. Thanks!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

    That is a great perspective!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

    Rachel is also a published, best-selling author. This is great advice. It provides a much needed corrective to a common misperception: that getting a book published is the low road to fame.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

    I couldn't agree more. Getting published is like anything else. You have to work hard at networking.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

    I agree. In fact, I think this should be every writer's first priority. Writing a blog will help you find your voice, give you immediate feedback on your writing, and allow you to grow your audience.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

    Thanks, Jenni. That would be great!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

    I loved your post. I commented on it and added a link at the end of my post above. I love your simple honesty.

  • Dennis

    Thank you for this post. I think we all have to remember that if it were easy to make money being a writer everyone would do it. Writing is an art and a very competitive field. Embracing the challenge and making the needed investments are a huge part of success in this and any worthwhile endeavor.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/stephenbateman stephenbateman

    Hmm my grandma wrote a book and tried to get it published for years, agent, proposal, the whole shebang….eventually she had to give up.

    I guess it's just part of publishing reality…
    My recent post Primal Released today

  • http://www.moonboatcafe.com Cassandra Frear

    Compassionate, informed, and wise.

  • http://forrest-long.blogspot.com Forrest Long

    Thanks alot for that realisatic assessment of getting published and thos practical ideas. I have a file of rejection letters, most very nice and polite, but still rejections. I keep at it, not because I like rejection letters, but because I know that one of these times I will be successful. My first published book was sent to 22 publishers, resulting in 22 rejection letters, before it was published by the 23, Regina Orthodox Press. Now I have three more manuscripts that are in the same process. Am I ready to give up? Not at all!

  • http://www.themotherlode.wordpress.com Theresa Lode

    I love how you freely dispense this wealth of knowledge. Thank you so very much. I've been plodding away for many years now as a freelancer and recently finished my 2nd eBook. ("The Mother Lode's Guide to putting the Fun Back in DysFUNction." Thanks for asking. ;) )

    It's all a process isn't it? I feel like it's only been the past few years that I've really found my voice. And peace that if my message is for an audience of One….or a million…so be it. (Wayne Jacobsen, publisher behind The Shack has a very different approach to platform building and share it on a recent podcast.)

    Thanks again for sharing!
    My recent post Aliens will eat the fatties first!

  • http://www.serenitybohon.com Serenity Bohon

    Under "reevaluate your commitment" I would add that we need to evaluate our commitment to the specific project we're trying to get published. I got several rejections from editors on my first agented projected – all with very similar reasons for rejection. So I turned to a new project, and I'll turn to a new one after that. It's all helping me become a better writer, MUCH more patient and content with the journey, and every step is helping me become more familiar with the industry. Really a great post!
    My recent post The Joy of Guernsey and Other Late Discoveries

  • http://michaelsgray.com Michael Gray

    Excellent guidance as always.

    May I ask a quick question about memoir? I have submitted samples of my work-in-progress to a number of people in the writing industry (authors/editors/etc.), and have been told that my writing skills are excellent, but that I should abandon the genre of memoir altogether because that is probably the most difficult genre to break into (unless you’re famous, of course).

    Would you agree that I am getting sound advice when I am warned to steer clear of memoir because the publishing industry probably wouldn’t be interested without my being a clebrity?

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      No, I don't agree with this advice. Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller was a memoir. He was completely unknown when he wrote it. The only genre that I advise people to steer clear of is poetry.

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/MichaelSGray MichaelSGray

        Well then I'm in big trouble because I'm writing the next best-selling poetic memoir.

        Just kidding.

        To be honest, I'm surprised to hear you say that when so many others have advised against it. Now you've sparked my interest again. Hmmmmm…..

        [wheels begin turning once again]
        My recent post A Company of Heroes

    • http://michaelsgray.com Michael Gray

      …and by "clebrity" I mean "celebrity". =/ If only one could edit comments after having sent them. Grrr…

  • http://www.joetye.com Joe Tye

    With today's computer design and print-on-demand technology, a writer can self-publish a book for well under a thousand dollars. Especially for the first-time writer, this proves (to both yourself and the prospective agent) that you have the ability and determination to see the project through to completion. Then promoting your self-published book gives you the chance to prove (to both yourself and the prospective agent) that you have or can create a platform. This also gives you valuable experience that you will need to help your publisher sell your book when that day comes. The experience I’ve gained from self-publishing six books has been invaluable in helping me work with my agent and with book publishers.

  • http://www.agfchurch.org/ Darryl Harris

    Great advice for a horrible system. Definitely the reason so many, including myself are turning to self publishing.
    As a pastor of a fairly large church, I start with a large base that will easily recoup my initial investment. Locally I have a pretty large market and the book has been very successful. Agents show interest but it's not worth the hassle. I do feel it would do very well nationally, but it is not worth the agent, publisher hassle. That's a shame. In the Christian market the main criteria should be, will this book minister to the masses. It shouldn't take jumping through this many hoops to determine that. I do believe it is even more difficult for minority authors. I'm just thankful that many can be ministered to, and the endeavor can be profitable as well. This won't be popular and the journey can be worth it in the end, but the goal is to do your best for the Lord, not necessarily the almighty dollar. Thanks for the great consistent advice!

  • http://twitter.com/Jenni_Burke @Jenni_Burke

    Good, frank advice for aspiring authors, Mike. Most of the proposals/queries our agency passes on would have a much better chance of success if the author had worked through these first 6 steps before submitting to us. ____I think we'll begin including this link in our pass emails!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

    Excellent point. I agree.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

    For those of you who don’t know, Colleen has written thirty-five novels and novellas. They have won or finaled in awards ranging from the Romance Writers of America prestigious RITA, the Holt Medallion, the ACFW Book of the Year, the Daphne du Maurier, National Readers’ Choice, the Booksellers Best, and the 2009 Best Books of Indiana-Fiction award. She is a best-selling author.

    Thanks for commenting, Colleen!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/patriciazell patriciazell

    I love the freedom of writing my book through my blog (in part, thanks to you, Michael). Before my blog, every time I put together my proposal, inevitably my voice was way too professorial. Now, I'm writing like I'm having a conversation–much, much better! I'm enjoying writing my posts so much that I don't even care that much about publishing any more (what happens, happens). And, my motive for writing has changed somewhat since I developed my brand. It's no longer about me and my success–it's about people being encouraged with the truth of God's absolute love which is perfect, complete, and real!

    My recent post #25 UNDERSTANDING CHRIST: HIS TRIUMPHANT CRUCIFIXION PART 2

  • http://www.joelleanthony.com Joelle Anthony

    Read. Read. Read. I'm a big fan of intense reading within your genre (think years, not weeks), but others say it's better for them to read outside their genre. Either way READ. I think the biggest misconception about reading that unpublished writers have is that it takes away from you writing time – that you're wasting time. Personally, I think you'd be better reading for a year without writing a word than trying to write without reading.
    My recent post Wild Card Wednesday – an interview with James Dashner

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

    I know. Blogging really does spoil you. The immediate feedback and the ease of getting your thoughts in front of people is really fun.

  • http://www.twitter.com/danieldecker Daniel Decker

    So true. Side note… I think new authors also need to be reminded that even IF they do get published by a traditional publisher it does not guarantee their success. Had a guy email me today that was very upset with his past, well-known publisher. I asked why. He said the publisher over promised and under delivered (via marketing of the book). After digging a little deeper… I found the publisher did a LOT (the author did very little). Sadly, the book never took off. Consumers just didn't embrace it. There is no guarantee. One point is clear though… IF you want to be a successful author YOU must be willing to work for it. Don't expect the publisher or the agent to do it all the heavy lifting for you. They help provide access.

  • Randy Bosch

    Yes, rejection is part of the process. And how many examples other than those given in this post were rejected numerous times but ended up not only published, but best-sellers and the start of long, successful writing careers? Too many submittals to be reviewed – certainly understandable, and a process is necessary. However, given the number of "misses" later deemed "hits", clearly the standards need to be reformed!! How many "best sellers" do you want to miss in the (necessary) effort to avoid pap?
    Thomas Nelson has great standards! How about recapitulation/reformation/renaissance of them to raise you many more steps above the "competition"?

  • Ron Ash

    Good post. I think many approach publishing the same way they go about playing the lottery. Your thoughts on agents being a filter echoed one of my previous posts on the same subject. It is a process and failure is only failure when it causes us to quit.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Chris_Tomlinson Chris_Tomlinson

    Great encouragement, Mike. I wrote an email response to an aspiring author today so I'm in the mood for dispensing unsolicited advice =). I'm quite new to the publishing industry and have learned from so many of you, so it's almost foolish to think I have much to offer at this point. But here's what I've been taught or learned so far:

    1. Find your voice. If the pitches haven't sold, it may be because you're singing the wrong song (try to write something new instead) or singing off tune (try to say it in a way you've never said it before). Finding your voice is going to require you to journey well beyond your comfort zone, writing more freely than you've ever written before and saying things in a way you've never said them, and then bringing the freedom in that moment back to your life, your perspective, and your natural voice. The combination will be you–which is what we all need you to be.

    2. Find your rhythm. Great music works because it matches something inside us. There's a beat that just sounds right, and our foot begins to tap. So it is with words. Pay attention to great writers; they almost always write with a pace that keeps a beat in your head. It moves you to the next sentence. And the next paragraph. And the next page. It's best to have feedback when you're finding your rhythm; jamming is almost always better than soloing.

    3. Say more with less. I tend to describe more detail than is needed to set the tone, but an editor I respect once told me to "trim the fat." If your sentence is a fatty piece of bacon, you need to throw it on the pan and cook away everything that is not essential. For every word and every sentence you write, ask yourself this question: does this paragraph need this sentence? Does this sentence need this word? If it doesn’t, cut it. Or find another, shorter, better way to say it.

    4. Write with a mission. Spend your life making much of something or someone greater than yourself, and you'll always have something worthwhile about which to write. Passion is ignited by wonder, and persistence is sparked by hope, and you'll need both to fan the flames of the words you'll write that others need to hear.

    5. Be grateful for the journey. Words are wonderful, and beautiful, and a joy–mainly because they connect one heart to another. To share in another's heart is a treasure no money can buy, and it reflects something deep inside us, a longing to know the heart of the One who made us. He gives us the gift of words, so always write with gratitude.

    Sorry for the soapbox, but I hope you're encouraged. Thanks to this community of writers who remind us all why we love this part of life.
    My recent post It’s Here

  • Bill Wickens

    Michael
    Enjoy your perspectives on the various topics you expound on..This one hit close to home as I have had a neighbor asking me how to get her foot in the door. Will pass this sage advise on to her. Another voice currently in the field will help I'm sure.
    Keep up the good work.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

    I really agree. The best writers are prolific readers. The more I read, the better I write—especially if I am paying attention to the way in which things are written.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/success2you John Richardson

    Michael, your advice on building your platform has been so helpful. As a long time blogger, I remember the first few months of posting back in 2005. I was so excited when I received my first comment and I really remember the joy at the end of the month when my traffic report showed that I had over 50 visitors.
    It was a slow process, but my traffic slowly increased and one day one of my downloadable items ended up with a link on Lifehacker. My traffic exploded and my blog was on the map.

    This last year I self published my own book through CreateSpace. It was a crazy journey of learning to write fiction and finding someone to help me edit my first draft. With a reference from another blogger, I found Kim Felton, a great editor from Portland Oregon. She took my clunky sentences and worked magic. After a few months of back and forth editing the final manuscript was done. Then I had to learn about page layout, type fonts, cover design and the absolutely horrible hyphenation engine in Word 2007. After three draft revisions, I pushed the button one day and my book magically appeared on Amazon.com. A few days later I had the published work in my hands. What an amazing feeling.

    But just because it is published doesn't mean anyone is buying it. That is where my blog and networking with others comes in. I really like the link you posted a few days back from Kevin Kelly's blog about developing 1000 true fans. This is where the focus needs to be.

    I think getting published is a lot like blogging. It's a slow process, but if you keep at it, someday the right person will see your work and run with it. Your examples above of rejection after rejection finally turning to success are encouraging.

    As Tim Allen said in Galaxy Quest… Never Give Up… Never Surrender

    My recent post Set a 12 Week Goal

  • http://www.liesioverheardinchurch.com RussWrites

    This is solid advice. I'm taking it.

    If you love writing, keep writing. You'll get better while you persistantly and graciously wait for the door into publishing to crack open. And even if it never does you'll have a grand time waiting. I am.
    My recent post Lie #10: God is waiting on you to have more faith.

  • Rachel Hauck

    Hey Chris,

    Once you turn in a book, then the promotional, marketing, book buyer process begins. Your "baby" is now in the hands of others. While authors can work to promote their work, there's NO guarantee of success.

    A book buyer might just say, "Naw, that book doesn't interest me," no matter what the sales team says. Who knows what they've heard for book pitches in the course of a sales session? Previous sales numbers come into play during the buying and selling process.

    Dealing with reviews. People can be mean. Or obtuse. ;)

    Sales numbers that don't "wow!" Being a mid-list author can be more troublesome than being a new author. Sure, you can write a book but your books don't seem to sell. So a publisher might gamble for new talent. Who can blame them? Publishing is a business.

    Working hard and watching new authors come on the scene that pass you like you were standing still. :) But it's just part of the business.

    Coming up with new ideas all the time. Living on a deadline. Doubting your ability to write well. You did it once, but can you do it again?

    Time management. After five years of writing from home full time, it's impacted my time management. I have to jump start myself.

    Writing is solitary. Months go by without any one saying, "Good job" or without being a part of a team project that does well.

    But on the other hand, there's nothing like typing The End. Nothing like a good review. Nothing like hearing "I loved this" from your editor!

    I had a review the other day for Love Starts With Elle where the prayer journey of the character highly impacted a reader. Nothing can top those kind of comments.

    Nothing like meeting readers. Nothing like meeting your author heroes!

    There's nothing like holding a new book in your hand. You want to hold another one, and another one. But all the while keeping your heart open before God and His journey for you as an author.

    It's a day by day business. Creativity combined with good old fashion business. Working hard is just one component. And the one most in your control.

    All that to say, it's the best job you'll ever be frustrated with! I wouldn't do anything else. Writing requires a passion. Make sure you have the passion. ;)

    Rachel

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Chris_Tomlinson Chris_Tomlinson

      Rachel,

      I appreciate your thoughts. More than you know. I'm going to copy this comment into a nice little Word doc to refer back to. I'm 8 days into my first book release, and I'm sure I'll be referencing this note for years to come. I've experienced #s 1, 3, 7, 9, and 12 so far, and you're right on.

      Thanks for taking the time to lay this out…

      ct
      My recent post There Must Be More Than This

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

    Wow. Thanks for such a thorough, candid look at the life of a writer. This provides a wonderful, unromantic view. I appreciate you taking the time to write it!

  • Rachel Hauck

    Thanks Mike. It's good to see both sides of the publishing world. I want to add a correction that when I talked about being a part of a team project that does well, I was referring to the corporate world. I used to be a project manager for a software company so we had team success on a day to day basis. Solving an issues, calming an angry customer, etc. We had failures too.

    Certainly being an author with a publishing team is being on a successful project! It's just different than being in an office with people on a day to day basis.

    ;) Appreciate your forum of discussion!

    Rachel

  • http://www.windowsofmadness.co.uk leovineknight

    I think I'm right in saying that only 1% of published manuscripts (in the UK) are by new authors. It's also a fair assumption that most of them (the 1%) are obliging agents and publishers with easy to process formulaic offerings. So, if you want to get traditionally published you need to follow fashion like a donkey after the carrot and you still need to be incredibly lucky. Unless, of course, you know the agent/publisher personally, or you are already famous for something unrelated, in which case the red carpet comes out.
    If I was an 'A' list celebrity who was happily married to a publisher, I would be traditionally published tomorrow, no matter what BS I wrote. The system is obviously skewed towards money and patronage, not writing, and I reject any notion that the agent has some sort of devine insight or monopoly of taste. They are simply gatekeepers for the machine. A nice little Romance anybody? Or another Harry Potter ripoff?

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  • Leiann

    Yes, this is very good advice. I have done steps 4 and 7 so many times my head hurts. To this day I have sent out over 200 query letters (not all for the same manuscript, about 4 different ones). So I am very experienced when it comes to rejection. I will never give up though.

  • reader

    Thanks for the tips. I wanted to mention that there is another world in between self-publishing and the top 5, which is the many, many smaller independent publishers who almost always work directly with authors.

  • Keith Roberts

    Thanks for the solid advice without the scolding that often comes with this subject.

    I agree about the self-publishing. After years of writing and rewriting, and trying to interest only a few publishers, I came across a couple of books that explained the world of self-publishing – "The Self-Publishing Manual" by Dan Poynter and "The Fine Print of Self-Publishing" by Mark Levine. Both were helpful.

    I decided to self-publish, and my book – "Why God Waits For You To Pray" – is now selling well, although I'm having to do all the promotion myself. This is the cold reality of self-publishing, but it can be fun if you approach it in the right way. And, the internet makes it much easier.

    Blessings.

  • http://www.amylyleswilson.com Amy Lyles Wilson

    I've worked as an editor and writer for 25 years. I seem to be in the minority in this profession who thinks that agents are not absolutely necessary in order to secure a fair book contract. Do they help? Certainly. But I want to encourage writers who do not have agents that smaller publishers are often open to receiving unagented submissions. I've offered and received contracts, so I've seen both sides. If you don't yet have an agent, you can check online for good advice about what a contract entails, and what you need to avoid, etc. If you have an agent, congratulations. If you can't yet "land" one, please keep writing. Recently I've had the pleasure of working closely with two first-time authors whose books will publish in the fall of 2010. As their editor, I am invested not only in their debut, but also in their longevity, just like an agent.
    My recent post Agent Angst

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  • hhenley@cox.net

    Mike, I received a lot of info from your post and certainly found my situation in it! I have written a childrens book and have excellent illustrations for it but can't get a Christian publisher to even look at it. I have a book called, Love, the Greatest Thing that I self-published but don't want to go that route with this small childrens book. Can you give me any other advice or some company that might look at it?
    Thanks so much! Evangelist Mary Henley <a href="http://www.maryhenleyministries.com” target=”_blank”>www.maryhenleyministries.com
    P.S. My mother was a Hyatt and her fathers name was Frank Wesley Hyatt!

  • hhenley@cox.net

    Mike, I received a lot of info from your post and certainly found my situation in it! I have written a childrens book and have excellent illustrations for it but can't get a Christian publisher to even look at it. I have a book called, Love, the Greatest Thing that I self-published but don't want to go that route with this small childrens book. Can you give me any other advice or some company that might look at it?
    Thanks so much! Evangelist Mary Henley http://www.maryhenleyministries.com
    P.S. My mother was a Hyatt and her fathers name was Frank Wesley Hyatt!

  • http://www.creatingnewworlds.org Carl Townsend

    Great advice here. There's a variation of the POD I'm looking at. I did the self publishing with my Beyond Illusion: Leading from Reality book and am getting phenominal reception as I speak and dialog with leaders. .So I sent it to Writers Edge – I understand you use it as a filter to make selections. The book didn't pass with them but I got incredible suggestions. I'm networking these with leaders here and plan to eventually resubmit to Writer's Edge. I've authored some 40 books, mostly computer books, but it's time for me to speak on harder issues today. Do you really use Writer's Edge? And another question – with the fast growth of ebooks and their multimedia support, is there still room for the all-text book?

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  • http://www.forward-living.com W. Mark Thompson

    Found this post. Looks a little aged, but… Still great!

    Lots of awesome principles to use – as well as some step by step directions.

    Seems like building as large a following as possible would be the natural first step. Maybe even a shortcut. Theoretically speaking.

    Good stuff!

  • http://www.facebook.com/lisa.Hainline Lisa Vento Hainline

    this should be called “Rejections to Greatness”! great advice. Lisa Hainline
    http://www.lionsgatebookdesign.com

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  • Joel Bouriaque

    Respectfully, Mr. Hyatt, I agree with everything you say, with one exception. Read 1 Corinthians 1:25-29. This practice of primarily focusing on the author’s with big platforms has got to stop. When most agents and publishers are more interested in an author’s biography than they are in their writing, they are working opposite of the way God has worked through human history. If you, or anyone, can change one thing in this industry, then please, completely do away with asking about the biography and author platform.  It is fair to discern how hard the author will work to promote his/her book, but ungodly to say he is an uneducated farmer or a housewife that can’t make my publishing house money. So please, put an end to this unbiblical business practice. – I have to date not been rejected by any agent or publisher. I am extremely upset to find almost all of them focusing on the platform, and asking if I am famous or well-known.