Sunday, June 08, 2008

Question for Agents, Writers and Publishers

I've hit a snag in the process of trying to get a novel published. The situation leaves me quite frustrated. What is a person to do when filled with angst and bitterness? To whom should one vent complaints in the modern era? To the internet, post haste!

Here's the deal: I've finished a book and am some twelve chapters into the sequel. As people regularly say when hitting a snag, "Everything seemed to be going so well." Here's the problem: The book is some 167,000 words long. That's long. Like average Harry Potter novel long. It doesn't set any records, but it does pose a challenge for an agent. Publishers are hesitant to risk the added cost associated with all that paper on a previously unpublished author (read: nobody), so agents are reluctant to sign them.

So cut it down, right? But here's the quandary: I can split the book in half, but it really works well as a whole, and though I envision it as part of a longer series, it could stand alone. That's important, because publishers are reluctant to take on books from a series that isn't finished yet. Hence, agents are reluctant to take them on. Now, I have no doubt I'll finish the whole thing. I love the characters, the setting, and have a clear idea of how it all ends. But I understand why a publisher would be reticent. After all, I could get hit by a bus and leave them holding the bag (to mix metaphors that, together, paint an interesting visual picture. I can just envision some stodgy old publisher standing on a curb holding what appears to be a grocery bag [but which actually contains manuscripts] while I lie in a bloody pool in the street in front of the offending public transit conveyance.) So agents won't try to sell it. So I'm sitting here. But if I split it, it becomes a finished two-parter. How many series of two books do you see at your local bookstore? That just makes its unfinished nature all the more apparent. Of course the third part is on its way, and in this case a fourth, fifth, and probably sixth would follow.

A writer friend has convinced me that the hook needs some work. He's right. Modern audiences have no patience for a slow introduction, especially from a writer they've never heard of. But I can't decide which way to punch it up until I decide whether or not to split it in half. I would really like to have an agent or publisher help me make this choice, because they are the ones who have to sell the finished product, but at this point in my writing career I have to make it on my own (or with the input of strangers online).

Maybe I've answered my own question. I suppose the solution is to cut it, but make the first half into a cohesive, shorter book that can stand alone. Sounds easy, right? Ha! It will be a huge pain in the ass, and I still may fail. Writing a good book isn't easy but I think I've accomplished it. Taking the first half and making it into a separate, sell-able book? Ugh.

Well, I'm a teacher, and I have some time this summer, so I guess I have a project now. Hopefully the final product will be even better than it was before, and I'll be glad for the delay.

So, agents, publishers, and published authors, I guess the questions is this: when and if I finish this re-write, will I be right back here complaining that no one wants to publish the book because it's too short, or part of an unfinished series, or because I am right handed or too old or too bald or simply unlucky? Or, as Miss Snark might say, it just "sux"? What will the reason be? Your prognostications (or, more seriously, your advice) would be greatly appreciated.

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