Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Lessons learned from the trenches: Part 3

Now what…

Like every other author who writes their first book, the big question is now what? By the time I had the revisions done it was early 1992, and I had no idea what to do next. It turned that a co-worker of my wife’s had a girlfriend working at Houghton-Mifflin, and she agreed to give it to an associate editor there. The reality, the odds of Houghton-Mifflin publishing this type of crime novel from a first-time writer was slim to none, but what the hell did I know? What I should’ve done instead was research the market and query agents and editors and get involved with the local Boston chapter of the MWA and start networking with authors in the area, but what I did instead was wait nine months to hear back from Hougton-Mifflin and get crushed when they ultimately rejected it. It did go through several editors there, and it was seriously considered, but they decided it would be a tough book for them to sell properly, especially given that I was a first-time writer, and given how different the book was from other crime novels.

Much more on In His Shadow later…

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Now this may be a mistake I'm making right now. Going to a publisher without an agent. Is it permissable to shop for agents while an editor is reading a ms? Is there any likelihood of a ms. getting accepted from an agentless writer? I hate this business. Back to short stories for me.I'm tagging anonymous here because it's probably not a good idea advertising it.

Dave Zeltserman said...

I wouldn't think that would be a problem. If it's with a respected publisher and the agent had requested the book, let the agents know when you're contacting them that editor X is currently considering the manuscript. If it was sent in blind, expect your book to be in the slush pile, and don't worry about mentioning it to agents. It might actually be a positive with agents if a good editor is looking at it, although a problem that might happen is if the editor really wasn't the right one for the book, ends up taking it to the editorial board, and it gets logged as being brought in--it would make it harder then for an agent to take it to the right editor at that house.

There are a number of good houses that consider unagented novels: Leisure Books, Poison Pen, TOR, Five Star, for example. Most of the large houses you do need an agent, except for unusual situations (recommendations from one of their writers, etc.), and it's better to try for an agent first.

Dave Zeltserman said...

Anonymous, about your question "Is there any likelihood of a ms. getting accepted from an agentless writer", in my own case, I found all of my publishing deals myself, and got my agent involved after the fact. Meridiano Zero buying the Italian rights for a self-published book was a fluke, as was my getting Serpent's Tail to look at Small Crimes--if it wasn't for a combination of unusual factors they wouldn't have done it. So flukes do happens, and editors at houses with strict policies against unagented material will under the right circumstances look at an unagented book--and buy them. Thinking more about your question of shopping for agents for a book that's currently being looked at by an editor--nothing at all wrong with that--as long as if you end up signing on with the agent that you give him the book deal if it comes through.