After writing and rewriting several novels, I thought it was time to try to become a “real writer.”
Back then, I was under the very mistaken belief that to be a real writer you had to be published by one of the big publishing houses. So much has changed in the past decade with publishing but that attitude may be one of the biggest changes–ever. That and the Internet.
I didn’t have a clue as to how to submit a manuscript back then. As with everything in my writing career, I figured it out as I went. This would have been in the mid 90s. The Internet existed back then, but it had little to do with our daily lives. Boy, that was about to change! Anyway, all submissions were done by snail mail. Actually that term didn’t even exist back then.
Anyway, I bought a copy of The Writer’s Market and lucky for me, it explained step by step on how to query and submit to agents and editors. I became an expert on the process. For the next ten to twelve years I queried and queried and…. Well, you get the idea. Lots of queries but no luck.
Anyway, let’s take a little break while I tell you about the querying process back then.
But before I start, let me apologize to all the trees I killed in the process.
A few words come to mind as I think back to those days– lots of paper and lots of time!
Just as now, I would start with a query letter. But it could be up to six weeks or more before they responded. Now, it’s usually within a few days. So, I’d make a trip to the Post Office and send out my letters.
After that it was time to send a synopsis. Some kind agents/editors would let you do the query and the synopsis at the same time, but not all of them. Another trip to the Post Office.
If they were interested, it was time to send them a sample. Usually, three sample chapters, ten pages or fifty pages. So my office would be littered with piles of paper. First the query letters, then ten pages, then three chapters, then fifty pages. Another trip to the Post Office.
And I’m not very good at organizing so all the piles seemed to somehow get mixed up and I would spend even more time trying to figure out what went where! So the second step was to send out the requested sample. At this point a lot of agents required exclusivity as they evaluated the submission.
So one submission at a time except for the few that didn’t require it. Another trip to the Post Office.
Now it was time to wait again. This time it could be up to three months but sometimes it would take even longer.
And finally they would request the full manuscript and almost always by this time it would be exclusive.
Back to the Post Office and more waiting and waiting only to be told no thank you.
Now it was time to send to another agent/editor who’d expressed interest.
And so it went.
Like I said, a lot of paper and a lot of time! Again, my apologies to the trees that I killed!
Sometimes it could take the better part of a year for querying and moving through the required steps. But that’s the way it had to be done if you wanted to get a traditional contract from a traditional publishing company. And at that time, that was the only option I wanted to pursue.
How about you? Are you old enough to remember this time-consuming process or have you been blessed to only deal with email queries?
UNTIL NEXT TIME…GOD BLESS & GOOD READING!