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Thursday, December 20, 2012

"If this were the last night of the world..."...and How to Find a Literary Agent!

Well, I am going to to all out here in these final hours before "The End of the World as We Know It," yeah, right and I'm going to give you a long-winded and Pepsi Throwback/Goya Decaf induced frenzy that has become the past several days.

As per the usual, my iTunes will chime in with its offerings...just finished the lovely first movement of Joe Jackson's "Symphony."  Right straight into Nick Moss & the Flip Top's "You Got to Lose."  

So first of all, the initial part of my title for this blog is taken from Bruce Cockburn's wonderful "Last Night of the World."  I suggest you find it and give it a listen.  It's really a beautiful song.

Tomorrow night is the Winter Solstice; Yule for those in my dual tradition.  For many more it is the end of the world, or rather they'll wake up in the morning and go, "Hey, wha'happened?" or whatever it is they'll do.

I could go on forever about these loons, but I won't.  They are not worth my time.

Anyway...December 21st for me shall be spent with good friends, many of whom I've not seen in too long.  So if indeed it is the last night of the world Friday night, I shall be amongst friends.

So what has been going on of late...well, I have been furiously working to finish a long-overdue edit of Volume 3 of the "Sweet Dreams Series," subtitled, "Tougher than the Rest."  The first two of the series are now as ready as they will ever be; the third, I don't know yet.  I need to read over the mad pace I set for myself this week.

Writing is never really finished; I have been advised by friends to not refine anymore, but you know, it's something that is different for each individual.  I am one who feels these stories are my children, and while I can't say how they're going to do in the world, I have to give them my best so they can be their best.

"Little Wing," from Axis: Bold as Love.  Jimi figures in a tiny little way in Book 3, or SDS-3 as I call it.  Kinda nice.

This leads to a question from a new friend.  I have joined this writer's community, through my new Google+ account:

https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/107534692606148129223

This is on the science of writing, and I think I'll meet some interesting folks who are as passionate about this business as I am.

Anyway, one of the fellows here asked me about my literary agent, and how I acquired her.

"Innocent Moon," Will Ackerman.  From Hendrix to gorgeous new age guitar...hmmm...love iTunes...for shuffle, anyway.

So you know, I am repped by Jeanie Loiacono of the Sullivan-Maxx agency, and have been for the past three years.  Jeanie has been kicking open doors, but no hits as of yet.  Bites, yes...but this is more about acquiring that agent, that person who can open those doors for you.

I am no expert, but I will tell you how I did it.  It was by working it like a job, and having a bit of luck.

How you find an agent is exactly how you find a job, in my experience:  you have to be ready to sell yourself, via the resume, or in the agent's case, a manuscript.

Whatever you have...make sure it's ready NOW.  Make 100% sure that what you have to offer is ready RIGHT FUCKING NOW.  You can go back and edit later, but you need to have it NOW.

"It's Time to Play," Alvin Lee...from a very good CD, "Saguitar."

There are conventional ways to find an agent, and there are books to help:

1.  Writer's Market.  This is one of the holy books of the trade, but there are others.  WM has one specially for literary agents.  So that's 2.

3.  Dustbooks publises a guide to Independent Publishers and Small Presses.  Just as it says.

1 & 3 are necessary!  2 if you want to go in-depth.

Figure out your genre(s), target audience, etc.  Then go hunting.

Read these books...mark them up, dog-ear the pages, highlight them, and keep a list (Word file or whatever) of everything about the presses and agents that are worth going after.  Everything...names, addresses, numbers, faxes, websites, web addresses...all of it.  You will need this, and it stays in your mind.

Do NOT waste the time of publishers (and YOUR TIME) by submitting to those that don't want your stuff.  If they say, "No this" or "No that," they mean it.

You will find plenty of places to send to.

"Into Brooklyn," by Innocence Mission...different.

Okay...next!  We go into Cyberspace.  

Check for websites, but...I will tell you right now:  keep a sharp eye out for sleazy, fly by night publishers and agents who want your money.

DO NOT GIVE ANYONE ANY MONEY, FOR ANYTHING, EVER.  NO reputable agency takes a reader's fee.  NOT ONE OF THEM.  YOU are NOT responsible for their costs.  THEY ARE TO GET PAID ONLY WHEN YOU GET PAID.

"I Kill Children," Dead Kennedys.  Love these segues.

There are several websites out there, in which forums are available to check out publishers and agents that might not list in WM or Dustbooks.  They all don't.  

AbsoluteWrite.com is a site I strongly suggest you join.  Look around, make contacts, and you will learn quite a bit.  I surely did.

"Sunday Papers," live version by Joe Jackson...with all that's in iTunes, they do repeat artists.

Okay...you often hear about "Vanity Presses."  These are companies that charge you money to print your books.  Createspace is one, Xlibris is another.  Avoid them.

If you want to self-publish, be prepared to know that you will be in charge of everything, from the editing (unless you hire an independent one) to your own marketing and promotion.  I have friends who have self-published in various ways, and they can tell you...don't quit your day job.

I don't have the money to invest thousands of dollars into this, only to get a cover that was not what I wanted, pages that fall out, typeface that is unreadable, and nothing anyone would buy just on the aesthetic displeasure you get.  Also, I've seen too many people sitting alone in bookstores with their horribly produced books stacked there, and smiling, hoping someone comes and buys their books.

There's so much more you need.  If you can get the help, then accept it.

Next up...the Internet is a great place to find reputable, decent and professional literary agents.  You can check them out through numerous ways, thanks to the 'net, so these can be vetted pretty fast.

Here's another...Twitter.

I have found not only a ton of bookstores, but publishers this way!  The big and the small, they all Tweet.

"Little by Little," by James House.  Great song; I generally despise nearly all the country music produced since 1991, but this one from '94 was alright.

Now...do you know who you are going to send to?  Have you got your target list, one you will add to as time goes by?  What do they want?  A query letter?  The first chapter?  Do they want email, or snail mail?  

Do it the way they want it!  Or you get nowhere; or at least a fast trip to the slush pile.

The Query Letter is probably the hardest thing I've ever had to write, up there with a cover letter for a job.  Yes, this is a job, and I shall remind you now of this.  This really is a job, or your job.

No more than one page; clear, concise, no flowery bullshit.  That's all.  They'll want to know the word length (75-thousand is average for a novel), but few more or less is not a terrible deal.  

Get to the heart of it in just a few words (clearly, less than mine here!).

Keep track of every letter or email you send; date your master list, keep your receipts, all of it.

"Strange Brew," BBC session by Cream.  Nice...

Budget out your time; if you are still writing, good!  Time for writing, time for finding, time for sending, time for updating the lists.

Do what works for you, but keep in mind you're looking for a job here.  

So how long did this take?  I literally spent four months, nearly every day doing these very things I told you about.  I got lucky; damned lucky.

A small agency in Georgia, Sullivan-Maxx took me on.  My agent loves the "Sweet Dreams Series," she gets it.  Sometimes all you need is one believer, beyond your circle of friends.  

Do not quit, and do not get discouraged.  Can't stress it enough; this is a lot of work, it don't happen overnight.  If you wish to go the traditional route this hard work really will be worth it.  You will get somewhere.

Meanwhile, keep writing; keep refining, keep thinking about what you have dreamed of and get it ready.  It will happen...it's not a question of "IF," it is a question of "WHEN."

"I Feel So Good," Willie "Big Eyes" Smith and Pinetop Perkins...legends doing great music...

Now, I do not mean to denigrate anyone who chooses the self-publishing way, such as through Amazon.com or however you do it.  Make sure it is what you want; I honestly do not have the tools within me to do every single thing.  I do not know a lot of that, but I also know I have to keep learning as the time goes on.

Do what you feel is right, for you.  I wish you well on the journey...and for those who do, a Joyous Yule.

Peace.

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