I stand in line at the post office.
A long line.
I have lots of time to think.
Did I remember to put everything in the package? Did I spell my name right? Would Mr. Important Agent think my writing inept? Inane? Irredeemably moronic?
Nothing like hanging yourself out there where you can get a big, fat rejection. But sooner or later, you have to be ready for the truth. Today’s my day.
I hand my package to the postal worker, plunk down my seven bucks and stride away. Then I go home and mark off eight weeks on my calendar. Eight weeks and I’d see my SASE come back with a rejection, OR maybe, just maybe, (because if I didn’t think there could be a “just maybe” I hadn’t oughta be wasting anyone’s time) there’d be good news…
So what’s this proposal thing I’m sending? Basically it’s a big, long thing that you have to write after you write your big, long book. No novice ever knows about it until after they write the book because if they did, they’d just quit before they go through the months and months (or in my case, years and years) of writing the book to begin with.
But once you’ve sweated all your creativity into your book and exhausted all your pores, you discover that you have to sell the thing. No one is actually going to knock on your door and say, “Hey, I hear you wrote a book. I’d like to publish it.”
At this point, one of two things happens. You discover that you’re a writer, and you’ve got to press on because you just can’t help it, or you discover that this is way more complicated than you imagined, and you take up skeet shooting instead.
In my case, it’s the former. So I groaned and whined a little (okay, maybe a lot) then I went to work again trying to figure out what the heck a proposal was.
Let me make things simple. Publishing is a business – it costs money to make books. The key to publishing success is basic. Sell books for more money than it takes to make said books. That means they have to be pretty dang sure a book will sell before they pay to put the thing together. So the proposal is a big long document that presents why my book will sell. But here’s the trick- no one ever really knows for sure what will be a big seller and what won’t. Lots of books miss, but some hit really big, and the publisher stays in business when the big hits are big enough to cover the not so big hits.
Don’t get me wrong. The whole deal is not so cold as it sounds. Yes, it’s a business, but everyone in the business loves books. That’s why they do what they do. They want to find a great story and fall in love with it and bring it to the world so the world can fall in love with it too. That’s part of the proposal’s job as well – to make the decision makers fall in love with your story and want to publish your book.
No pressure or anything.
Just all my hard, sweaty work for months and months going through the post office in that stark white padded mailer.
Did I mention that I had to put sample chapters in the proposal as well? Fifty pages for this particular agent. (Yeah, just to make things harder, every agent and editor has slightly different guidelines for what they want in a proposal). And it’s not like you can select the best fifty pages either. For a fiction book you’ve got to go in order. Hopefully page fifty ends with a doozy of a cliffhanger. And if it doesn’t you’d better think about a rewrite.
Oh, yeah, rewrites. We’ll get to that next time. Meanwhile, I’ll mark off one day on my calendar.
Seven weeks, six days to go.