Monday, March 30, 2009

Back to the Beta

Well, I've finished my edits on novel number two and it's back to the betas. Yep. Another round of "Why did you do that's" and "What were you thinkings." At least, I brace myself for those comments. Hopefully, I won't hear those words of despair. Hopefully, I've worked long enough and hard enough to squash those things before they're even a gleam in the betas eyes. But...

Sometimes "the best laid plans", as Burns said. If the Dog Pack finds fault, it's because fault exists. If fault exists, fault must be eradicated. I'm searching for an agent, someone who believes in me and my work. If the might-be agent has a faulty representation of my work, then the words "might-be" will be eradicated and he/she becomes the not-interested agent.

Long ago, publishing houses accepted books directly. For example, Forest Carter, an old cowboy from the plains, wrote a book called Gone to Texas. Mr. Carter went to the library, looked into western novels, found potential publishing houses, and sent his novel off to the house he found most interesting. The publishing house accepted his work, published his book, and a very famous director discovered it in the stacks. The book became the movie, The Outlaw Josey Wales. When Carter was interviewed about his new-found success, Barbara Walters asked what he was going to do. His response? "I think I'll buy a new pick-up truck."

Cute story, but...publishing houses don't do that very often. Nowadays, practically not at all. For some time, Algonquin Press would review the first thirty pages of a novel. I'm not sure if they still do that. Random House? St. Martins? DAW? Nope. They rely on the voice and the filtering of agents. That way the publishers can avoid the tedium of reading three-hundred badly written novels to get to the one good piece in the slush pile. Ergo: no agent/no publisher.

I need my betas to be tough. I need them to point out ALL the rough spots, the failed spelling (even an English major makes mistakes), the character flaws, ALL of it. If the Dog Pack approves, then I query, not one agent at a time but ten at a time. If I get the agent, I may be published.

Lots of ifs. Lots of maybes. Lots of hopes. The dream. Oh! One more 'if.'
If I get published, I'm definitely buying a new pick-up truck.


. said...

They aren't words of despair. They're critique. It's a process. It never changes, but you can speed it up. However, no matter where we are on the path, and no matter who we are, no matter how successful, no one writes anything that can't be improved by a judicious edit.

Publishing houses still accept books over the transom. The thing is, you're unlikely to be selected by tossing your book over the transom.

I know a published author who ended up doing this a few years ago, and he succeeded. However, he himself says to pursue getting an agent first -- he tossed over the transom because he wasn't able to land an agent. And he's an exception proving a rule.

The publishing houses will accept unsolicited submissions from unagented writers. (In romance, for example, an agent isn't a requirement for most of the houses.) However, unagented submissions are a lot like all that junk mail you get in your mailbox -- maybe something will catch your eye, but the majority of it's going into the trash can.

And you have to wait an inordinate amount of time when you toss over the transom. Your MS is in the slushpile -- the "we didn't ask for this" slushpile (which is HUGE), as opposed to the "we asked for this" and "this is one of our current authors" piles. Guess what piles get read first?

Oh, and remember, they're looking for reasons to say "NO". That's why an agent, and your crit/beta group is so vital. You can toss your MS over the transom, and luck into an editor actually picking it up, and then, if your writing isn't STELLAR and instantly engaging said editor is going to...trash it. Politely in most cases, with that dreaded form letter of "not for us". Agents and crit/beta groups help avoid this. Agents, of course, get you into that "we asked for this" pile.

So, yes, it's a somewhat painful process, all the beta reading and critiquing and making changes and redoing it and finishing and going through the whole process again.

But it's a lot better than waiting for a year or more to hear "not for us".


WKEverhart said...

Excellent points, Gini. I am one that believes the agent is absolutely necessary! I've had my fingers crossed for 2 years. They can stay crossed a little longer.