Saturday, March 27, 2010

Taking Care of Business

Well, it's been well over a month and a half since my last post, but I can honestly say I've not been idle. After finishing the first draft of Dreamwielder, I needed to take some time away from it for two purposes: 1) to give my peer reviewers a chance to read the damn thing, and 2) to give myself some distance so I could come back and look at the book with more objectivity.

So during that time I banged out the book proposal for This Book is Sh*t!, sent out the first batch of query letters to agents for This Book is Sh*t!, drew my map for Dreamwielder, and drafted my query letter for Dreamwielder. By then, the feedback was in from my reviewers and I turned my attention to revisions. There weren't any catastrophic problems with the first draft, and I actually enjoy the revision phase, so it went pretty fast. Most of the revision work consisted of fleshing out character motivation, ironing out some dialogue, and adding in scenes that were previously only summarized. All in all, I added about 3,500 new words to the book (knocking it up to 86,500 words), and the resulting product is 100X better. I'd like to officially thank my reviewers: Ahimsa Kerp, Eric Tryon, Mandy Burke, Craig Comer, my Aunt Linda, and my mother, Shirley Phillips. The critiques and suggestions they offered were critical in taking the book to the next level.

With the revisions done, the business of selling the book kicks in. I sent out query letters to my top two literary agents last weekend: one requested the first 30 pages (based on my query letter), and the other passed (based on my query letter and 10 page sample). Hopefully, the first agent will like the 30 pages and request the rest of the manuscript, but in the meantime I'll be sending out letters to the next 3-5 agents on my wish-list. I've gone through this process once before, when I finished writing my first novel several years ago, and I can tell you this process is what weeds out writers with the stomach for getting published from those who don't. It's an agonizingly slow process that typically results in the invalidation of two years of work, a loss of self-esteem and self-worth, and a new career path, probably something along the lines emptying porta-potties at the county fairgrounds. I exaggerate only a little.

With the first novel I wrote, I sent out in the neighborhood of 30 query letters to agents and publishers. Only two of the letters resulted in a request for the manuscript, and both of those two editors passed on the book. At the time, I was highly discouraged, particularly by the fact that 28 of those agents and editors never even looked at the book—I was getting rejections on my query letter because I had never had anything published before.

I know the game much better now, however, and think I have a more legitimate shot of getting Dreamwielder published. For one thing, I have over 25 publishing credits to my name now for short stories, articles, and so on, so I look much better on paper to agents and editors, and that means they'll be more willing to actually read the manuscript. Secondly, Dreamwielder is way the fuck better than my first novel, to put it bluntly. There's good reason those two editors passed on my first book. I know that now. I can honestly say that Dreamwielder is of publishable quality and I can't say that of my first book.

Having said all that, when I heard back from the first agent this week requesting to see the first 30 pages of Dreamwielder, I was nervous like I haven't been nervous for a long time. I'm more or less indifferent to rejection letters from magazine editors these days, but I was working on Dreamwielder for a year and a half, so I have a good deal more invested in it, and to get past the first hurdle—to have someone read the query letter and actually request to see the book—was awesome, but at the same time it now puts the book to the test. It's sort of like auditioning to be a nude figure model, you know? And now that I think of it, if this book goes nowhere, maybe being a nude figure model is better than pumping turds at the fairgrounds. If you know anyone hiring, let me know.

-Garrett Calcaterra

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