Progress report for 10 September, 2018

It’s been a good week.

And the best part of that week was the progress I made. I can’t tell you much about what is happening, but I am making some modest, but promising, strides toward publication.

Still, in the interest of transparency, I can at least give you an idea about my current status.

What I’ve Got to Work With

Let me introduce you to my spreadsheet.

Not my actual spreadsheet.

For my publication journey, I have been keeping an Excel file to track the agents I have queried and my current status with each one. This helps me in a number of ways, not least that it prevents me from querying an agent twice with the same project, or accidentally querying two agents from the same agency concurrently.

It also serves as a safety against duplicating old work. Supposing there ever comes another time when I need to get a new agent, I have a list of names that I’ve already researched and vetted. Thus I never have to start over at square one.

I highly recommend all first time authors to put together spreadsheets like this. I cannot, however, post mine publicly, for reasons I am sure you will appreciate.

And if you can’t grasp those reasons, then I will simply say this: it is never wise to list the names and contact information of total strangers and put that list on the internet. Every time that has been done, it has ended badly. DON’T DO IT!!!

But I can tell you how I the spreadsheet is organized, and that organization is what gives the document its power. Simply put, my Excel file has the following columns:

  • Name: The Agent’s Name.
  • Agency: The name of the agency where the agent is employed.
  • Represents: The types of books the agent will consider. For my purposes, I am only interested in whether they represent Middle Grade, Young Adult, or Adult. Other categories, such as “YA Fantasy” or “Omnivorous” or “Eclectic” also occasionally crop up.
  • Looking for: This column usually consists of text lifted directly from the agent’s bio, blog, or website. It describes, in their own words, the specific kinds of books they are looking for. This column goes beyond mere genre and gets down into the agents self-professed desires. Some want the next Anne of Green Gables, others want the next Ender’s Game. And some don’t really know what they want, but they know they don’t want time travel, or a central romance plot, or toilet humor, etc.
  • Requested Materials: A description of what the submitted material will look like. Each agency has its own expectation of what a query package is (and sometimes individual agents within an agency have their own standards, too). For some, only the query letter is desired. Others ask for sample pages or sample chapters, or a synopsis, or a comparison to existing books (they might ask you to name three currently circulating books that you would put in the same box as your manuscript).
  • Package Sent: The date when I sent the query package (usually as an email or online form submission; I can’t remember the last time I sent my query materials in an actual envelope).
  • Response Received: The date when I receive a response from the agent/agency.
  • Answer: A short description of the agent’s response, whether that be “No” (a rejection) or “Wants more” (we move to step 2 of the agent’s filtering process). It would be nice if “Yes” was an option, but no agent ever contracts with a book on sight unseen (unless you’re a Kardashian or Meghan Markle’s dog).
  • Notes: Any additional information about the agent that I want to remember, such as “YOU GAVE A BOOK DEAL TO A DOG?! SERIOUSLY! HOW HIGH ARE YOU RIGHT NOW? THIS IS THE BIGGEST BOOK HUSTLE SINCE NEIL GAIMAN GUEST STARRED ON THAT ONE EPISODE OF THE SIMPSONS.”

And that’s the only information I need to keep track of which agents I have queried. Finding out which agents belong on my list, however, is an entirely different story. The internet makes it easy to research an agent’s publication history and personal preferences, and most agents curate that information so that prospective clients to get a feel for what kind of books they’re seeking.

Where I’m at Right Now

Which brings me to the moment of truth: just what is my progress, as of September 10, 2018?

Well, let’s just say I’m starting to have more interaction with the people I’m querying. There comes a point where you’re able to actually talk to agents about your manuscript, and where they actually have questions for you.

I am starting to see more of these moments, and I can only take that as a good sign. There are still no guarantees, but I can confidently say that I have never been closer to publication than I am now.

It’s a learning experience, and I’m grateful to have it.

Where to, Next?

Who knows? But things seem to be moving in the right direction. I hope to have more specific news for you one of these days. Until then, I can only pass along the same hopeful glimpses I am getting.

This is my publication journey. I am recording it in these pages, and I make no secret about what I am doing. However, everything is still up in the air, and I can hardly announce what is going to happen before it stands up and…happens.

Keep watching this space for updates. Until then, I’ll be putting in the hours.

Thank you journeying with me.

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