THE PAM NEWSLETTER 1999
Volume 9, Issue 1, Page 2
"Sometimes the rainbow is better than the pot of gold"*
On the other hand, I go through phases where I'm maniacal and will make myself get up at 5:30 am and will chain myself to the computer on the weekends and I have zillions of ideas and draft all kinds of stuff. Since I finished LITTLE FRIDAY I have started about five major projects but I haven't managed to settle on any one and I am fairly dreadful at the re-writing and polishing part which is, of course, the most significant part of the process.
In sum, my output is slim.
FINDING AN AGENT
Back to the publishing part. From August 97 to December 98 I sent out a couple of tentative queries to agents and passed around the latest version of the manuscript to a couple more friends and did one more major re-write on the first part. So as I started 1999 I felt that the manuscript was completely finished and ready to go out into the world.
Ideally, I wanted to find an agent to represent the manuscript. The agent's job is to find a publisher to buy the manuscript. Basically you have to win the lottery twice. Once, to find and agent, and once to find a publisher. To find an agent you go to the library and look in these reference books, collect names and "how to contact" info, then you go home and you write "sizzling" cover letters and send the agent some configuration of your work, usually a synopsis and from 1-4 chapters. You also send a return envelope. (This actually isn't the only way to find an agent but since I have limited connections, this is the way I went about it.)
This (for me) was an extremely time intensive process because you want to impress these people so you can't be spelling their names wrong and you want to make sure it looks neat and professional. Also you need to be sure you are sending them what they asked for. Basically, I approached it in batches. I would spend time at the library copying the information out of the reference books. Then I'd go home and make dozens of copies and write and re-write my query letter and then I'd stuff envelopes, maybe 10-12 at a time. Then I'd go to the post office and figure out return postage and mail the things off. You're paying the postage twice so it adds up quick.
In 1999 I sent off 60 queries and received about 50 rejections. Some agents never responded and my most recent pile went out only about 3 weeks ago so they're still trickling in. The rejections are generally copied form rejections several generations removed from the original, some aren't even on a whole piece of paper. Sometimes they just write "not for us" on your cover letter. Sometimes they arrive so quickly that you can't believe they did anything more than slit the envelope open, and transfer your stuff into the return envelope and send it back out. A couple had my name and the name of the manuscript on them -- obviously agencies with interns who type. Several letters push books written by agents about how to find an agent. One letter advertised a novel written by the agent.
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PHOTO THIS PAGE: Camping in the Olympic Rain Forest with Aunt Janet and Uncle Barry. Photographer: Aileen Wilder.
*Poison, "Cry Tough"