October 21st, 2002

A Pocket Full of Murder

(no subject)

To clear up a few evident misunderstandings from the last post:

I know that finding an agent can be as difficult as finding a publisher, and that for first-time authors with no previous commercial publishing experience, the general rule is that one approaches publishers on one's own, and only goes looking for an agent (if necessary) once a publishing contract has actually been offered. After all, most agents won't take on new authors with no track record unless there is already a deal in the works.

However, I have already approached on my own all the publishers I thought might be interested in Knife and who were willing to accept unagented submissions. The other publishers I want to approach do not handle unagented submissions. And also, I am tired of waiting for a year and a half (average) to get a response. An agent would not only be able to get me in the door with more publishers, but would also be able to give me a faster turnaround time.

After talking to some professional fantasy authors about this, they agreed that with my track record (I came this close to being published by Tor Books, for instance -- in the end they only turned Knife down because they weren't sure it would sell enough copies) and situation I might actually do better to seek an agent. One of those pros was then kind enough to recommend me to her own agent, but the agent politely declined on the basis that she was too busy to accept new clients. (I'm sure she'd have made an exception if she thought I'd written the next major fantasy bestseller, but I am under no delusions on that point: I know what fantasy bestsellers are made of and Knife is simply not that type of book. Sevenstone might be, but that's another story.)

But all that aside, the point I was making in the last post stands regardless. Publishers don't want one-book wonders any more than agents do. They want authors who are ready to follow up whatever modest success they might have with their first novel by producing at least one more novel within the next two years, so they have a chance of building up a readership and improving their sales. Authors who can't commit to completing another manuscript within a reasonable amount of time are not a good financial bet for any publisher. And since I can't make that commitment at this particular stage of my life, it is obviously not the right time for me to seek publication.

I'm not discouraged. I'm not making it too hard for myself. I'm just being realistic about what a mother of two small children can reasonably expect to achieve in the next five years of her life. Actually, I feel a lot better about the whole thing now.