I did everything I had read about to get my book onto an agent’s desk. I started with queries. I queried specific agents and editors I’d targeted based on their publishing history. I’d spend hours researching, trying to find the perfect fit between my book and an agent. Finally I’d submit my query and each time the response I’d get back is “We’re sorry. We are not accepting new authors at this time.” That’s a Catch-22, isn’t it?
Then I starting going to conferences where I could pitch the book. I had five to ten minutes to state the basic plot outline to an agent who would later admit on a panel that she’d never found a book worth publishing at a conference. That doesn’t inspire confidence. Eventually I attended a few conferences where the agent would actually read ten to twenty pages of my book ahead of time, before speaking to me. Each time the feedback I’d get was, “You’re an excellent writer, but the beginning didn’t grab me.” I rewrote the beginning, but my novel doesn’t feature calamity, action, or trauma. It’s a story about people and emotion.
The last time I pitched to an agent, she had read thirty pages of my novel before seeing me, a relatively generous amount of time and effort. She was a very nice young woman, probably in her mid-twenties, dressed completely in black, and drinking what was probably not her first cup of coffee. She’d come north from Manhattan to find a novel worth publishing. “Your writing is excellent,” she said. “But people want to read about vampires.” Now, I’m not disagreeing. I know a lot of people like to read about vampires. Some don’t. And even the ones that do, might not mind taking a break in between vampire books to read something else. But it occurred to me at that moment that agents, editors and publishers only want the next big book. That doesn’t mean no one wants to read my novel, it just means that my market isn’t blockbuster big. But I don’t only read blockbusters, so there is a market out there for me. How do I find it? Obviously not through traditional publishing. Thus began my adventure into self-publishing.