Hello my lovelies!
A few days ago one of my friends sent me a message asking for input of whether a particular story would make a good novel. As I responded (with quite a novel of my own, I might add) I thought, you know, people would be interested to know this stuff no matter what genre they write. So here is my letter to her, with a few tweaks. Those already agented or who have books published can add to it in the comments.
Okay. Here are my thoughts, and you can take 'em or leave 'em. I won't be offended either way. This is just from what I've learned, and I'm going to be very clinical about it. Please don't take offence! Your story is special to you, but if you're serious about this then you've got to learn to look at your story and your writing from an outside perspective or you're in for a lot of pain from the get-go.
First, you need to ask yourself: Who are you writing this for?
If you're writing it solely for your family, then write away. Write it however you want, maybe have a copy editor go through it to clean up grammar and such, and self publish it. Order a few copies from CreateSpace, and you're done. Ba da bing.
If you're writing it for strangers -- meaning you want it to be published by a publishing house in the hopes that your story will effect/ inspire other people and maybe make you some money as well -- then you have a bit more to think about. Here's what I'd suggest:
1) Go to the Amazon AND Barnes and Noble websites and look up books in your genre. Find the top five best sellers, and read them.
2) Once you've done that, evaluate YOUR story. What is there about your story that's different from those others? Similarly, what would make a reader of those books want to read yours?
3) Start writing it.
-For non-fiction, you don't actually have to have the book finished before you start looking for an agent to pick it up. But they do like to see a synopsis (a few page summary of what they'll see in the story, including the end) and maybe a few sample chapters to get a feel for your writing style.
-For fiction, you need to have a completed, polished, very pretty manuscript to show before you can even *think* about querying an agent. Doing this (either, really) will require beta readers, critique partners, and revisions. A first draft is almost NEVER good enough to catch an agent's eye.
4) Do your research. Look up agents who represent your genre, learn their tastes, and write to please if you can. (I use querytracker.net.)
5) THEN you can start sending out query letters. And it only gets harder from there.
But whatever you do:
Do NOT query agents who don't rep your genre.
Do NOT send out a mass email to a bunch of agents at once. And
Do NOT assume that a rejection of your story is a rejection of you.
Publishing is a business, but it's a subjective one. What one person hates, others will love. If this is something you really want to do and feel strongly about, then you know what? Take it and run with it. Do it and don't ever look back.
I know that's a lot to take in, so feel free to ask questions :)