The Shy Author Syndrome

About two years ago, I wrote a novel. And a new part of my life started. At the time, I thought it was a great book—a story that needed to be told. It is a good story, don’t get me wrong. But now the chronic editor in me, reads pieces and now wants to trash the whole thing and rewrite it. But, back in the day, armed with nothing but a manuscript and the confidence to go where angels fear to tread, I sent the manuscript to agents.

I did this after doing much research on the proper way to get a book published. As I have found, you cannot go directly to a publisher. Unsolicited manuscripts get treated with all the favor of a bomb in an airport. You have to go through an agent. How does one obtain an agent? Well, young grasshoppers, here is where the problem therein lies…

To look for an agent, you must first have a completed, edited manuscript. Then you send the idea only to an agent, in a highly formal process called a “query.” Queries can range from a tightly constructed e-mail to an extensive marketing package, and every shade in between.

There are entire books and workshops on how to do a query, because they are your sort of 8-Mile-Eminem-You-Only-Get-One-Shot-At-Everything-You’ve-Ever-Wanted kind of e-mail. But most agencies have their own guidelines and sometimes downloadable templates for you to follow. These are posted on their website, and serve as your first test. Not following their guidelines identifies you as an agent “spammer,” or worse…a “hobbyist.”

So, as a serious author, you must research each agency, and then send them a cold query per their guidelines. Then you wait. If you are contacted, which is a big “if,” they will ask you for a sample of your manuscript. This is usually either the first three chapters, the first chapter, or the first fifty pages. Agencies have highly researched statistics regarding the attention spans of readers, so they generally give you about the first 5,000 words to engage them or you’re out. Test number two.

So, you promptly send them your sample before they forget who you are. Then you wait. And you may never hear back from them again. If you do, they will ask you for the full manuscript. If they still like you after reading your full manuscript…

Ummm….well, I don’t really know what happens after that, because that’s never happened to me. But, I think then you start discussing contracts, and terms and they start to send it to publishers…or so I’ve read.

But, I got to a certain stage in this process, and got screened out by not having a “platform.” A platform is a fan base. Publishers won’t do all the marketing for you, I have learned. You have to help. So before they will even touch you, you have to prove you’re already set up to do your part. Which begs the question, if you have to already have your own fan base, why not self-publish? Whatever.

Now, I understand building a platform when you’re talking about rock stars. The fans, the groupies…that’s mainly why people want to be rock stars in the first place, so it makes sense you would get those in place first…But, writers? We writers are known for being shy or at least introverted. We spent our childhoods in libraries, and that’s how we became good. You want us to build a fan base?

Fortunately, for writers, platforms tend to be things like social media and blogs. And I’ve been working hard on that. A year into it, my blog is now my favorite part of my writing life. Thank you, followers and readers for listening to me! J

But, today, I ran across this article on finding funding for your book. It was written by a popular self-publishing company and was supposed to be what all the other writers were doing to raise money. I nodded seriously. I needed to read this. I clicked on it, and then, it totally freaked me out.

It said, “Host patron dinners.” I gulped. Like, a fundraiser dinner?! Where everyone gets all dressed up and goes to this hotel or something and clinks wine and circulates the room talking about my writing?! I would bomb this worse than Bridget Jones. Ummm…no.

I read on. “Sell dinner with the author for $250.” I laughed. $250?! Seriously? I’m great and all, but I’ve got to be honest. Dinner with me is not going to be worth $250. And, if you paid $250 to meet me, I think I just might have to get a restraining order. Either that, or pay for you a money management course.

Then it offered other typical advice like a mailing list and so forth. My heart sank. I’m supposed to be doing all this? Look, I’m just a writer. And a very shy one at that. Don’t these publishers know this? Isn’t that what this profession is supposed to be prime for? People that can write books that last for centuries, but can hardly hold a conversation? If I were good at selling things, I would have gone into sales and made a lot more money. But, this is what I’m good at doing.

I need a business manager. Someone to handle all of this stuff, so that I can just write. Someone like…an agent. Oh, wait, isn’t that what this is all for? To get an agent? Geez. It’s a wonder that anyone gets anything published. And yet, they do all the time, which is the mystery to me. I should have never read that stupid article.


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