So for argument’s sake, let’s say you followed all the steps I suggested in Part 1 of “In a Perfect World” to get your book published. You correctly identified and properly approached several literary agents. And let’s say – also for argument’s sake, because a few writers will strike paydirt from at least 1 of their initial queries & why shouldn’t you be 1 of those writers? – that all the agents responded that they were not interested in your book.
(Some will do so kindly, will use your name in the response & say things like, “Don’t get discouraged” or “All agents are different” or “This may be the perfect project for another agent.” And some won’t bother with a greeting at all or use your name (unless your name really is Author, as in “Dear Author”) and will say something inconsequential and vague like, “I just can’t get excited about this project.” A few agents – like the young woman who recently requested the 1st 3 chapters of my Gold Mountain – may give a reason for their rejection, and believe it or not, those are the BEST rejections [oxymoron?] because at least you know the person read some part of what you wrote. Agree or disagree with the critique, always consider criticism from someone in the business of books to be helpful.)
Anyway, you stare at that final incoming rejection (you know it’s the last 1 because you’ve faithfully tracked all your queries & responses) & you ask yourself, “Now what?” Well, first give yourself time to get over the shock that agents are not lined up outside your front door with contracts in hand begging to represent you. (Come on, admit it. We’re all friends here. You KNOW not getting at least 1 little nibble would be a shock.) Once the incredulity passes, have a large glass of merlot (good for your heart and your spirits), and read on. The world only seems dark for the moment. Here are some practical options:
1. Do everything all over again; approach a new group of researched agents.
2. Skip the agent part & research & approach publishers appropriate for your book. Follow the same process you used for agents…
(…but be warned that many – most, even – reputable, top-line publishers will say unequivocally on their websites that they will not accept un-agented materials. IMO, they mean it, but I tend to play by the rules. If you choose to ignore their stern words & send them something anyway, I’d be very interested in what does or doesn’t subsequently happen.)
3.Go back to whatever writing project currently holds your attention & forget about getting your book into print (until the “I-want-to-published” bug bites you again.)
4. Start networking: research & – based on your budget – attend some literary conferences or join a writers’ association of some kind or join a local writing group. Volunteer to help on their committees. Get involved. Talk to published authors about what worked for them. Google writing events in your geographical areas & attend those that are practical for your personal situation.
5. Decide to bypass the traditional process in its entirety & read everything you can get your hands on about “Print-on-Demand” publishing.
You don’t have to pick only 1 of the above options & permanently eliminate all the others. You don’t even have to do them consecutively because it’s possible to take all of the actions simultaneously. But if – like me – you’re still working outside & inside the home & you have have limited time and/or money, juggling more than 1 alternative at a time might deplete you both physically & financially.
Anyway, for 3 years I worked my way up & down the above list – 1, 2 ,3, 4, & 5 with several repeats along the way – until my 1st novel, Lily’s Sister, came out in 2006. Clearly, with a book published (4 books, really) I must have made some kind of decision about the choices shown. And it’s true. I did. It wasn’t a decision without risk or regret, but my take on how to proceed if the standard approach to gettting published, the approach you’ll read in all the “How To” articles & publishing guides doesn’t work for you is a post for another day.