Querying in 2020

I trust everyone is having a pleasant festive season. The timing of Christmas in the middle of the week seems to have thrown significant confusion my way. For some reason I didn’t realise it was Friday yesterday and forgot to do all the things I might usually do on a Friday, including posting a blog post, so apologies for being a day late. Last week marked a milestone for this blog – my 100th post, so it would be remiss of me to fail to post this week. Better late than never…

This morning I did research and preparation for querying my manuscript as I want to be prepared to get started once all the beta reader feedback is in and incorporated. The querying process will involve a bit of administration and organisation, so I set up a spreadsheet to help me, and who doesn’t love a spreadsheet I hear you ask…? Said spreadsheet has three tabs – one for literary agents, one for publishers and one for manuscripts writing prizes – all avenues that could lead to publishing.

Having ummed and ahhed about the agented or not agented approach to publishing, I have decided that I will start with querying some agents. The decision to try agents first was driven in part by the fact that I work almost full-time and want to use my meagre spare time for writing, rather than focussing on the business end of publishing. In addition there are obvious benefits in having someone who really knows the industry going in to bat for you and taking care of contracts and guiding you through the process.

I reaseached agents, publishers and competitions and picked about ten of each to start with. My spreadsheet is a place to keep a summary of them – names, websites, submission requirements, when they are open for submission, what their estimated turn around times are, whether they accept submissions in my genre, and if they have other authors or novels that are comparable to mine.

My go to places for this exercise, and to find information about publishing have been:

All three websites have great advice on the publishing industry and getting published. I also made use of the course materials from a couple of Australian Writers Centre online course which I have reviewed in previous blogs – Inside Publishing and Pitch Your Novel.

Once my spreadsheet was set up I identified two agents who will be open to queries in late January and prepared submission packages, taking care to ensure what I send covers all their submission requirements. I now have a good start to a plan of attack to give myself the best chance of getting my manuscript published in 2020. I’m expecting a lot of this process to be a waiting game, so I will also keep working on my next manuscript, the second in the series. The added benefit of starting another novel is that if I get any nibbles with my querying and am asked if I am working on anything else, I can hand on heart say yes.

What are your writing goals for 2020?

Online course review: Inside Publishing by the Australian Writers Centre

I recently completed, the Australian Writers Centre’s online course Inside Publishing – What You Need to Know to Get Published, which delivers a comprehensive overview of the global publishing landscape. This is a must do course for anyone thinking about publishing a book and not already familiar with how the publishing industry works. The course is self paced and contains five modules, each consisting of videos, handouts and links to relevant resources, all of which you can download for future reference. AWC does a great job of breaking down complex legal and technical concepts and explaining them in accessible language. It offers a terrific overview of how the publishing world its together, as well as providing handy tips for writers about to launch themselves into it.

The first module is about copyright – boring right? Surprisingly I found it fascinating. It explains in plain language how copyright works and the curious way it is carved up across geography, languages, film, television and books. It delves into what you own, what is yours to sell and the role of agents in getting you the best deal. Learn about the structure of the global publishing industry, the professional roles of various people who work in publishing houses, and how they make decisions. There are also tips on what to look for and what to avoid in the industry.

Module two focusses on the broad array of book formats – hardcopy sizes, audio, ebooks, why different book formats are produced and what it means for the author. This module then goes onto to explain how different formats relate to book marketing, buying, distribution, audiences, how sales are measured and how this guides publishing decisions about printing, as well as what happens to books that aren’t sold. The module also touches on the differences between the traditional publishing route and indie publishing and things to think about when considering which way to go.

The third module goes in deep on author editor relationships from the time they pitch to the final proofread. It explains all the different types of edits, the difference between editing and proofreading and the value of a good edit. Of course first you have to submit a manuscript and this module covers the pros and cons of submitting to agents versus direct to publishers and what you need to think about with both of these approaches. The resources include sample pitches and submissions, dealing with rejection, how to use rejections to improve your work and what happens after your receive an offer from a publisher.

Module four gets down to the nitty gritty of offers and what you need to think about, including how advances work, marketing, royalties, public lending rights (libraries), and educational lending rights, and an introduction to some of the things to look for in contracts.

Contracts is the focus of module five, which sensibly comes with a disclaimer that it’s not a substitute for legal advice. Make sure you’ve had your morning coffee as this is the serious end of the business and requires some concentration. This lesson talks about negotiating contract terms and goes into quite a bit of detail about the various clauses in standard publishing contracts. It ends with a little reminder that publishing is a business, so you have to approach your author journey professionally and do your best to educate yourself about how the industry and the publishing process work.

I got a lot out of this course and one of the best things about it is that when you enrol, you get access to the online materials for twelve months. I’m confident I’ll go through it a couple more times before that time is up and will learn a bit more with each viewing.

Image: The Met, New York City