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Connecting with publishers and agents

18 Oct

Cover of Sharon’s short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point

To write what is worth publishing, to find honest people to publish it, and get sensible people to read it are the three great difficulties in being an author.”

~ Charles Caleb Colton

Last week I blogged about the traditional way to pitch your book manuscript to publishers and agents. Other ways exist and for some you have to have imagination and nerve. Then there is what Brian Henry said in his workshop last Saturday “Luck” or as I see it – “right place, right time.”

How I got my publisher for my mystery short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point comes under the latter. The Editor at Blue Denim Press used to come regularly to my East End Writers’ (critique) Group when he still lived in Toronto. He is also a writer. Once we traded manuscripts for evaluation (although mine was a memoir, not the short story collection). When he and the other half of Blue Denim Press, his wife, the Publisher, did a presentation about Blue Denim Press and marketing books at a Canadian Authors Association Toronto branch meeting last fall, I approached them and mentioned a collection of short stories. They said send it in during January and February when they look at manuscripts. So I did – but only seven of my stories.

They were interested but needed more stories. So I was writing and rewriting stories right up to and beyond signing my contract with them (but that’s another story).  Something else I found out – the Publisher’s taste in fiction – she reads half a dozen mystery books a week – and my short stories are in that genre. Of course, it helps to write well and have something different about your manuscript. Mine isn’t called Beyond the Tripping Point for nothing. All 13 stories feature quirky characters and as I state in the PR to promote the book:

Murder, attempted murder, sexual abuse, kidnapping, missing persons, vengeance, revenge, suicide, gambling, explosions, vehicular mishaps, indignity to a dead body, even love occur. Like all life’s happenings, they affect the characters–women, men and children–in their journey through life–emotionally, sometimes damaging them, sometimes stalling them in limbo, but often forcing them to reach beyond the tripping point. And to get there, these quirky characters frequently do the absurd and the unthinkable, often with unexpected results. 

By the way, I thought of the title and the publisher loved it.

So, what can we learn from my experience besides the obvious that I did not follow convention?

  1. Network, network and network – a combination of social media and in-person works best.
  2. Network with specific targets and goals. I focused on the publishing industry – trade shows, conferences, writing organizations, and workshops. You will meet a variety of writers, publishers, agents, etc. You might just chat with them for a bit and exchange business cards. Follow up by email.You might also do more (see below).
  3. Join some of these writing organizations and attend their meetings and seminars.
  4. Talk to the people at the conferences, etc. (wallflower acting not allowed) – introduce yourself and what you write. Ask the publisher or literary agent who is the guest speaker/attending the conference, etc. if you could send a query letter/part of your manuscript. Most will say yes, but remember that doesn’t guarantee you they will publish you or represent you. It means they will read your submission (and often they will skip their guidelines and say “just email the manuscript”). Follow-up within a week or two and in your cover or query letter make sure you remind them where you met.
  5. Remember the above can be a two-way street when you network. Sometimes it includes what you can do for them. For example, with writing organizations they are always looking for volunteers. Volunteering with a writing organization can help you connect with more writers, publishers, etc. It is also a good way to learn the ins and outs of the writing business. And it looks good on your bio for future query letters, etc.
  6. Join a writing critique group – this will help you hone your writing.
  7. Social media includes: Facebook, a blog about your book, Twitter, Goodreads, Linked In.
  8. Don’t give up. My memoir is still trying to find a home. (Note: at this point Blue Denim Press publishes only fiction).

Good luck.

The book launch for Beyond the Tripping Point, presented by Blue Denim Press, will take place Sunday, November 4, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. eastern standard time at The Rivoli in Toronto. You are invited if you can make it (well, if you are in say, Australia, maybe not). Guests are coming from northern Ontario and possibly Michigan in the USA. I am honoured and grateful to those who do come to my book launch. More details at http://www.bluedenimpress.com and click on “Toronto.”

For those too far away to attend, Beyond the Tripping Point is available at http://www.amazon.com. Just click on the book cover at the top of this post.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

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