Whenever I typed the last word in my novel, I assumed my next step would be wrapping my manuscript in brown paper, tied with twine, and whisked away by the mailman to the “big six” publishing companies: fingers crossed.
…not so much.
You see, after searching online for the addresses to my future dream makers, I realized that my assumptions were completely off base. Here is the message I read, written on the Random House website:
If you would like to have your work or manuscript considered for publication by a major book publisher, we recommend that you work with an established literary agent…~ Random House
Ahem. A what? Literary agent?
Okay, obviously I was naïve to the publishing world.
I figured seeking out local authors for experiences and advice would be my best bet...alas...the majority of their answers were along the lines of, I've been trying for years to land a contract with an agent without any luck.
I began feeling deflated and I still didn't know how to solicit an agent.
Eventually, I purchased the coveted book titled: Guide to Literary Agents. This book is annual, meaning, that every year it is published with an updated list, contact information, and useful tips to landing a contract with an agent.
From there, I wrote my first query letter.
What is a query letter, you ask?
It is a formal letter to pitch your manuscript to literary agents. Here is one of my actual query letters that I sent to an agent.
*** **** **
Grantsville, Utah 84029
February 02, 2010
Dear Mr. Fulton,
Enclosed is a copy of my first novel, Forgetting Susan. You can find out more about me through my website at www.elizabethluscomb.com, which also has links to my email, face book etc. I have also enclosed the original email I sent to you. Below, you can find a brief but detailed synopsis of Forgetting Susan.
The year is 1988, and forty-eight-year-old Susan Robinson has just learned that James, her husband whom she believed had died twenty-two-years ago, is still alive. Susan opens what she thinks is a long lost letter from James during his service in the Vietnam War, but she soon discovers his secret past.
Susan is a small town girl from Oregon who could not ignore James’ charm. In the beginning they shared an enduring, loving marriage until she was notified that James was A.W.O.L. Susan doubts the accusation and cannot accept that James would abandon his family. After convincing herself and her family that James had died during the war, she struggles to raise her two kids while pregnant with a third child during an era when single mothers were not well accepted.
James fell madly in love with Susan and considered himself quite fortunate to marry his dream girl. However, they begin to suffer financially when James suddenly loses his job. After making a difficult decision to volunteer his services in the Vietnam War to support his family, he begins to lose himself from the horrors of battle and turns to drugs. Nearing the end of his tour, James becomes an accomplice to the murder of his Lieutenant and becomes paranoid of being court-martialed. He decides his only way out is to flee the country. He assumes a new identity while living in Amsterdam, The Netherlands where he faces continued hardships involving drugs, alcohol, and his ambiguous past.
Go back in time and follow this spellbinding story, mixed with humor, of James and Susan, set against the controversial era of the sixties as Susan struggles with the memory of her lost husband and James struggles to find inner peace.
Thank you for your time and attention; I look forward to hearing from you soon.
I feel sorry for the agents who had to endure reading my first attempt at a query letter. It was horrible! It was painfully obvious that I had no clue what I was doing.
Query letters must be very specific, and each agency has their own list of requirements that your letter must contain.
About four months, and many rejection emails/letters later, I boasted three measly nibbles from agents requesting samples of my manuscript. One agent never responded back, the other said she was not interested, and the last one wanted a copy of the entire manuscript.