The Crossroads of the Aether
Greetings to one and all,
I have been lurking for almost two years, reading forums, studying phots, absorbing the culture, and mostly ignoring the writing that I began with such passion upon encountering my first steam punkers at Phoenix Comic-con 2010. I have noted a signifcant number of references to writing, publishing, book jackets, etc and wonder, assuming these references are not part of character background for steam punk cos-play, like claims of airship captaincy (captainry?), would anyone be willing to share a snippet as to how they went about becoming published? Is the tome known as The Writer's Market of true benefit? Is it better to find an agent first? Self-publish? Shoot my left foot with a magnetically propelled spear gun?
I am not looking to learn miniscule facts related to various endeavors. Just a general impression of the process as it applies to other individuals on this site with some degree of success under their belt.
Examples: What I'm looking for: "I self published through a local company and had a great experience, even had some agent contact as a result." or "My sister used the aforementioned guide and sent out 300 submissions before getting her first nibble of interest six months ago, but things are looking good and she says finding an agent first was definitely the way to go."
What I'm not looking for: "My book about shiny vampires earned me bujillions of dollars." No offense intended. I am interested in this, but I am not looking to out anyone who is trying to have a good time and remain anonymous. I did have a great time at the Halloween party and your kids are a hoot.
You must do a few things all related to the other things:
Find an agent that works with your genre. They will be indispensable if they're good. If they're bad, get a new one. Make sure that you don't sign any contracts that will limit you though, because if they're a horrible agent and you sign something with them that gets you stuck, you're stuck.
fFnd publishing houses that seem to publish in your genre and story types. Find books that are similar to yours, and figure out if their publishing flukes (i.e. the publishing house doesn't usually publish that style, but they seemed to make an exception for said novel) or if the publishing house regularly caters to your type of story. It's more than just genres I'm talking about here as well, it's also about storylines, types of characters, subthemes, etc. If you do a good job at finding books similar to yours, then you'll have a good chance at finding publishing houses that will accept your work.
This is as much as I recall from my last conversation with my aunt (who's a manager and event-planner for a Sci-Fi and Horror bookstore). While not a publisher herself, she does deal with a lot of them, especially when they want to celebrate the release of a new book they think will make it big.
Hope that helps a bit.
However, my friend has written a Victorian Steampunk masterpiece that may never see the light of day. She is a published author, but her agent is not very helpful with this one work. The work is meant for teen audiences, however, the big houses still have difficulty accepting Steampunk. They are always behind the curve imo. It is unfortunate. Sorry this is not a success story. However, there have been a few who have broken in.
I write cross-genre myself. I've recently finished a Steampunk screenplay. I do believe that writing is a great way to express yourself. I support your efforts to get out there. Ride high. Keep going. Dream big.
I am currently wading through this process myself. While I haven't yet published a novel (I've published short stories, essays and articles), I've learned some useful information.
Finding an agent first has come highly recommended to me by many people. Maintaining a blog, doing open mic's, participating in writers workshops, etc. is a good way to build your audience before you seek publication. It's called building your platform and it can help quite a bit in the long run.
As for self publication, there are some success stories there, but it takes a lot of time and resources. It also pits you against the mob of self published writers who's writing quality ranges from abysmal to quite good, but weighs heavily on the abysmal side. To be successful at self publishing you really need to develop a strong internet following.
Read current authors in your niche, people you might consider your 'competition' and pay attention to who publishes them. (but Shahbanoo Pantea covers this quite nicely)
Finally, build a thick skin. There will generally be a lot of rejection, and I mean a lot of it. Publication is a mix of talent (sometimes), luck (all the time), hard work, and timing. I've heard so many stories of writers who went through The Writers Market and pitched to every agent, and when they reached the end, they just started over again. There are so many reasons an agent will say no, from their plate is already full, to the query letter was not to their taste, to the assistant tossed it because they received 30 queries that week. Basically, don't give up.
I hope this helps.