Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Wordcraft – The agent, the book, and some explanations

Last week, Texas-based Loiacono Literary Agency publicly announced that it had represent my historical thriller The Tomb of the Khan. The next thing I knew, people were asking when the book would be out. Gratifying though their interest is, acquiring a literary agent is only the beginning of a new process. I feel like someone who, after years of effort (some pleasant, some not so) has finally conceived and is now inundated by loved ones asking when the baby is due. I wish I knew.

First, agent Jeanie Loiacono has to sell the book to a publishing company. No, scratch that. Before she can even approach potential publishers, I’ve got to complete the list of requirements she gave me after we signed the contract last month.

Doing the easy stuff—a biography, book blurb, and professional photograph—were enough to reassure her that we could make our agreement public. I use the word “easy” loosely, as anyone will understand who has tried to condense a nearly 400-page novel into a brief blurb.

A book blub, according to Wikipedia, is “any combination of quotes from the work, the author, the publisher, reviewers or fans, a summary of the plot, a biography of the author or simply claims about the importance of the work.” In the absence of a publisher, reviewers or fans, I sent Jeanie my own half page spoiler-free plot summary.

The harder part of Jeanie’s requirements for me include a lengthy list of revisions, of which I’ve completed about three-quarters at this point. Maybe when she gets those back, she’ll want some of the revisions to be revised. I’ve heard writers praise their agents for “working with” them. Until now, I never understood what working with meant.

But all of that has to happen before Jeanie will even approach potential publishers. She’s promised me monthly updates once that occurs. Again, how long it takes until a publisher accepts my book is anybody’s guess. (I’ll be optimistic and say “until” instead of “if”.)

Recently, I heard the representative of a small press suggest that even if a publishing contract occurs this year, an author may not see her book in print until 2019.

Looking for some real world situations, I asked two friends whose books have also been represented by Loiacono Literary. Kathleen M. Rodgers told me her most recent book, Johnnie Come Lately, was published slightly more than a year after signing the publishing contract. Publishers had expressed interest soon after Jeanie approached them, which actually caused some delay until the offers could be sorted out.

A second Loiacono client, Drema Berkheimer, whose memoir, Running On Red Dog Road, by a HarperCollins imprint is available for pre-order at Amazon. She also reports that publication (due in April) has taken a year, “give or take a month” from the time the contract was signed. I hope these relatively fast turnarounds will apply to The Tomb of the Khan as well.

In the meantime, here are the other items from Jeanie’s to-do list, for the benefit of readers who also have manuscripts they think may be ready to shop around to literary agents: a one-page single-spaced synopsis; a photograph (make it a professional one—mine came from a local department store photography studio and it was a lot better and a lot less expensive than I feared); a biography with pertinent literary history or information that will give credit to the manuscript; a website (so far Jeanie seems OK with this blog site, which I’m reluctant to give up); reviews, interviews, articles, schedule of events; and information on published works and works in progress.

(Next Tuesday, Kendel Lynn of North Texas cozy mystery publisher Henery Press has more suggestions for writers in waiting.)