Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Covid Query Process for a New Novel


On the Publishing Roller Coaster -- again


My second novel is almost done so I'm preparing to query agents and then, if I have no takers, small presses. The small press that published my first novel, God Bless Cambodia, has first right of refusal on the new novel but in light of my less-than-stellar sales (about 400 copies), it might refuse.

To prepare for the worst case, I attended a recent writing conference  and paid $200 a pop to two agents who read my query letter, synopsis, and first twenty pages.

Worth noting:  

- Of the 65 agents at the conference, all but two said they were looking for books by featuring LGBTQ and BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color) authors/themese.

- most were young white women

- five were men

(Full disclosure: I am a whiny, middle-aged white guy and my books feature a narrator who is a whiny, middle-aged white guy. Oy, vey)



I met with the two agents who seemed more open to books from authors who look like me. One was a young Asian woman and the other was a guy about my age. 

What the Agents Said

Neither agent found my material offensive but both agreed that my odds of finding an agent and a big publisher were slim because of my genre: absurdist, raunchy, comedy featuring white guys behaving badly – a genre that used to be known as "laddie lit." The book is a heterosexual love story and the female love interest is an Asian woman – since I am not an Asian woman, publishers might ding me for cultural appropriation. 

Both agents empathized with my book being out of sync with the times and one expressed concern for their existing author clients who were middle-aged white guys and having a difficult time finding publishers. Despite Covid, publishers are still acquiring books, the agents said.

One agent was OK with the query letter, said they never read synopses, and thought the opening of the book and the first twenty pages were fine.

The other agent loved my query letter, didn't like the opening scene of my book, and suggested I boost my social media presence from my current 10,000 followers on Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Youtube, etc. to 60,000 followers.  (I always thought that social media was not important for fiction writers but I am going to follow this agent's advice.)

Note: To promote my first book, I created and attended events where I read scenes and performed two one-man shows about the book at amateur theater festivals, libraries, and other venues (link to calendar). Due to Covid, all my events during the last year have been virtual – this has been a poor way to sell books. When I was doing in-person events, people occasionally bought books. Hopefully, this will change by this fall when I can go live again.

Another note: I had no previous theater training but took acting classes and hired a theater director. My acting isn't great -- but I'm what's known as a story-teller: my material is memorized, has a story arc, and I tell the story (scenes from my book) with minimal acting. 


Here's a sample (yeah, you could probably do this)


My Book Marketing To Do List

1) I revamped my website using one of these template. The idea was to simplify the home page and add more images.

2) I am brushing up on my social media by following the advice of book marketing experts like Fauzia Burke,  Jane Friedman and others. Future posts will describe those efforts and what's working and what's not. I am also sharpening my skills with tools designed to make managing social media easier such as:

- Hootsuite: let's preschedule posts to appear on multiple platforms. Last Saturday, I scheduled a week's worth of posts to Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

- iunfollow – to jettison people I'm following who are not following back. If you're following more people than follow you, you can be perceived as a social media loser.

3) My Social Media Accounts

a) On Twitter: I have two accounts:

- @rsquaredd (currently have 6,021 followers) for professional posts about publishing and for following industry news, libraries, and agents.

- @chronicsingle (currently 1,283 followers) for raunchy comedy and edgier fare. I am attempting to woo fans of authors/comedians with work similar to mine: Curb your enthusiasm, single life, fringe theater festivals. I also need post using hashtags they use.

b) Facebook: I have a personal page (3,230 friends) and an author/performer page (1,843) I will likely post personal and raunchy comedy stuff on the pages

c) Instagram (53 followers) I have a professional page to which I am posting comedy stuff – photos with captions.

 d) Linked In (3,030 Connections) for posting publishing and professional stuff. I haven't done much with this in years but may start. 

c) Youtube (16 subscribers) I've posted probably 40 videos over the last eight years. I am a Youtube loser but the videos do generate some traffic for my website.








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