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.
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
*** **** **
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
forward two weeks, I was reading one of my most memorable
emails yet. A contract offer from a small publishing company in Texas.
I was not selected by one of the big six publishers, I felt incredibly
lucky. It takes some authors two to five years before being selected by
an agent, let alone an agent finding a publisher for you.
In hind sight, it may have just been beginners luck, but whatever it was, I am truly grateful that Forgetting Susan was