As Dan Hays knows, writing a book is just the beginning of the journey to authorship. Determined to publish his manuscript, he begins his research into finding the right agent and publishing company.
I had written a book. When I went to a writer’s conference to see about getting that book published, it started a whole chain of events, and forced me to deal with a long-time resistance to letting my writing see the light of day. Now I was at the point where I would either pursue publication, or eventually abandon a third book, like I had done with the first two I had written. How was I feeling about that prospect? I wasn’t sure. I knew I had to try and publish – I had to give it my best shot. That was my part. I just knew I had to do my part to the best of my ability.
My confidence was high about the creative end of the process. I had received powerful feedback on the book I had just written, confirming that I had a talent that deserved to be shared, and stewarded responsibly. I also had a powerful experience as a burst of inspiration revealed to me the next book I would write. I had no lack of writing projects. I had a current book to continue to refine, and now my next book was laid out before me. It was the publishing component where I had strong reservations. If I tried to release a book to the light of day, I wasn’t sure what would happen. I had to just set that wondering part aside and just keep moving forward.
I had made several editing passes on the manuscript of Freedom’s Just Another Word. I wanted to let it sit for a couple of weeks to get cold before I reviewed it again. So it was time to research the publishing industry. I got new copies of The Writer’s Market, a Guide To Literary Agents, and a book by a man named Jeff Herman called a Guide to Publishers, Editors, & Literary Agents. I spent several weeks going to the library each day, studying these resources, and looking at magazine articles and other resources I could find, to inform myself about the current nature of the industry. I had learned a lot at the writer’s conference the previous summer, and after having seen a number of literary agents in person, and even meeting with one, my research had a whole different flavor to it – a greater depth perception on just what was happening within the publishing industry.
After several weeks of research, I had compiled a list of literary agents who would be a fit for my book, and I knew I had done a thorough job. The list felt solid, and I thought I had a great chance of acceptance.
I decided that if I were accepted by a literary agent and secured a publishing contract with a traditional publisher, I would need to have the contract reviewed by a lawyer. One of the breakout sessions at the writer’s conference the previous summer had been all about the publishing contract.
Two things became clear in that session. First, the literary agent represented the author, but was not necessarily proficient in evaluating contracts. Second, the author had to look to himself for making sure he was conversant with the contract he was signing. Since I had been around legal documents extensively in the oil and gas industry, I was very aware of the prudence of engaging a professional to review the specific document.
I had a lawyer friend in the oil and gas industry who had volunteered to review the literary contract for me. But his specialty was real estate, and that just didn’t fit for me. It would be like having a heart specialist evaluate a brain problem. I’d rather find someone within the publishing industry. Of course, there were no lawyers in Fort Worth proficient in these types of contract, and not surprisingly, the ones I found were in New York City. I found two lawyers who I thought would be likely candidates to represent me, with solid credentials in that part of the legal world.
I began to make plans for a possible trip to New York City. The purpose would be twofold. I would meet with the two lawyers I had selected, to see which one felt like a better fit for me. I would also meet with the literary agent I had decided to hire, to establish the face to face relationship that felt right for such a significant project. A family friend had mentioned the concept of a face-to-face meeting, and how nothing beat it for feeling solid about a working relationship. Intuitively, it felt right.
About this time my friend Mary Nell said she had a publishing contact at the W. W. Norton Publishing Company. Wow! That sounded promising. I had always felt an affinity to that publisher, so I immediately followed up. I sent a copy of the book to Mary Nell to read, and then she would send it to her contact at W. W. Norton. I had a great feeling knowing that I might have an inside connection and a possibility already generated.
I began to draft a query letter. I studied once again the resources on drafting query letters, and apparently not much had changed in that part of the process. I used the template of the query letter Joe Vitale had helped me craft for the novel Nothing Left To Lose, and fleshed out a strong pitch letter.
I was ready to take the next step, and knew I had done the homework to prepare for submitting a query. I gave myself a couple of weeks to let it all sink in. Then I went back and reviewed my list of literary agents, and it felt solid. I looked again at the query letter I had drafted, and it felt strong and concise. I printed out query letters for each of the agents on my list, and dropped them in the mail. I was excited and nervous about what I had just done, and went about my daily life while I waited for the results.
I was ready to face the possibility of publication — once again.
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