Thursday, July 21, 2011

Guest Blogger Al Lamanda: Rambling Musings of the Mistakes I’ve Made Along the Way to Being Published.

**Please welcome author Al Lamanda, who is this month's guest blogger.**

You’ve sweated, stressed over, lost sleep because of, skipped meals, stood up friends and family, wrote, rewrote, gave up on, went back to, and finally finished the book you started out to write.

Finally, it’s finished. Your book. Now what?

When I first started writing, there weren’t the choices there are today. My choices were traditional publishers and that was it. Today, if you so choose, you can self-publish on a dozen different eBook publishing sites.

Before you try the eBook route, you want to take your best shot at getting you book scooped up by an agent, who will then in turn sell it for the best deal possible to a publisher. Where do you start?

Why, at the beginning, of course, because very little has changed in the world of traditional publishing. Your best chance of selling your work to a publisher is to get an agent who believes in you, and that isn’t easy. In fact, it’s very difficult. Not impossible, but difficult.

So, with that in mind, here are some of the things I did wrong and what I did to correct them along the way.

First, assuming you’ve finished your book, you must write a perfect query letter to an agent. One page or less, preferably less. An agent may receive hundreds of query letters in a week, how much time do you think will be spent on your six page rambler? My first query letter was almost seven pages. I included everything but my height and weight in it, and guess how many responses I got in return?

So what’s in a perfect query letter? Who you are, what your book is about, your contact information and a short bio of your work, if you have one. You can find many good examples of query letters on the sites I will list below. Note they are all one page or less. Practice yours until it’s the best query letter you can make it. Remember your query letter is your face, your introduction and your first impression. Make it a great one.

Now you have a query letter, so what do you do with it? Send it to an agent, of course. I mean, how could they not love it? After all, it’s your book. Right? So what I did was send my query to about five hundred agents. I figured volume query lettering would have to work if you send out enough of them. Of course, that proved to be the exact wrong thing to do.

Here’s why. If you do your homework, you’ll find that most agents represent the type of books they are interested in. So why query an agent looking for women’s fiction and tell them about you great mystery/thriller? Why query an agent looking for action/suspense with you great new western or romance novel? Do you homework and find the agents interested in your genre and query them. If you check the websites I’ve listed below, you can locate the agents interested in your genre. Those are the ones to target.

So you written the perfect query and sent them to your targeted agents and yikes, an agent wants to read your work. What now?

Simple, you do what the agent asks. Some will want to see a synopsis and first three chapters. Others will want a synopsis and the entire manuscript. Most, if not all will request a synopsis. The first time an agent asked me for a synopsis, I sent one nearly the size of my book. I never heard back. A synopsis should be two to six pages and no more. An agent doesn’t have the time to read a twenty page outline. If you had to read twenty or thirty of them a day, would you? Check the websites I list below for samples of some good synopsis writing. Practice writing yours and make sure it’s the best it can be before sending it out.

You’ve gotten this far, but you’re not there yet. When the agent asks to see your manuscript, what is expected is a manuscript formatted to industry standards. Nothing fancy in the least. Just 12 font, double spaced and as mistake free as possible. They don’t expect perfect, but they do expect industry standards and good. If the book is sold, a professional editor will take it from there. Check the websites below for samples of industry standards.

After that, it’s a waiting game. Don’t bug the agent. Normal response time is three months to get back to you, some as much as six months. After all, yours is not the only manuscript they have to read on their desk.

One final note on a doozy of a mistake I made early on. I took rejection personally. It isn’t. Resist the temptation to let that agent know what you think of their rejection notice. Rejection is just part of the business. Every reader won’t love your book and neither will every agent. Keep in mind that the agent who rejected your first book just might love your second one, but they will never read it if you make them an enemy.

Remember, when it comes to agents, it only takes one. If you don’t make the mistakes I did and your book is good enough, you will find that one.

Thanks for letting me share some of my mistakes with you and I hope they help you along your way.
Predators & Editors

Al Lamanda is the author of the books Dunston Falls, Walking Homeless, Running Homeless and Sunset (release date 2012.)


  1. Great tips! Thanks for being brave enough to show us your early blunders on the road to publication, and congrats on landing your book deal. Hope to see you back here again soon.

    1. Surely, Mr. Lamanda has demonstrated bravery in sharing his mistakes. Trained writers learn what he has by taking it full on the chin and regrouping and still are unable to control their diatribes to rejection notices. I wonder if he would be open enough to share how he as a writer supports and assists others, or recieves support and assistance from others in the development of his work? Can it be done productively? As the crack editor fades away, and American education rarely teaches sentence diagramming even in the last half century, do Mr. Lamanda and his cohort take the excruciatingly painful time it takes to learn to achieve what Guy De Mopassaunt referred to as Le mot Juste (the correct/right word?) Would Mr. Lamanda consider anything as training to be a writer? I do not necessarily mean the traditional training of college or University writers programs. What books have helped Mr. Lamanda, if any?



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