Saturday, December 08, 2007

The "In" Factor

On Fangs, Fur, and Fey an author named Jeaniene Frost talked about her journey into publication. (It's a good story, you should read it. The perma link is here.) One thing many people ask her (and about anyone who is published) is if they knew someone. Basically, what their "in" was. She goes on to tell her story of knowing no one in and nothing about the publishing industry, doing major re-writes before her agent would sign her, and eventually selling two books to HarperCollins and then three more following that. It's a great story of how work and persistence paid off for her in a big way. I love stories like that. In fact, when people ask how I got my agent, I sometimes feel my cheeks redden just a bit and I tell them I just happen to know a very, very famous author who recommended me to her agent. They smile and say, "Oooohh," like 'now I understand.'

Having an "in" is supremely helpful--I will be the first person to admit that. It is generally a much more effective way to get your foot in the door than the beloved query letter. . . and by beloved, I mean hated and despised.;) But regardless of how fabulous an "in" you have, it can only take you so far.

For example (cracks knuckles) regardless of how great an recommendation you have, if an agent doesn't like your stuff, they won't sign you. Any author worth their salt knows that before they ever give a recommendation. Don't get me wrong, you may get some leeway. Having an agent reading with a positive eye is a great thing, but how positive can you be if the manuscript stinks? (Not that any of your manuscripts stink.;))

Editors are the same way. We all know that tastes are different and what floats one editor's boat may seem old and tired to another. My first book was a traditional fantasy for the adult audience. My "in" loved it, my agent (eventually) loved it. But neither are big fantasy readers. When it was rejected by the editors Jodi sent it to she told me, "What I think is new and compelling, someone who reads fantasy all day every day may think is cliche and unimaginative. That's just how the market is."

With Autumn Wings, however, I really felt like I had written something special. Something different from anything out there, but still with great market appeal. Jodi agreed, and obviously, Tara agreed too. So finally my words were going to be published.

But you know what? I think that if I hadn't had an agent yet, I could have queried and gotten one. I really do. Would I have gotten an agent as great as Jodi? I don't know . . . maybe. Would it have been in time to catch the wave of sales of faerie book we're obviously seeing? Possibly, but probably not. And that is what my "in" got me.

I'm not in any way saying that I was not boosted by knowing a successful author. All I'm saying, is that it can't do everything. So those of you who have an "in," be grateful and use it wisely as an opportunity to present your best work. Those of you who don't, don't worry. If your book is going to shine, it will do so regardless of who you know. . . or, yanno, don't know.:)



Jamie Ford said...

Having an "in" can certainly help, even it's only to provide encouragement and validation to keep you going forward.

A friend recommend me to his agent. She requested the full, but ultimately passed (it would have been a weird fit anyway).

But knowing I had that opportunity out there kept me motivated––kept me writing.

Tez Miller said...

Crikey! One of the links in this post links to an entry of yours called "Rolling Out the Red Carpet" - that's the euphemism I use for menstruation ;-)

Have a lovely day! :-)

Tristi Pinkston said...

Hello, LDS author who just got a national contract! Your name has popped up in the circles of LDS authors and we're all tickled to death for you. (Yes, we've been talking about you, but in a good way!)

Sarah Rees Brennan said...

I agree completely. I found my agent on my own (it is a tale of late-night insanity and horror) but I did have writer friends who offered to read and maybe-blurb, and that motivated me and hell, just knowing other people who'd made it lets you know it's possible and spurs you on.

It helps, just like it helps to have time to write, but it can't get you there. Only you can get you there, so your cheeks shouldn't redden! You did get yourself there. Huzzah!

James Dashner said...

If people cry foul that you had an "in", then these people are idiots. Harper Collins doesn't give major 4 book deals to people just to be nice.

Congratulations on writing something that must be incredible.

angelle said...

first of all - yeah, if your work is awesome, then regardless, you're going to find your way in. so the credit is due to you. of course, in this industry (or any industry, really), having connections makes everything easier. but i'm sure what you've written stands alone.

second of all-- YOU KNOW STEPHENIE MEYER???? girl, i have to tell you, i have a 14 year old sister who just asked me to buy up every single book in that series (she's in CHINA!) so she could read it all in succession. she would DIE if i told her i *know* (as much as a blogger can know another blogger?) someone who knows stephenie meyer. i told her one of my teachers knows meg cabot and she almost did a backflip. i got her melissa marr's autograph and she was the happiest little girl ever. this is a long winded way of saying, tell stephenie meyer that there are little girls (not so little i guess) doing backflips over her book.

lastly, i am sure your book will make girls do backflips too. when they are released, be sure to tell us, so we can buy them all. and perhaps at that point, i'll ask you for your autograph so i can send them to my little sister and make her very very very happy.

Helen said...

An "in" is obviously useful, but it's just like having any type of "in". An "in" might get you an interview that otherwise would have been difficult to get on your own, but that doesn't mean it'll automatically get you the job, either - if you mess up the interview, no amount of contacts is going to help.

It's the same with writing - sure, you had an "in" that helped a lot, but if your writing sucked, Jodi wouldn't have taken you on. And, after reading the first chapter of Autumn Wings that you posted on SYW (which I forgot to reply to, regrettably), I think you would have got an agent on your own, regardless. Your writing speaks for itself.

(On the other hand, the matters of "in"s often keeps me up at night, though I try not to think about it, at all, since I'm from the Middle of Nowhere, Ireland. I know it ultimately comes down to the writing, but try telling my brain that in the middle of the night. Scary.)