Welcome to the Dear Book Nerd podcast, a bi-weekly show that answers YOUR questions about life, love, and literature! My special guest co-host this week is the wise and wonderful Brooks Sherman, literary agent. Brooks and I discuss all things publishing: how to go about finding the right literary agent, whether or not self-publishing is a good choice for you, how to write an effective query letter, how to NOT get discouraged during this tough process, and much more. If you’re looking to get published or are just interested in the topic, be sure to give it a listen!
This episode was sponsored by The Moment of Everything by Shelly King.
Dear Book Nerd,
I am a new fiction writer. I am just wrapping up my first novel. I self-published a short story on Amazon and really didn’t earn what I thought it could. My question is, how does a new writer find a publisher that will read their work? And once you find a publisher, do I need an agent to work with the contract?
Thanks for the podcast and I enjoy tuning into every episode.
Dear Book Nerd:
Once upon a time I wrote a novel. It was – and is – a novel I deeply cared about and worked hard on for two years. I queried it with 100 agents and got not a single request for the full manuscript.I suppose everyone thinks this about themselves, but I can actually write. Whenever I’ve had the novel appraised professionally – by legitimate industry professionals, not just people paid to make you feel good – they’ve come back with the same thoughts: we like the story, we like the writing, but there are these structural issues, there is this unnecessary character, and we’re not sure about these pop culture references.
I’ve set the novel to rest and got on with writing other things while studying for my MFA, including a much more traditionally structured novel which is my best hope so far of being traditionally published. I imagined that I would go back and rework the first novel more dispassionately in time. But, here’s the thing: after three years, I still believe in the way it was originally written. I don’t actually WANT to change it. And I argue that I should be allowed to experiment with structure and genre – after all, imagine if someone had told Virginia Woolf to make her sentences shorter or stick to one point of view or make something actually happen in her novels. I’m not saying I have anything close to her talent, but my point is, I guess, that it’s okay to have books that are different, unusual, push beyond what is seen ia the norm.
So the question is: do I hack away at this book and transform it to make it sellable, or do I just give up and self publish? (And yes, I do see it as giving up: I want a book launch! A tour! My book in shops! Legitimacy in the literary community! All that is vanity, I know. And yet.)
This is likely not the last time I will have this issue. For example, another novel I have written features a Christian who has dilemmas about living out her faith in a political environment but is not Christian fiction. My latest project is a memoir/novel hybrid. None of these fit easily into the current publishing environment. Maybe self publishing is the route for me in this case – or maybe if my more traditional book is actually successful, I will be allowed to venture away from the norm with future novels? What do you think?
Dear Book Nerd:
Hey Book Nerd,
I have a question about furthering my education but I’m finding Google to be unhelpful. I’m thinking of leaving a job I hate to pursue a dream I’ve had but never voiced: being a writer. I’m not sure if I’m just looking in the wrong places, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of creative writing college courses. I never went to college after HS and I’m getting frustrated with where to start. What colleges and courses do writers normally take? I appreciate any help you could give me.
Wants to Be a Writer
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