The Path to Publication, Part Two: Finding Publishing Resources

(Photo Courtesy of CollegeDegrees360)

As I mentioned in "Writing That First Book," I thought the hardest part about getting published would be writing a book. I mean, it's RARE to write an entire book from start to finish, right? It only makes sense there are an arsenal of literary agents just chomping at the bit in anticipation of representing you.

This logic made perfect sense to me in January 2011 when I finally finished editing what I was sure was going to be the literary world's Next Big Thing. It was an urban fantasy called THE MERMAID GENE, and it had taken me a year to write and an additional six months to edit. 

(In the meantime, I had also quit my zookeeping job in Alaska, and I had gotten into a devastating car accident in northern British Columbia while driving back to the Lower 48. I had almost lost one of my dogs in that accident, I had couch surfed at my parents-in-law's house for a few months, and I had moved to Colorado with my husband to see if we could finally put down some roots and find a permanent home base for ourselves.)

I had also done my research. I knew I should never do business with a literary agent who charged a fee for his/her services, and I knew I should pop every agent I researched into Preditors & Editors to make sure they weren't creeps or highway robbers. I knew I should visit forums like AbsoluteWrite to see what others were saying about agencies and agents, and I knew I should spend time pouring through each agency's website to make sure I selected the appropriate agent for my query letter. 

I also discovered a GOLD MINE: QueryTracker. (Have you ever heard of it? If I could be a paid spokesman for QueryTracker, I would do it in an instant!)

QueryTracker is the single most helpful resource I found during my search for a literary agent. It was started by an aspiring author named Patrick McDonald who wanted to create a resource for other writers seeking representation for their books. Here are his thoughts on it:

"As a struggling author, I knew there would be plenty of obstacles to overcome before I could achieve the dream of publication. But I quickly discovered the hardest part was not writing a book. The hardest part is to find a literary agent to represent your book.

"Sure, there are websites that try to help. There are those which offer lists of literary agents, but finding the agent's name was just the beginning. Of course I had to write the query letter, but a major problem turned out to be how to keep track of all those query letters. Who did I already query? Which literary agents looked promising, and which were just not suited for my work.

"I was faced with the same problems every time I sent out a new batch of query letters. Sure I kept a list of which agents I already queried, but, as that list grew, it became harder and harder to keep track. I found myself reading profiles for literary agents I had already determined were not suitable, or spending time on an agent just to realize that I had already queried her once before.

"I thought how nice it would be if I could just check a box beside the agent's name and forever mark her as queried. I could even go back after receiving that all-too-common rejection and, by checking another box, record that, too.

"And then the real power of this website hit me. With all this information, and with enough users on the site and contributing, we could take a lot of the guess work out of querying. Could the information gathered reveal patterns, or help identify more likely agents for different genres? I was sure of it. Now, I felt I was on to something. I hadn’t been this excited since the first time I wrote, 'The End.'

"So, I took this wishlist and I created QueryTracker.net, and now, although publication still eludes me, at least the query process has become much more organized, better targeted, and therefore faster and easier."

Are you obsessed with Patrick?? Because I know I am. As I have mentioned before, I have analytical, left-brained tendencies that sometimes border on OCD, so stumbling upon QueryTracker was a lot like finding the Golden Ticket to Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. (Yes, I just compared QueryTracker to a chocolate factory. No, I don't regret it.)

(Photo Courtesy of  Paddington Waterside Partnership)

As a matter of fact, I am getting so excited about the thought of QueryTracker that I think we need to take a quick break so you can go visit it yourself. (It's okay, I'll wait.) Click HERE to visit the Querying Chocolate Factory!

Did you get a good look? For those of you who were too lazy (or too interested in MY post! ;)) to actually follow that link, let me tell you a little bit about this beautiful resource. You can search for legit literary agents and publishers, and you can keep track of all your queries in a brilliant, Excel spreadsheet-like format. You can also easily click off who has rejected you, who has requested pages, etc.

This alone would make QueryTracker my favorite querying website, but PATRICK HAS TAKEN THINGS SOOO MUCH FURTHER. You see, he has also added a social element, so you can connect with other writers who are querying the same agents as you. You can chat with them to see how successful their queries were, and you can also get an idea of how quickly each agent typically responds to his or her queries. This allows you to figure out where you are in the "queue," which helps you decide whether or not you should start freaking out yet.

But wait, there's more. Patrick digs data and trends, and he has figured out this whole system of analyzing which agents are drawn to which particular types of novels. That means if one agent requests pages from you, he can look at other users' request rates and determine which other agents would probably dig your pages, too.

DID I JUST BLOW YOUR MIND???

Best of all, Patrick has taken socializing to the next level by creating a a blog and an entire online forum where QueryTracker users can mingle, ask questions, get feedback and share good news with each other. (I have made many lifelong writer friends through this forum, and I am still a regular contributor, even though I found my agent years ago.) Here's the link, and I HIGHLY recommend joining: QueryTracker Forum.

Oh yeah, and did I mention membership to QueryTracker is FREE??? (There is an option to pay a small amount to become a Premium Member if you like. I highly recommend this, because it gives you access to lots of this awesome data sorting. However, you can totally remain a free member and still get a TON out of your membership.)

*Whew.* That felt good. I get just as worked up talking about QueryTracker now as I did when I first discovered it in January 2011. I honestly don't know what I would have done without it during my search for literary representation.

Of course, before I could find a literary agent, I had to do one of the most challenging things I had ever done: I had to write a query letter.

Dun-Dun-DUUUNNN!!!

Ugh. In some ways, I felt like writing my book was WAY easier than writing my query letter. Did you? And what other publishing resources did you discover when you first start researching them? Did you like any more than others?

Please tune back in soon to learn more about my querying process. I also can't wait to hear your stories!