I had lunch with an author friend of mine a couple weeks ago. She is working on her third book and is one of those rare individuals who has managed to actually make a (good) living as a novelist. Given that I am closing in on a finished version of my novel, I asked her how best to go about the process of finding it a home.
She gave me some good thoughts on the query process. She recommended researching books that are like mine, finding out who the agent was for them, and making a long list. Then, when I’m ready, I should query the top ten agents on my list all at once. Then, every time a rejection comes back, and rejections will come, I send my query to the next agent on my list.
Then she asked if I had researched books like mine. I confidently told her that yes, I had, and listed the novels I have read as inspiration. “1000 Acres,” by Jane Smiley, “Winter’s Bone,” by Daniel Woodrell, “The Lovely Bones,” by Alice Sebold, and a few others. Then she gently pointed out that no, I needed books that were a lot more like mine – not just in style or content, but in who they were written by and when. Her advice was to find books that were debut novels, written recently, with some sort of similarity to mine in style or content. The important thing, she said, was to find an agent who is still hungry (ie – not representing books that are sure to sell because their authors are well known), and will work hard for my book.
So I’m searching for some new reading material. I went to the book store and forced myself not to buy Steve Almond‘s new one, or Dave Eggars “Hologram for the King.” Theses are decidedly authors who I have little in common with (at this point in my career). Instead I went home and cruised Publisher’s Weekly and came up with one title: “The Age of Miracles,” by Karen Thompson Walker.
It’s a debut novel, with what sounds like some magical elements, published last month. Check, check, and check. I’m excited to read it.
If anyone out there has any suggestions as to reading material that fits my requirements, please drop me a line. I would appreciate suggestions. I’m hoping to get at least 20 books on the list by the end of the year.