Which Way Is Random House?

I am officially Seeking Representation now.

Meaning, I have sent out the first batch of query letters to literary agents.  I didn’t contact a huge number; I don’t want to flood the marketplace with queries, because there’s always the danger that more than one agent might be interested in my work at once, and then it becomes a juggling act. 

Come to think of it, that’s a Best Case Scenario, isn’t it?

Nevertheless, it’s smart to take things slowly.  To be selective.  Utilizing my handy dandy 2010 Guide To Literary Agents, and a trusty yellow highlighter, I spent a couple of days going through the listings, finding those agents who are the best matches for my novel.  My criteria were pretty straightforward.

  • They must represent fiction (duh).
  • They must be seeking novels in the thriller genre.
  • They should be willing to take on new, unpublished authors.
  • They must not charge any reading fees.

There were plenty of agents to choose from that fell into those categories.  Too many, in fact.  Narrowing down my top choices was tough.  But I got ‘er done, as they say, and yesterday sent out three queries.  I plan to drop a fourth in the mail in the next day or so.

That, in itself, seems quaint.  I was surprised by how many agents prefer e-mail queries nowadays.  I shouldn’t be – technology keeps marching forward, after all – but the last time I had query letters to send out, some five years ago, the vast majority went snail mail, with an included SASE.  Postage cost me a fortune.  Now, I’d say easily 90% of the agents listed accept, or even prefer, e-queries.  It makes things so much simpler (and less expensive).  And, I would imagine the response time is quicker. 

Next up, I need to draft a synopsis.  That’s a chapter-by-chapter outline of the novel, written in present tense, that should run 3 or 4 pages long.  If an agent is interested in your query, he will then typically ask for a synopsis before the manuscript.  The reason is simple: he wants to make sure your story is cohesive, the plot interesting and logical.  And then he’ll want to read the actual thing. 

Getting a book published is about a nine-step process, I’m telling you.  Writing the damn thing is only the tip of the iceberg.  Then there’s the editing and rewriting (twice, in my case).  Coming up with a killer query letter (an art form in itself – it’s pretty tough to sum up a 350-page novel in two succinct paragraphs, plus talk about yourself and your potential audience, all on a single page).  That synopsis I mentioned.  Don’t even get me started on a marketing/promotional plan for the book.

Still, this is an exciting time for me.  It’s great knowing that I am no longer resting on my laurels (as an aside: what the hell are “laurels”, anyway?  I don’t remember them from Anatomy class).  Literally, at any moment I could receive an e-mail or a phone call or a letter that has the potential to change my life. 

Either that, or I’ll soon have enough rejection slips to wallpaper my living room. 

But at least I’m giving it my all.  Go, proactive me!


Published by Mark Petruska

I'm a professional writer and editor living my best life in south central Wisconsin.

3 thoughts on “Which Way Is Random House?

  1. The phrase comes from the ancient Greek tradition of rewarding victory with the branch of a laurel tree (fragrant evergreen) so essentially it means you’re resting on a bed of victory.


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