I have previously discussed the conundrum of completing my second book, The Visitor. I have finished telling the story I want to tell, but the word count (54,000 words) falls short of an acceptable length for a novel. Most publishers want 60,000 – 100,000 words, and at least 80,000 for science-fiction. Very few publishers accept submissions directly, you normally need to go through a literary agent, who then helps you get a publisher. I could try to submit The Visitor to agents as a novella, but many agents do not represent novellas. Additionally, many publishers don’t accept novellas. Keeping The Visitor as a novella would only make the difficult task of getting an agent even more difficult.
I am still trying to get Elseworld published but I worry that I have nearly exhausted the list of literary agents in America and Canada that accept science-fiction. I have rewritten and edited the book numerous times and can honestly say that I am happy with the book the way it is now. I’m not arrogant enough to think it’s perfect or that an agent or editor wouldn’t have a lot of suggestions, but at this point I am not sure of what else to do to make the concept and the story more appealing for agents. One agent advised that she thinks, editors will think, that the story starts too slow. Perhaps it is my ego but I truly liked the way the story started off and I worked hard to make it far more captivating than the previous opening I had.
Apparently, I still have a long way to go. I found the agent’s feedback very insightful since it also revealed how important marketability is for a book. The agent didn’t say that she thought it started too slow, she was worried about what an editor (at a publishing house) would think. Even if she liked the opening, she can’t represent a book unless she is sure it will sell. After all, reputable agents only get paid off commissions from book sales, so they need to spend money marketing a book and have faith that their years of effort will pay off. Yes, I said years. The timeline between getting an agent, and seeing your book published, can range anywhere from 18 months to 5 years. This is a statistic quoted by numerous writing industry professionals at a Writer’s Digest Conference I attended last year, and the professionals emphasized that new authors can expect it to take closer to 5 years.
When I was more naïve, I thought I would have my book published by the time I was 18, then I aimed for 22. Now I am turning 25 later this month and realize I might not be published by the time I’m 30. Maybe I need to re-write Elseworld again before I can progress. Maybe I need to add 30,000 more words to The Visitor. Maybe I will do all that and still be an aspiring writer when I’m 50. There were plenty of people at the Writer’s Digest Conference older than my parents; still aiming to get a literary agent and publish their debut novel. That is a possibility but it is not inevitable. All I can do is believe in myself and keep working at my dream.