First thing this morning after I signed on to the internet was to request a confirmation e-mail from a literary agent that requested to see the first chapter of my upcoming novel, Butterflies in Bronzeville.
About two weeks earlier, I had sent out about 20 letters to literary agents. I’ve received 4 rejections to date and then I got a request on June 15, 2013. It surprised me–given that it can take a long time to here from any literary agent.
The form letters that I received made me laugh. One agent actually scribbled a message: “your novel sounds rich and interesting, but I’m devoting my time to children and teenage books at this time.” Another said: “I’m not the write match for this work.” Translated: basically, if you’re an African American writer, expect these kind of responses. Why? Because most literary agents are middle-class whites who are only looking for the “next Da Vinci Code, Harry Potter Book, Eat. Pray. Love., 50 Shades” of Grey et al. They are afraid of “ethnic novels” for the simple reason of being labeled by editors for submitting work that could be considered “poor writing” or just not universal enough–limiting their ability to sell your manuscript.
It’s hard out there, but keep plugging along. You might just be the NEXT GREAT AUTHOR and Oprah and everyone in the publishing world will be beating down your door.
This link is a humorous explanation: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/11/18/805633/-Are-Literary-Agents-and-Publishers-Racists-Or-Just-Dumb
So. For those of you who may be thinking about writing a book–THINK VERY HARD if you have what it takes to go the distance.
I’ll tell you write now; the hardest part is finishing your book.
Hey, can I just go there: no matter how great your story–LIFE will get in the way. Family stuff. Work stuff. Personal stuff–the unpredictable. It doesn’t stop happening just because you want to write a novel. So the first piece of advice that I share is to PERSEVERE. You have to have this if you are serious about becoming a writer. It took me 6 and a half years to complete my first book–not because of lack of drive; but I had to endure all of the things I just mentioned while writing–and then this brings me to the BIG ONE: Writer’s block. It happens to the best writers. Again, you have to PERSEVERE. Don’t ever try to force write–trust me; it will not sound right. You have to wait for inspiration sometimes. Take a walk. Listen to what’s around you. You could get an idea for a chapter or even an entire book just paying attention to conversations and other life events.
The bottom line is that you have to have the fortitude necessary to write. Once you write your book, do you want to self publish or do you wish to obtain an agent? I’ll be honest, I’ve done the first–It just made more sense to me. There are many sites out there that will assist you in self-publishing. I chose Createspace. As relates to agents: your work will be cut out for you. Expect to be rejected, particularly if you’re a person of color. I will list this link for those of you who are interested in writing and it’s a good article explaining what I just mentioned. Link: http://timoun.tripod.com/literary-agents.html
The bottom line is to GET PUBLISHED. And remember that writing is an art; the world of publishing is a BUSINESS. Handle yours and win.