Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Book Publishing Secrets of Fantasy Author Sienna Skyy

When I completed my first novel, I always sent my query letters through an overnight courier with a signature required so that a prospective agent was sure to take notice. And then if said agent should request a copy of my manuscript, I devised a contraption (an ingenious one, if I do say so myself) where, when you opened the lid, a jack-in-the-box sprang out with my manuscript in hand.

Yeah, I’m lying. I did none of that.

But I do admit I was tempted to do something wacky. I knew that half the time, queries languished in the slush pile without ever having been read. I knew there were gazillions of other writers in the same boat I was in, and we were all competing for the same agents. There were rumors of agents receiving hundreds of submissions a week. If I did something wacky, someone would AT LEAST notice me. What if I let my creativity fly with the query process? Cookies, tchotchkes, singing telegrams!

Well, I’m sure most of you have more wisdom than I did when I entertained these ideas. You’re probably all aware that if you do something wacky, you tend to be known as a wacko. Fortunately, unaccountably, I did nothing drastic. I clung to the notion that if I proceeded with dogged professionalism, things would work out. Oddly enough, they did.

In the beginning, I read several books about the publishing process so I could get as much perspective as possible. This was a good move—I learned a lot. I also read message boards and got a sense of how other writers were doing. I then followed the industry conventions and wrote query letters. I think I sent out about four or five. Of those, I received two rejection form letters and the others just sort of vanished to the wind.

At this point, though I was willing to write a million letters if need be, it dawned on me that I might learn more if I got face time with other writers and discussed ideas and experiences. To do this, I attended a few conferences. This turned out to be the most brilliant move of all. Not only did I meet lots of writers at these conferences, but I also met agents and editors. I learned how to pitch in person, and I learned how to zero in on those who were possible matches for my work. Some of the editors and agents requested my material, and when I sent it to them later, the fact that they’d requested it meant I had a much better chance that they’d actually read it. The odd thing was, after meeting these people at conferences, I realized that they really were, well, people. They’re people who are sometimes overwhelmed by tons of nervous writers vying for their attention. I found that I was most successful when I was relaxed, friendly, and above all, professional. And the beauty of it was, I was making so many contacts at the conferences that I actually had choices. I didn’t have to follow-up with anyone I didn’t like.

The first real nibble came from an editor—one from a major house. I even went so far as to do some re-writes based on that editor’s request. At the same time, another editor I’d met at a different conference was also interested, as were three agents. I’ll tell you what: agents take much stronger notice when you’re already in talks with an editor or two. I wound up signing with an agent who was my absolute top choice.

In the end, I didn’t make deals with either of those two original editors. Fortunately, however, the leverage I gained from their level of interest did help me to sign with the agent, and he went on to sell my first novel.

So I’d have to say that my original publishing success came from a combination of networking, diligence, and luck. It took me about two years from the time I started looking to the time I actually I signed on the dotted line with my agent—and another year before I actually had a publishing contract. But as agonizing as that period was, I learned so much about the industry, the process, and the craft that I wouldn’t shorten that timeframe even if I could. And most importantly, I resolved to focus my creativity where it matters most: the story.

Sienna Skyy comes from a long line of storytellers, and from the moment she learned to speak she began telling tales of her own, many of which were reflections of the beautiful city where she lived. She got her start by exploring lyricism in the form of song, and was inspired the combination of literary fantasy and rock music that was prevalent in her early years. (Nowadays they call it classic rock.) She believes that art and music and literature are different forms of the same wonderful thing. She also believes that knights exist today though they’ve stopped wearing shining armor, and that magic is waiting just beyond the surface of the things we see. Sienna Skyy lives in Gotham City, and is surrounded by animals, of both the human and non-human variety. She is currently working on the next novel, Otherworld Quest.

1 comment:

  1. Ha! I love the little story at the beginning. Who wouldn't want to try something like that to get their book noticed?