Last Wednesday I went to "The Secrets of Getting Published" Seminar with Marcus Sakey at the Des Plaines Public Library, and because I'm a lazy blogger, I'm just getting around to writing about it now.
For those of you who don't know, Sakey is a Chicago-based crime/suspense novelist who has four novels out now with another one on the way this year. I read his second book, At the City's Edge, after seeing it on one of John Scalzi's Big Idea pieces. I really enjoyed the book.
So, Sakey came to tell us all about the process of getting published. He outlined the process which, according to him, goes like this:
1. Write the book
2. After the book is finished, put it aside and give it time to let it cool.
3. Give it to friends and family to read, at least 5
4. Read it through yourself, all in one sitting if possible
5. Mark it up A LOT
6. Remember it's not going to be perfect
7. There should be tension and conflict on every page
8. Get an agent
9. Agents get 5-50 quesry letters a day, so make sure there's no reason to disqualify you
10. While you're waiting for agents to respond, get going on the next book.
Aside from that, he said the most important rule for beginning rules is "Butt in chair, fingers on keyboard." The process of writing must be treated as a job. He recommended 1,000 words per day, five days a week, which unfortunately, I haven't been able to do lately. He said one way to get an agent is to look at the acknowledgements of the books of the authors you like to build up a list of agents to send to. He also equated self-publishing to the kiss of death.
Then he opened it up to Q&A for about an hour. I took a recording of the event, but haven't checked to see how well it came out yet. Maybe I'll transcribe it (don't hold your breath). One of the most interesting things that night, aside from the talk, was that about half the room appeared to be made up of retirees. One gentleman, 75, sitting in front of me had spent five years writing a young adult novel, and was going to have it self-published because he was "too old to wait around for the whole publishing process." Another gentleman, who looked even older, said he has a 360,000-word autobiography of his time in WWII. When the guy said 360,000 words, Sakey's jaw just about hit the floor. You're average novel, you see, is about 85,000 to 100,000 words.
I'm glad I went, and afterward, Sakey signed the copy of his book I brought with me and gave me some encouraging words. Aside from what I've shared here, he also has some documents for writers on his website that are worth checking out.