Oct 162013
Eighth Installment to Cat Naps and Doggie Snorts
(for previous installments, email Francine)

In my quest to educate myself about literary agents to sell my manuscript, Cat Naps and Doggie Snorts, I bought a copy of Writer’s Digest’s Guide to Literary Agents.

This text lists agents not only alphabetically but by genre. I studied only those agents who are interested in nonfiction books about animals. That page became dog-eared as I sent pitches and proposals to the ones who listed animal stories as topics that interested them. I learned that each agent has her own preferred method of being addressed and pitched. Some want a mere query by email, others a full proposal. Their websites each specify what those two avenues must contain.

In February 2013, I attended the weekend San Francisco Writers Conference organized by the Michael Larson and Elizabeth Pomada agency. I realized how long I had been living in isolation from other writers. Many of the attendees were writing their first books and others were more experienced and more clued into the industry than I was. There was so much information about self-publishing and traditional publishing.

I signed up for the event that allows you to speak to an agent for five minutes, a kind of literary musical chairs. Of the three agents I visited two were quite interested in Cat Naps and Doggie Snorts.

One of them I already knew from a previous experience. Kimberly Cameron several years ago had accepted my manuscript for The Fabulous Fior – 100 Years in Italian Kitchen, the history I wrote of the Fior d’Italia restaurant and the North Beach Italian community. She was very excited about it but could not sell it.

When I met her again at the Writers Conference she was equally gracious and encouraged me to send a query to her associate who for whom manuscripts about animals are of special interest. Another agent with another firm also encouraged me to send her a query.

Neither responded positively to my pitches. In fact  Kimberly Cameron’s associate Elizabeth Kracht said she found my material “did not go deep enough”.

That certainly taught me something. I am writing a collection of anecdotes about my subject which I thought would entertain. My vision was one of those gift books you see in stationery or book stores. I was obviously not appealing to the right market. So I have to do more research.

I have pitched and proposed to over four dozen agents, as of this writing. Responses have ranged from:
·       No response at all
·       This agent has died
·       Thank you, your submission doesn’t fit our needs right now.
·       Please send the complete proposal (followed by no response)

I could get discouraged, many writers do. But I keep in my mind the story of Jack Canfield, co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul, who reportedly received 144 rejections before his manuscript became a massive best-seller and a franchise.

I have a long way to go and, in the meantime, I keep refining my text.

“The misery of keeping a dog is his dying so soon. But, to be sure, if he lived for fifty years and then died, what would become of me?”
– Walter Scott

Oct 012013

Sleeping with petsSeventh Installment The Book Coach Is Writing a Book
(for previous installments, email Francine.)

Publishing has changed so much in the last few years that the decision of how to publish is a big one. Do I want to publish independently or attract a traditional publisher?

I was commissioned to produce my first two books. Since then, I have written books for several clients.  But this one, Cat Naps and Doggie Snorts, I’m doing under my own steam without  sponsorship.

Because finding an agent and publisher is so difficult, many would say my obvious choice would be to self-publish. But I find this option daunting for there are so many variables. Outfits that help you to  produce your physical book independently each have their own specifications – size, number of pages, additional services such as editing and artwork. And they are have their own cost structures. Whichever provider you choose, it is an investment. And it’s tricky finding a reputable one. (See Editors & Predators, http://pred-ed.com.)

Even if you are choosing a firm that will allow you to print on demand – that is you buy only the number of books you want when you want them – you still have to put out cash for the interior and cover design and the production of the physical book.  If you decide to sell your text as an e-book only, there are still editing and design costs. In both cases the author is still the one who markets and distributes the book. In other words, a whole new career path in my view. And since no one is paying me to take this route, I didn’t want to invest more at this time.

I feel strongly enough about my project to pursue the  traditional route of agent and publisher.  Yes, sometimes the demon inside me says I’m no good and the book is silly, but that’s the age-old voice that we all have and I recognize it as a fraud.

Then I think of all the people I’ve interviewed who were thrilled to talk about this project and to be part of it.  I am doing it for them too.

Besides I want to educate myself about traditional publishing, difficult as it is.

I want to be able to tell my clients I have done this and this is how you can do it. My next posts will address my attempts to find an agent and publisher.