So the novel was done.
I wrote my first book long hand, then typed the manuscript. I didn’t use white out. I’d read that the manuscript had to be clean. So if I made a typo, I retyped the entire page. I estimate that I typed about four copies of that book. (I still have the onion skin carbon copy – which tells you how long ago that was!)
Although Romance Writers of America was birthed the same year I wrote my first book, I didn’t hear about them for a while. And unlike today when the Internet puts aspiring writers in easy contact with other writers, both published and unpublished, I was alone in this process. Just me and my research books.
I did, however, screw up the courage to contact that aforementioned first time published author to ask her what a query letter should look like. Writer’s Market said I needed a query letter but it didn’t give me an example. Bless that writer’s heart. She shared hers with me.
So after the Christmas season was past, the tree gone and the decorations put away, I wrote my query letter. And then rewrote it and rewrote it and rewrote it. At the same time, I combed through Writer’s Market, looking for any book publishers who might be interested in the novel I’d written.
Today’s aspiring writers know they’re supposed to know their market. I didn’t even know what to call my book other than “historical” and “fiction.” I’d never heard the term “genre.” Now I can tell you it was a “romantic historical saga,” but I didn’t know it then.
I made a list of 21 publishers and prepared my 21 query letters. I made sure I knew the name of every editor. (I’m great at following directions.) Either ten or eleven of those publishers wanted a synopsis and three sample chapters. But nothing in the instructions said the “first three chapters” so I tried to pick out my best three chapters to send. Oh, groan. Now I realize how dumb that was. After all, what reader bops around in a book, looking for the best chapters? They start reading in chapter one, and if you don’t have them captured in those first three chapters, they won’t care if chapter ten is awesome.
By the end of January, I’d made photocopies of those three chapters and the synopsis, boxed them up with those personally addressed query letters, and mailed the 21 submissions to New York publishers.
And then I waited.