Bang2writer Jason Harrison has a question about novel writing and getting published:
"Is it possible to treat getting published like a business opportunity? I'm thinking that I could write a first chapter or two of my book, get a decent synopsis/covering letter and just send it out to publishers and see what happens – I realise that if there is genuine interest it will be dangerous of me NOT to have completed the book in its entirety – I know this goes against the grain of most books I have read on getting a novel published."
Though I have read MANY spec novels, it should be noted I am not an expert on getting a novel published, especially as I'm only taking my first baby steps into novel writing myself. However, because I am trying for the same goal and because I have spent a lot of time *around* agents and authors, I feel I can offer something here to Jason.
My first advice: when thinking about getting novels published - and if going the traditional, rather than "indie" route - I would target agents FIRST, rather than going direct to publishers. Though there are some publishers who are willing to read unsolicited manuscripts, they are few and far between; agents are your go-to men & women who can get you in front of the majority. Agents are the EXPERTS and have all sorts of kung fu skills in terms of pitching, contacts and trade/book fairs, never mind all the *other* mindboggling stuff like translation rights, e-book sales and the like. But if you've already tried knocking on the doors of various publishers regardless and been given the knock-back, then perhaps you would be less attractive prospect to them? Since so many agents are willing to read novel manuscripts from prospective clients, I think it's a no-brainer to go to them in the first instance, but end of the day you must decide for yourself.
Secondly, when you approach an agent re: getting novels published, you don't *tend* to send the whole novel. Even if you do, the whole thing rarely gets read by the readers and interns anyway. Usually, the first few chapters - three maximum - are considered, along with its synopsis. When Bang2writers come to me and ask *what* they should send, I always recommend this approach. Nothing is more scary than a gigantic novel thudding through the letterbox and to the floor! Far better to send a "taster" that really shows what you can do.
But do note - this is no "easy" approach: the synopsis in particular has got to ROCK. It's your opportunity to "sell" the novel AS A WHOLE - whereas your sample chapters are showcasing what a fab writer you are. So don't think you can rush these things. You need to really INVEST in them. Lots of Bang2writers worry about what *should* be in a synopsis or pitch document for a novel - my advice? It's the same as script pitch stuff - so take a look at all the pitch document stuff in The Required Reading List. There's plenty of articles in there to guide you. But the one BIG thing here: DON'T be mysterious about your plot in the synopsis. I've read so many novel synopses who think that it's "enticing" to be vague. IT'S NOT. Sell us the idea, really make us want to read the whole novel.
So this is the way to go, whether you've actually finished the novel or not. And of course the *ideal* is to have it finished. But that's not always possible, so if you haven't? When you've sent off your AMAZING synopsis and chapters to the agent: KEEP WRITING. It will most likely be months before you hear. Once I waited an entire year. So use this time to finish your book, so hopefully - in the best case scenario - if the agent wants to see the rest of it, you can say: "No problem!"
BUT if life gets in the way and you HAVEN'T managed to finish AND the agent wants to see the rest, DON'T PANIC. It is not necessarily an opportunity wasted. The best selling author Lisa Jewell recounts on her website this EXACT THING happening to her:
"And then, one morning a couple of months later a letter arrived from the last of the ten agents. She liked what she'd read and she wanted to see the rest! After peeling myself off the ceiling I calmed down a bit and then I started panicking. There was no 'rest' of the novel – I'd only written three chapters. I didn't have time to write any more and I couldn't afford to not work. I had rent to pay. What was I going to do?…. "
Lisa goes on to explain how she got the novel finished after all and delivered to the interested agent ONE YEAR AFTER that original letter expressing interest in her sample chapters!!! And of course the rest is history. The moral of the story here is, if someone is interested in your work - deliver the best you can, WHEN you can... And it doesn't have to matter when that is, necessarily. FAR BETTER to give in GOOD WORK than RUSHED WORK. After all, an agent (or producer scriptwriters!!) isn't going to be hanging around *just* waiting to hear from prospective clients anyway... They have other stuff to do!
So in answer to Jason's question, YES: you can treat getting published as a business opportunity, because that is exactly what it is, just like ALL writing-related stuff. We sometimes have this romantic notion of novelists plugging away in their bedrooms in the dark being "artistes" while savvy scriptwriters are out in the field networking and kicking it DIY-style, but in reality novelists should be getting "out there" too to maximise their chances of success.
So go for it!