This time, we talk to a gentleman who has written several books – the most recent being a charming story about a man and his (agility) dog. Meet Robert Rodi.
Whenever someone asks me for advice on getting published, the first thing I ask is, “Why?” In other words, what is it that’s driving you to seek publication? Do you want to sell a book because it opens a door to a career as a working writer, or do you want to sell a book because you have something you’re compelled to say—a story you urgently need to tell?
If you’re in the former group—the would-be careerist—then approach publication as you would any business endeavor. See what kinds of books are flourishing right now. Find the place where your own interests and expertise intersect with what the market is supporting. Maybe that’s a travel memoir, or a book about diet and weight loss; or it could be a historical novel about an English king. Then figure out what it is that you’ve got to say that sets your take apart from all the others. Work up a synopsis, write a few sample chapters, and then go to literarymarketplace.com and find an agent who has sold similar properties. Send him or her a query email asking for representation; if you get a positive response, send along the proposal and go from there.
Listen to your agent’s advice, and don’t be thin-skinned. He/she is as eager to make a sale as you are.
If you’re in the second group—that is, you’re compelled to tell a certain story, in your own way, on your own terms—then you’ve got a harder road ahead of you. Try to find an agent who has represented other highly personal or idiosyncratic books. There will always be a market for unique stories and distinctive voices, but it may not be an extensive one; a sensitive agent can help you shape and massage your project to find it the largest audience possible.
Some compromise will be necessary; it always is—ask any professional. Your alternative is to self-publish, which is immeasurably more viable an idea than it was twenty, or even ten, years ago. But it comes with a set of drawbacks, not the least of which is promotion; very few self-publishers have the kind of resources available to them that a major publisher’s marketing department can deploy. Just remember, this is your vision and your voice; that’s as much a responsibility as it is a privilege.