With her swashbuckling sapphic adventure coming soon to shelves, Mel shares insights from her publishing journey.
To get where I am now, with my debut novel coming out this June, a lot of sweat and tears (thankfully, no blood) went into the querying process of finding the perfect champion for my work. That is to say, there isn’t one straight and narrow path to publishing. The beauty of this industry is that there are hundreds of different ways of achieving your dreams, whatever that may be. Whether it’s holding a published copy of your book in your favorite indie store or hitting the NYT bestsellers list, there are some do’s and don’t’s that I wish I knew before I had even considered querying.
1. Find the Writing Community and find them fast. Introduce yourself to other writers in any platform of your preference. Find beta readers that are also writers. When I started, I asked my best friends to be my beta readers. They were sweet and helpful, but in the end, they knew me personally and I couldn’t help but feel there might be a bias from constructive criticism. Getting fellow writer friends to beta read for me was super insightful.
2. Write and polish your query letter numerous times before sending it out. I mean it. You may feel like your manuscript is in tip top shape, but I guarantee that the first draft of your query letter probably isn’t ready to be sent out to industry professionals. Don’t be like me, dipping my toes first in a pitching event and getting likes on my tweets, and then writing a query letter overnight to send out the next day. You probably won’t get any requests like I did. Seriously, I still can’t believe I created a Twitter account, participated in #LGBTnPit, got likes from industry professionals, and then googled what a “query letter” meant when looking at their submission guidelines. I cringe just thinking about it. Looking back at that query letter I sent out, I want to print it out just so I can crumble it up. Get others that are querying to read over your letter, and offer to read over theirs as well!
3. You are going to get rejected. And it is okay. Repeat after me: It. Is. Okay. It doesn’t mean your writing is trash or that you suck. It means that you are one step closer to finding the right person that will fall in love with your story. I queried A SONG OF SILVER AND GOLD 75 times. Of that total number, 50 were rejections. If I hadn’t queried that many times, I would never have developed my submission package as much as I did. I would have never realized that it can only improve. And yes, the rejections stung. They left me lying awake, staring at the ceiling and wondering if I was ever going to be good enough. But then I got the email from my publisher asking to set up a zoom call (quite literally a week before I was going to shelve the book) and the rest is history. Take care of yourself in the face of rejections. Have a team of people that will support you and do something you love when you’re feeling down. Self-care and mental health are a priority.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I definitely bothered my writing group loads of times trying to get their opinions on the querying process (Thank you, Spaghetti Throwers!). They were a tremendous help and I wouldn’t know what I would have done without them. My DMs are certainly open to querying authors in case you have any questions – I will do my best to answer them! There are also contact forms on agents’ and publishers’ websites and most often, they have FAQ sections. The more you know, the better.
5. Do your research. Might be an obvious thing to state, but maybe not! I thought I had all my research done when I was just starting out, but it turns out there was so much more to look into. I looked up some of my favorite authors to see if they blogged about their publishing journey or if they had tips on crafting query letters. I created a QueryTracker profile and stalked agents’ profiles and MSWLs. I even researched within the genre of my book to make sure my word count was appropriate and that I was even in the right genre to begin with. That being said, without researching and without the tips of writing friends, I would never have known about small presses and publishers that accept submissions without an agent. In the end, Hansen House was the perfect choice for me.
6. No agent/publisher is better than a bad one. I’m serious here. If you think that all your dreams will come true once you accept from the first person that offers you publication, you might be terribly wrong. I’m lucky that I was never in this situation, but I have heard horror stories of authors that just did not get along with their agent and disliked having to work with them. I’ve also read of publishers trying to take advantage of authors and make them pay loads of money for publication (again, DO YOUR RESEARCH). Never sign a contract without thoroughly reading all terms and looking up the agent/publisher extensively. I am so lucky to have found my publisher and have a great relationship with them. Communication is key.
7. Celebrate every little victory. Querying is a long and draining process. Whether it be an agent like during a pitch event, a partial or full request, an offer, celebrate by doing the things you love. Get some chocolate, pour a glass, or do your favorite dance. You are one step closer to reaching your dreams and deserve to rejoice in all the little things that get you there.
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list, but these items were definitely things I wished I knew before I dove head-first into the so-called querying trenches without a clue as to what I was doing. Whatever your end goal is, I wish you the absolute best and am cheering you on from the sidelines!
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Melissa Karibian (@Mel_Karibian) was born and raised in New York, where she got her bachelor of science degree in Psychology. Growing up, she was surrounded by Hispanic and Armenian culture, a well as endless stories through books and movies.
Now, she studies Behavioral Neuroscience at the graduate level. Her writing tends to contrast her studies, filled with fantastical worlds and of course, women with swords. She aims to add to the growing collection of diverse queer stories and hopes to one day have readers see themselves in-between the pages.
Mel's debut novel, A Song of Silver and Gold, releases June 15, 2022. Preorder here!