Okay. After six months of writing and doing very little else with my life, I am finally mentally ready to start my life. I'm 25... I should have been mentally ready for a long time now, you might think. You're right, sort of. Some of my recent essays about this have reflected a little Wendell Berry in that we are not actually ready at this age.
Anyway. Though my original plan was to jump into the publishing process about a month earlier, it's been kicked back a bit by laziness, realizing that it doesn't much matter if I wait a month or two, and the slow editing of a friend (hint hint... joking). I've been writing all the while but putting off doing anything with my manuscripts because I'm not sure I was mentally ready. Now I am.
Step one: contact agents. Originally I was not going to do this. There are some publishers that accept solicitations and I planned on either going straight to them or self-publishing. Why not? It would be a whole lot easier to get an agent or anything else after publishing already. That was my strategy: publish once, then use that as a credential in going bigger. But after doing a bit of reading, I've come to see that there are two reasons why I like the idea of contacting agents now: 1) By the time I hear back from most of them, my books will be fully edited and ready to go, so I'm not losing any time while I wait to do that; 2) I can continue to focus just on writing and let the agent do the work. If every agent that I reach out to rejects me then I can still easily return to the direct or self-publishing route. No harm, no foul. In the meantime, I will reach out to a contact I have in the publishing world and test the waters there. So we'll see what happens.
Step two: apply for writer-in-residence programs. My friend Alexandra has bugged me for months to do this. I have finally cracked. As of the writing of this post, I have already sent out a significant number of e-mails to agents and put together some hard-copy mailings for other agents, and printed out five writer-in-residence applications. I don't want to do any more than five because, well, I'm in a relationship and cannot think only of myself at the moment. Darn girlfriends! These programs are an excellent opportunity for any writer but especially unpublished ones. All of the programs I am interested in are dedicated to writers who have published no more than once or twice, preferably not at all, and to helping the writer publish what they have worked on as the resident writer.
All of this takes a lot of time. It's been good policy for me personally to take one step at a time, to write first and then later, which is now, worry about getting published and whatnot. Now that I'm looking into things, I could have easily started contacting agents when I was halfway through with my book and be at the point in late December when we are looking for agents. Quite simply, I don't much care. Spiritually I have reconciled myself with the virtue of patience. Though I had dreams of being published this time next year, I'm not so worried anymore. My fame will take time. Besides, at some point I'm going to have my girlfriend type up all of my essays and I will send them out to journals, so I might be published this time next year anyway.