If you saw a teenage girl with her laptop in the YA section of the library, her laptop open on the bottom shelf, you may think she was just a teenage girl. But if you watched closely, you would see her scan a row of books, choose one, sit down on the floor, flip to the first three pages of the book, and type something into the computer. Then she would flip to the end of the book, and type more. And more. And then she would put the book back and get another one.
Certifiably insane behavior, I would say. Stories are for reading, not for typing. But it wasn't the stories I was perusing - it was the Acknowledgements.
Contrary to my expectations, no one harangued me for having a laptop in the YA section. The library did not cart me off to the insane asylum or even ban me from the library forever. They didn't seem to notice my bizarre behavior. They just let me be, which is just another reason to go hang out in the library for no reason whatsoever. The people are nice and tolerant, it's quiet, and there's practically endless entertainment. But I recommend you going during the day before the school-age kids take over.
The Acknowledgments. I could have sworn that I got this idea from Shannon Hale, but now that I search, I can't find anything that she may have said that led me to this. It could have been Pat Walsh's immeasurably helpful 78 Reasons Why Your Book May Never Be Published and 14 Reasons Why It Just Might. In fact, it probably was. That book - priceless. I've finally gotten past the first reason (...because you haven't written it), which is totally relieving!
The Acknowledgments. Authors commonly recognize the people who helped them to publication, and there tends to be a little-read list at the beginning or end of the book that reads something movie credits (unless the author is particularly wordy or witty). I didn't used to read it, but now I do. It's often interesting. And today I went to the library and typed them up, gathering lists of agents, editors, and publishers.
(Prize for the most witty goes to Shannon Hale, and prize for the most wordy goes to Christopher Paolini, who thanked everyone.)
The point of all this was to see who may be interested in my genre of books. If I have a book similar to Shannon Hale's books, for instance, I may want to send a query to her agent. (There is a downside to this, also; the agent may now have too many in that genre.) It's also good to be able to say, "Dear so-and-so, my book is similar to The Goose Girl (which I know you represented)..." (That is a very informal representation, and I by no means recommend it as good query letter form, but I hope you get the picture.)
After I flipped through a dozen books in the YA section, I discovered the 2010 Writer's Market and sat down. Very proper and library-esque. I'm sure they were relieved.
A quick note about the Writer's Market. There's a new one every year, about three inches in width. The most recent one is consistently in the reference section of the library, which means you can never check it out, but it is very valuable. It has everything. Lists and lists of agents, publishers, conferences, all cross-referenced by genre, query-letter samples, articles on everything you could ever think of. One may fear that it is going out of date with all the information currently out there, and the marvelous blogs by authors and agents, but I still find it helpful. (And when I find a book more helpful than the internet, that's saying something.)
In addition to the 2010 Writer's Market, I also picked up the 2010 Writer's Market for Children's Books, as well as the 2010 Writer's Market for Novels. Since what I write falls into all three of these categories, I get stuck with three books instead of one or two. It's quite annoying. (I didn't pick up the one geared for Poetry; my thoughts about poetry are strong, so strong that they'll have to wait for another blog post.)
I read some sample query letters, which I have read before, and realized how daunting the task is that lies in front of me, which I have also realized before. It's a rather gloomy book, all told. I don't recommend it unless you can't stop writing. And then you have my sympathy.
The last thing I discovered was the Wylie-Merrick Literary Agency. It was the last in the agent list, I believe, and what caught my eye was that their agents can be found on Facebook and Twitter. A more in-depth perusal revealed that they accept my genre of book, and that they have a helpful and informative blog. I'm all over helpful and informative blogs, so I wrote it all down. The blog is over here, and so far I'm enthralled. Quotes from the current post may show up in future blog posts; they have some brilliant things to say. So I'm putting the blog over in the Links section after I post this. Hope to read it many times in the future. (The blog also has a lovely link list that I'll be perusing over the next few days; if I find anything interesting, I'll put it on the links page.)
All in all, I got a lot of names that I have to go research. As much as I like research, I sometimes wish I could just write and have people read. That's what I want - for people to tell me they love it, people that I don't know. For people to tell me that they were moved, they were changed, they were entertained. But there's such rigor in getting to that point. It's tiring.