Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border
photo by Gene Tunick of Eureka, Montana

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Tip O'Day #459 - Just Say "No"

Guest blogger Karin Kaufman on “Jumping the Publishing Curve.”

In early 2011, I sent a query letter to a literary agent. One of those “if you don’t receive a reply, it’s a no” agents who haven’t the time, energy, or inclination to send even a one-line rejection via email.

I thought, OK, fine. I can deal with no reply. I’ve spent hours on the synopsis and query — properly formatting the latter to avoid being disqualified from the get-go by an assistant whose job it is to scour queries for obedience to format — and I’ve jumped through numerous hoops, some justified, some silly, but big deal. If I don’t hear from the agent, I’ll move on. I’d been told it could take years to land an agent, and after all, this was only my first query letter. I had many dues to pay.

Two months later, realizing that, indeed, I’d scored a big red no on my query, I turned to the next agent on my list. This one wanted the following: (1) a query letter of three (no more, no less) paragraphs, (2) a short synopsis, (3) a long synopsis, (4) a jacket blurb, (5) a tag line for my novel, and (6) a marketing plan.

In other words, he wanted me to do his job for him. With very little chance that my work would pay off. I calculated how many hours it would take for me to jump his gates like a good little pony and laid down my own big red no.

No, I will not start down this path. No, I will not make sure my email subject line is just right so that your automated system doesn’t kick it out. No, I will not spend the next three years sending queries by the score in hopes one agent will deign to respond. No, I will not sign with an agent only to find he can’t market my book and has decided to retire to North Carolina. No, I will not take a $3,000 advance (if I’m lucky) and be consigned to the back shelves (if I’m lucky) of a dying bookstore chain. No, I will not accept a 7.5 percent royalty rate when I’m the one supplying the content. No, I will not confine myself to one genre. No.

I’m lucky. It took me one query letter and a brief, wavering moment as I considered writing the next to decide to go Indie. That moment happened to coincide with the explosion in Indie publishing. Other writers have spent years searching for an agent—and years more waiting for a publisher to come along.

In July 2011, I published my first novel, The Witch Tree, on Amazon. So began the Anna Denning mystery series. In 2012, I uploaded the second book in the series, and last year I published All Souls, a speculative thriller that, had I been beholden to an agent and publisher, never would have been written.

God bless agents, with their hoops and gates, for pointing me toward Indie publishing. If you’re considering going Indie, I encourage you to give it a try. These days you have nothing to lose. After all, agents are beginning to call Amazon the “new slush pile.”

You have to laugh.

Karin Kaufman is author of the Anna Denning cozy mystery series and the Gatehouse Thriller series (under the name K.T. Kaufman). Her first novel, The Witch Tree, was a 2011 Grace Award finalist. When she’s not causing mayhem in the lives of her characters, she enjoys reading, drinking far too much coffee and tea, and taking walks in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies with her two rescue dogs, Sophie and Cooper. The Amazon Kindle link to All Souls is http://goo.gl/pbuKqx.


  1. Thanks for having me on your blog, Dixon! I enjoy reading about others' experiences in publishing, both traditional and indie, as well as their tips on writing. Lots of food for thought here.

  2. I like your attitude. Dodging around the doorman (agent) is how to make it in this new world of publishing.