A lot of you know that The Body Finder wasn't my first book. I was practically a baby when I finished my first manuscript, a full-on horror novel that actually landed me a real-live, honest-to-goodness agent. Or at least someone with business cards who passed as an agent.
Seriously, though, things have changed A LOT since I wrote that first novel:
1) When I first started writing my Horror Masterpiece at the ripe old age of nineteen, I was writing on an old-fashioned electric typewriter. The kind where if you made a mistake you had to unscroll the paper, uncap your white-out, and wait for it to dry before starting again. No computers for us, we were real writers...with the paper cuts to prove it.
I remember getting my first word processor. It was ENORMOUS! And awesome!!! It had this tiny little screen with dot-matrix letters, but I could type my entire manuscript and store it on a floppy disk before printing it out. It was like I'd died and gone to editing heaven.
2) I didn't have agentquery.com. Or the internet at all. I spent hours and hours...and hours...scouring through the pages of The Writer's Market, highlighting agents (and publishers) that would consider both first-time authors AND horror novels.
Again, more paper cuts...
3) Email? What is this E-M-A-I-L you speak of??? We had good old fashioned Snail Mail. Always. No instant gratification for us. I would mail my query letter and wait for days. Weeks. Months, maybe.
Okay, maybe that part's not so different.
4) I couldn't cyber-stalk anyone. I couldn't check the Twitter/Facebook/blogs of the agents and editors I was waiting on to see if their status updates had changed. I couldn't look to see if they'd posted an update that they were reading "the scariest book ever written" by a new author they were planning to "pluck out of obscurity". I couldn't read what they'd eaten for lunch. They were on the East Coast and I was on the West Coast...and there was nothing but a good old-fashioned plane ride to bridge that gap.
So, what hasn't changed? In all the years between my doomed horror novel and today, there are a lot of things that have stayed the same: 1) Like I said before, agents and editors still make you wait. They're buried in those e-queries and submissions, and the wait-time doesn't seem to have changed a whole heck of a lot.
2) Query letters are hard. You need to find that balance between professional and not-boring, stand-out and not-cheesy. Basically, you need to knock their socks off...or at least keep them from nodding off.
3) You want to make sure your manuscript is in its best possible shape. You want a tight, finely tuned draft. You want it as error-free as possible. You want drama/action/intrigue/romance...whatever it is that will keep a reader's attention. You want show-not-tell. Make sure it's ready before submitting.
4) Publishing is still tough. After all these years, that much still hasn't changed. It's tough, tough, tough.
Even the internet couldn't change that.