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Jun12
Finding An Agent: The Donald Ray Pollock Method

"It was 1 o’clock in the morning on a rainy Sunday, and Sharon was sitting at the kitchen table debating whether or not to stuff another slice of American cheese into her mouth when Aunt Joan called.” 

That's an opening line from author Donald Ray Pollock, a writer who demands your attention from the very first second.

This former paper mill worker joined Ohio University's MFA program and started telling stories about his hometown--creating the fictional world of the book, Knockemstiff.

Today, he explains how he found his agent in my feature, Five Easy Questions. In the spirit of Jack Nicholson’s mad piano player, I run a weekly set of quality conversations with writing pioneers—delivering some practical, unexpected advice about web writing.

Jason Boog:
When your short-story collection was finished, how did you go about finding an agent and a publisher? How long did that process take? Any advice for aspiring writers who don't have any experience in this publishing world? 

Donald Ray Pollock:
I was extremely lucky, I’ll tell you that.  I finished what I thought was a book in the fall of 2006, maybe the end of October.  I entered it in a couple of short story contests and sent it to a couple of publishers who would read unsolicited manuscripts. Continue reading...

 

Around the end of November, Nat Jacks, who works for Inkwell Management in NYC, picked up a copy of Third Coast and read my story “Lard.”  He read in the little bio in the back of the magazine that I was at Ohio State, and he found my email address that way. 

He sent me a message, asked if I needed an agent and if I had a book.  I sent Nat and Richard Pine the ms and then signed with Inkwell at the end of December. 

Within three or four weeks, they had two major publishers interested in the book.  So the process wasn’t long for me, but I was damn lucky.  I know a lot of writers out there who are better than me and just can’t get a break. 

As far as advice goes, I guess you have to just keep sending your stuff out and keep working on new stuff.  In other words, don’t give up!  Too, if possible, write a novel instead of a short story collection.

Though it’s hard for me to understand why short stories are such a hard sell in comparison to novels, it is the reality. 


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