I guess I was pretty lucky in that I landed a publishing contract relatively easily and relatively quickly.I’ve heard horror stories of novelists trying to get their first contract, and ugh... One mystery writer I know has a binder with 125 rejection letters... number 126 said yes, so perseverance paid off in his case.
Once I had the book done (February 2008), I left it alone for a while because I was busy as hell with work (teaching) and school (my MA). Things lightened up a wee bit in June and July, so I did some editing and revising of the manuscript ... took the 297 pages to 303 (but I actually didn’t change very much, just mostly caught typos and added a bit, obviously).
When school (teaching) ended in mid-August, I decided to send out a bunch of query letters.
A query letter is something you send to publishers to try to generate enough interest to ask for the whole manuscript. It’s sort of like a sales pitch or even a cover letter and CV for the book... submitting the entire manuscript would be like the interview, getting a publishing contract would be like getting the job.
I wrote a one page sales pitch and a two page synopsis of Blood and Groom. On August 16th, 2008, I mailed them out to twenty publishers and agents (only two were sent to literary agents).
I heard back (in one way or another) from eleven of the twenty (which is actually a good percentage of acknowledgements). Of the eleven who responded, five asked me to send them the whole manuscript, which is a very good response rate.
Ultimately, I received two contract offers!!!