At various times over the past five years, I have alternated between eagerly anticipating my first agent queries and curling up in the corner with handfuls of chocolate at the mere thought of approaching The Gatekeepers of the Publishing Realm. My calculator says that’s 1,825 days …. 43,800 hours … over two-and-a-half million minutes. Yeah, it’s a long time, no matter how you slice or dice it. A long time to be see-sawing between anxious and confident, uncertain and proud, scared and cocky, despairing and elated. We all suffer from this brand of writer’s schizophrenia, but no one ever tells you this when you’re starting out.
So, on September 30, 2018, no one was more surprised than me by the reckless abandon with which I finally hit that SEND button, hurtling my precious baby off into cyberspace to an uncertain future with a stranger, a stranger who may not ever tell me how they felt about it … or me … or my prospects as a writer. It was a feeling like no other. I felt …
It’s true. Pardon my French–in fact, sensitive eyes need to avert NOW– but I had no fucks left to give. For five years I had read and heard all the horror stories about agents who couldn’t even find three seconds in their day to shoot off a pre-written, generic “No thanks” email. I’d done all the sweating a human can do over verb choices, dialogue tags, beats, colloquialisms, exposition, and backstories–when? how much? where?–because (as was beaten into my head) one misstep could result in your manuscript being flung from an agent’s hands into the round file. And the writers who’d wallpapered their writing space with rejection letters, gone on drinking binges or long stretches of not writing, even giving up altogether? Those were legion.
I had long since ceased to care about all that. I had written a novel–a damn good one–and was–am!–determined to get it out into the world. My letter is professional and businesslike. My manuscript has been critiqued, revised, edited, and polished. What have I to fear? My feeling is: I’ve done my best. I hope you like it.
A not insignificant amount of time was also spent researching the agents on my long list and crossing off those whom I didn’t feel were a good fit for me, including those with a painfully neglected (since the turn of the millennium) website and one with NO website. (Why would I want to be in a long-term business relationship with someone who hadn’t a clue about technology and web presence?) Those who seemed constitutionally unable to understand a Jersey girl sense of humor or an appreciation for the absurdities of life–a worldview I share, by the way, with my protagonist–well, they had to go, too. There were other criteria, of course, and I worked my way through the list, painstakingly researching every agent on it. When my whittling was complete, I began by sending out my first five queries.
The first and only response thus far came at right around the 48-hour mark. The agent couldn’t have been nicer or her reply any more thoughtful. While my story wasn’t for her, she encouraged me to take a second look at some of the other agents at her agency for the right fit. She closed with this:
“Publishing is a long game, keep writing and persevering. I wish you nothing but the greatest success.”
What a lovely letter with which to begin wallpapering my writing space. May they all be thus (although I know they won’t).
P.S. If you’re a writer struggling with rejection, here’s another blog post you’ll want to read. Just be sure to put down your beverage first. Laptops are notoriously averse to the forceful application of spraying liquid.