A writer’s journey frequently contains many potholes, speed bumps, hairpin turns, and dead ends. For those who have yet to be published, what it rarely contains are successes and affirmations.
I received some not-so-good news the other day, and some good news.
The not so good news is that an agent I had hoped to secure contacted me about my second novel with a rejection. Wait, that’s not exactly true, he said he could not represent me at this time but he wanted to help me.
For those of you not familiar with the publishing business, 99% of all queries sent to agents are rejected. They receive thousands of queries (letters with sample pages) per year. Many are rejected because the writer didn’t thoroughly research an agent and therefore sent him or her sample pages for a genre the agent does not represent. An overwhelming amount of writers are rejected because they can’t even write a one-page query letter without mistakes that certainly might characterize what the writer’s entire manuscript may be like. And others are rejected because it just wasn’t a good fit for the agent or the agency … whatever that means.
Before I contact an agent I research him or her like a detective looking for a stray hair of evidence. I read interviews they have given, I follow them on Twitter to see how they conduct themselves on social media, I check databases for the titles they do represent, I do Google searches to learn of any hidden matters I should know that may make this agent someone I could work with, or someone I wouldn’t even want to stand in line behind at the happiest place on earth, Disneyland.
Eric is an agent I felt I would be honored to work with and I was right. He proved it that day when he e-mailed me, asking me to call him at his office in New York. I contacted him one and a half hours later – I had to ground myself before jumping into that conversation.
He started out by saying that I am well-loved by many people in New York. (I follow lots of New York industry people on Twitter and they follow me and apparently they like what they read on my blog.) He provided a genuine invitation to New York, saying should I visit his city, he would love to see me.
He then told me that he never calls writers he has chosen to reject. He doesn’t have the time or inclination to do so. But I was different.
“You have an excellent writing voice … You are an excellent writer, and because of that, I want to help you.”
He then provided substantive suggestions on how I may improve on my character development, point of view (writing in the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd person), ways to improve the dialogue so that it is less expository and more descriptive. He said if I work on my second novel incorporating his suggestions he would like me to resubmit that novel. When I asked if I could submit my third novel when it’s completed and submission-worthy, he said, “Absolutely.”
A couple hours later, I wrote him an e-mail letter, thanking him for providing constructive editorial suggestions, and almost more importantly, for affirming my abilities. He replied that it was a pleasure and an honor to do so, and that he looked forward to speaking with me again.
Maya Angelou is quoted as saying,
Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.
I’ve considered those sentiments as applying to the way I conduct myself in this world. I am a work in progress. I learn from my mistakes and nine times out of ten, I do better the next time. When I make mistakes and am not aware of them, however, I have no choice but to keep repeating those errors until either I discover the errors on my own or someone makes me aware of them.
I have queried two novels thus far and have received close to one hundred rejections, rejections that gave me no clue as to why those novels didn’t appeal to an agent; absolutely no input as to what I might do differently. So I kept writing and editing, and querying.
Thanks to Eric I can do better because I know better. And although I am seriously disappointed in not being someone he can represent at this time, I am encouraged because according to one agent who took the time to speak with me, I have what it takes to get published.
Color me grateful. Color me blessed. Color me proud.
I’m not done yet!