So this week I sent out six new agent queries. I'll do more next week; it takes a lot of time to explore agents and pick those who you think will connect with your writing. I feel good about it, even though statistically speaking I likely won't end up with any of them as my agent. I am pretty sure I'm not the only one who gets frustrated by this merry-go-round of submissions and rejections. Why do we keep doing it?
I'll tell you why I keep doing it. I am not interested in self publishing. I have nothing against it, per se. It gains more and more credibility every year as a viable path. But I want to write. I don't want to negotiate contracts, pay for my books to be printed, market all by myself. I just want to write my books. So I keep doing it. (I will say that most of the self-pubbed books I've read have not been of the same caliber as traditionally pubbed books. This isn't to say it's not possible, but traditional publishers have teams of people who work on your book. It's bound to improve the quality of the thing. I should also add that I edit for self-publishing authors, and I think those who hire an editor end up with a much better book.)
I have several friends who were almost at the end of their proverbial ropes when they finally signed with an agent and sold one or more books to traditional publishers. Their stories lift my spirits when I want to give up.
Here are a few of things I've learned over my many long years of writing, submitting, being rejected, and trying again.
1. If the same work keeps getting rejected, maybe it's time to set it aside and work on something new. I know for a fact that each book I write is better than the last. And every time, I think this one is it, until it's not. Each one teaches me something I didn't understand before. So don't put all your eggs in that one basket.
2. I am confident that I am a good writer. Maybe even a great writer. I know this because I go to a lot of workshops, conferences, retreats, and critique groups with professionals, and they tell me this. Also because I've been practicing for a very long time. Also because I read by the ton, and I know what's out there. Also, because I have no ego left, so I can assess my own writing in a fairly unbiased way.
3. It's a good thing that some of the agents and editors I've submitted to have rejected me. As mentioned, I been in this rodeo quite a long time, and I've seen the big stall that can happen to a writer with an agent who isn't right for them. Inevitably, that partnership ends, and one has to start all over. As I have gotten to know some of the agents I once thought would be perfect for me, I cry happy tears that they didn't sign me.
4. Agents are just people. Very fallible people. Very nice people. Professional people. But there is nothing to be afraid of. I have given up the role of sweet little author who needs the help of an agent (if that ever was me), and I have started being completely myself when I query and submit. I tell people straight out what I want, what I'm willing to do, and what my vision for a particular book is. I am too old to tiptoe around, hoping my good behavior will get me in the door. You know that saying about well behaved women rarely making history? That.
5. Even when nothing happens, something is happening. I spent the last year hoping to nail down a particular agent. She asked for fulls of two manuscripts, read them, sent back copious editorial notes. I spent two months revising one manuscript per her notes, resubmitted at her request, and waited. For six months. Nothing. All my writing friends said to move on, which I am doing. But that was a good experience, because it gave me more confidence, revision notes to work with, and some good revisions came out of it.
6. Never, ever sit around and wait for that reply. Be working on new things and revising old things and researching and everything else. It gives me so much energy to be working on the next, new, shiny manuscript that I can forget there is ever one making the rounds out there. It keeps me from obsessing or worrying. It keeps me moving forward and writing better books.
I wish us all the best luck this year in achieving our writing and publishing dreams.