A couple of months ago (August 8th) I posted a report on the status of my memoirs project. To jog your memory, earlier this year, I had a literary agent express interest in the query letter I had sent him and ask to see some sample chapters. I sent him about five chapters, to which he responded very enthusiastically. He then asked to see the entire book, and, unfortunately, decided to pass on the project. I was disappointed but rebounded, and spent most of the summer trying to make the book better, getting rid of some fat, tweaking some parts and adding some new material. Confident that I had a much better product, I went about searching for an agent anew.
I created a list of six new agents and submitted my query letter. The results so far are: three no responses, two not interested, and one request, from an agent at one of the largest New York agencies, to see the entire book. On September 13, I cleaned up a copy and nervously attached it to an e-mail. For almost a month I opened up my in-box with a combination of anticipation and apprehension, looking for the response.
Finally, last night, while at my cabin up north, I checked my e-mail from my Android and there, waiting in my in-box, was the long-awaited reply to my submission. I stared at it for a couple of minutes. The subject line gave no clue; it was merely a response to my submission. I finally opened it and, as I suspected, it was another rejection notice.
It was very nicely phrased and complimentary, but, she apologized, she didn’t connect with the material as much as she had hoped she would. She was nice enough to forward on some information about an organization of literary agents, where I might be able to find a better fit.
So you might think that I’m devastated, destroyed, de-incentivized, de-motivated, or some other harsh word that begins with “d”. Although I am a little disappointed, for some reason I am taking it pretty much in stride. Maybe it hasn’t hit yet, maybe I’m in denial (another “d” word). But I am definitely not defeated – if anything, I am more determined (yet two more “d” words!)
One thing I don’t feel is any anger or bitterness to the agent. I have read diatribes on line from many writers cursing out agents who rejected their work, portraying them as mean spirited and vindictive monsters who relish the opportunity to dash the writer’s dreams. I have also read comments along the line that there is so much crap published they don’t know good work when they see it. I don’t subscribe to either of these theories. First, every time they open a submission, I am sure that the agent is hoping for success. The agent makes his or her living based upon their ability to sell the work, not on how many would-be writers they can destroy. As for the crap that populates the best seller lists, it may be crap, but hey, it sells – obviously somebody knew what they were doing.
After I read the rejection notice last night, I went back to my laptop and for the first time in a few weeks I opened up the book, looking for things that could be fixed. Instead I found myself getting lost in it. I think enough time had elapsed that I was able to detach myself to some degree and I just read it, and to my surprise, I liked it! (Hey, Mikey!) There are still a few imperfections and some parts that aren’t as good as others, but overall, I found myself smiling at the funny parts and getting choked up at some of the emotional parts. I found the changes I had made worked. About an hour and a half later, I was still reading, and I realized I hadn’t thought about the agent or the rejection for some time. I found that I am still proud of my work. This helped my mood considerably.
It could also be that I’ve been through enough other crap lately, from the death of my Father to my daughter beginning her senior year in High School to my ongoing wrestling with Parkinson’s, that this is just something else to be dealt with, and not that big of a deal.
It also helps that I’ve got a strong support structure in place, starting with my wife, who, I suspect, for some reason I still can’t fathom, really loves me. I also have a great family and friends who I can always count on. Finally, I have my fellow Kenosha Writer’s Guild members and you, the few but loyal readers of this site, to give me encouragement and confidence.
Most importantly, I am not taking the rejection personally. I still have an enormous respect for the agent who rejected me, but I am chalking it up to my work not being her cup of tea rather than any personal failure on my part. My self confidence is no shakier than normal.
I’d also be remiss, with the Milwaukee Brewers only three wins away from the world series, if I didn’t throw in a baseball analogy: I may have two strikes against me, but, like Ryan Braun fighting off an 0 and two count, I can stand in the batter’s box and foul off countless pitches before hitting a home run (ok, if not Ryan Braun and a homerun, would you believe Craig Counsell and a balk?).
So here I stand, more determined and defiant than disappointed and depressed (gotta love those “d”s!). In the next few days, I will follow up with the three agents I haven’t heard from yet, and then I will start sending out to another batch of agents. I’m going to give this agent thing another round or two before I consider self publishing. I’m still eager to get my book out there, because I think it is good and may be of some value to somebody somewhere. I’m more eager to put it behind me and get going on the next thing, whether it is re-immersing myself in my novel or starting something new.