I skipped a blog post last week. I’m not sure if anyone noticed, but I noticed. My schedule said I was to write a post, and I didn’t. I felt guilty all day. Maybe that is slightly ridiculous, but I felt as though I had stood someone up. I promised to be there, and then I didn’t show up. No note, no phone call, no word at all, just deafening silence.
The truth is I had moved my writing focus elsewhere for the day. Pursuing writing is something that is somewhat recent for me. Last year, I focused on writing a novel I felt good about (at least on most days I feel good about it). This year, I am working on writing still, with blogging and now four open novels. I am however also shifting my focus to include publishing. For some the idea of publishing a novel you have been working on for only a year may seem premature, and maybe it is. However, publishing a novel takes time, and it is hard to say I am done even though I am sending out queries and samples. I’m not sure if I will completely feel I am done until the book has been released. Even then I’m quite sure I will look back and know I should have done something different.
It has only been a month since I started sending out query letters. The first batch received a few rejections, as well as a few agents who have not yet responded. I would love to say I sent out my queries and did not receive a single rejection, but I might as well be honest. I am blogging through this journey, and if I leave out the bad, the good will not be anywhere near as exciting. After one month, I decided it was time to send out a new batch of queries. Yes, my writing focus last week was on revisions. It was time to check my query letter and again and revise my manuscript, particularly the beginning which will go out much more often than the end.
After my revisions were finished, I spent a little time researching agents. There are lists upon lists of agents available online, and many agents represent so many different types of books, it is hard to tell what they say they represent versus the books they sell. It may sound like the same thing, but there is a slight difference. An agency may say it works with all YA, but that doesn’t mean my novel will fit in with their current projects. It’s as though the agency is dishonest about what they represent, but it is a matter of taste.
I personally like to spend a little time going over the agency website, looking at their current books and their upcoming sales as well as any other form of social media they advertise. I don’t necessarily spend a lot of time looking up articles from the past for every agent I query, but I feel a lot can be learned from the website and their twitter page. I want an agent who is more than just someone who will represent one thing from me; I want to find an agent who I can talk with about other potential projects and will be willing and able to work with me wherever the creative spirit takes me. It’s hard to find a good match, and sometimes it means I skip an agency who I think may not be a good fit. Yes, there are some who I have noted as long shots, but hey, sometimes you have to throw a letter out even if you know you are not likely to ever hear from them. That’s part of taking a chance.
My new batch of letters is not quite done. I sent out eight new ones last week, but as a few are long shots, I’d like to send out a few more. I am however, returning to the waiting game now. Agents are busy people, I understand and accept that. However, the moment I send off a letter, a song pops into my head and I am watching my email box and waiting for an answer.
See for me, it’s not the rejections that are hard. Don’t get me wrong, rejections don’t feel good, but they are expected. The most successful writers of all time still had to deal with rejection. It is something that I’m sure will happen again. No, for me, it is the waiting, the not knowing that gets me. I have heard from agents after one day before, and others I have not heard from at all. After sending off new letters it is impossible to know what time frame the agent will actually have on their slush pile. Every time my phone sings out a little ping telling me I have an email I get excited for a moment; will this be more spam or am I hearing something already? Could they want to read more? Am I being rejected? Or are bras on sale at Victoria’s Secret again?
I never thought about how much of publishing is novel is a waiting game. I spent months, typing, thinking, plotting, revising, and typing some more. It wasn’t as active as running a marathon, but I could feel like I was making progress. Now, as I revise and query, my fate is in someone else’s hands; with each letter an agent looks at the words I have put to a page and determines my worth. Yes, MY worth, not just the worth of my story. They are deciding not only if the one story is worth their time, but also if I am. A bad story can be revised, but a poor writer will take too much of their time to fix. For this reason, trying to publish my novel is by far the most terrifying thing I have ever done. I have placed myself and my creativity at the hands of another person, and now I am sitting in the chair, awaiting their judgment.