It’s that time again. Time to start gathering my list of the April query letters. I try to send out a batch at least once a month. It’s not always enough time to hear from everyone in the previous batch (or even everyone from the very first batch), but it keeps me moving. I know there are some agents who don’t want you to contact anyone but them, but the truth is, as a writer I have to try to contact as many people as possible. You won’t hear from everyone, and the odds are a decent portion of those you do hear from will be rejections.
This knowledge is something I went into the query game with. I knew it would be difficult. We all want to be the one writer who never received a single rejection (though I think the rest of us kind of reject them so it evens out a little). I know how rare that person is. The most successful writers in history have all received rejections, including some of the most cruel comments possible. It happens. Before we begin, we must accept that.
Beyond the knowledge that most people will be rejected a few times, I knew what my personal battle be. I’m trying to sell a first novel that happens to be a young adult fantasy romance and is the beginning of a series. The only thing that would be more difficult right now was if it was dystopian as well.
Why is this so hard? One word. Twilight. I have to be honest. I am not a Twilight fan. I gave that book every chance I could, and it was a big nope for me. Whether or not I liked it doesn’t matter though. It made an impact on modern publishing for a few reasons.
Firstly, it was successful. Very successful. Probably more successful than it should have been. It made a large amount of money for everyone involved, and became a basis of comparison for other books. It didn’t matter that the other books had nothing in common with Twilight, the other books were successful and therefore there was a comparison. This extends to books being queried now. If there could be a comparison, the novel may never see the light of day. Sure, it could be a success, but it is unlikely to match the success of Twilight. Why pick a book that is unlikely to become a huge success?
Second, Twilight hit on a time of vampire obsession. I don’t think we can credit the book, anymore than we can credit The Walking Dead with the zombie craze. It was released at a time when that was what people wanted, at just the right time in a trend. The appeal made sense, and may be why I had a major crush on Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer for a long time. Vampires appeal to younger girls who want a bad boy, but don’t want the drama of actually dating one. An undead yet gorgeous guy who may just kill you qualifies but he is fictional and therefore safe. Vampires also appeal to middle aged mothers who are wishing for a little of the excitement that has faded from their lives. It doesn’t matter that the person they are fantasizing about is better suited to their daughter (or son, whatever) and should be underage. Technically, as an immortal creature, they are legal so it’s not creepy. It doesn’t matter if your story has nothing to do with vampires. If there is even the tiniest inkling of paranormal romance, it can be shuffled into this category.
Third, is Stephanie Meyers herself. A stay at home Mom who started writing simply because she had an idea. A success story for bored housewives and hobbyists. Sure she has written more since then, but it doesn’t change what she has done. I imagine there are thousands of woman, staying home with their babies, writing in their spare time and thinking they could have a best seller on their hands. Agents, publishers, and editors are not fond of hobbyists in general. They want serious writers, people who are devoted to their craft. Being a stay at home mother, changing careers or even taking a break from a career and writing while you have the time? Sorry Ma’am, we have enough letters from housewives who want to make a quick buck. We only take serious writers.
Yes, I knew I would have an uphill battle. I would be lying if I said I hadn’t considered quitting already. Not giving up on my dream completely, just postponing this particular tale until after I sell something else, something a little easier. However, I am already three months in. I might as well dive in completely and finish what I started. Just because I haven’t found the right place for my book, doesn’t mean I won’t ever find the right one.
Finding an agent is kind of like dating. You look at who is available, scout them a little, trying to get a feel for who they are, and make a pass. Maybe they go for it, and maybe they don’t feel the same connection you did. Does that mean you get thirty cats and start yelling at neighborhood kids, officially becoming the creepy cat lady? No, you hit the bar the next night and see if you can make a connection with someone else.
That doesn’t mean rejection just rolls off your back every time. Sure some letters I can shrug off. I try to find mostly agents and agencies I can see myself and my book fitting in with. But every now and then you have to send a letter off to a long shot. It’s like giving your number to the hottest guy at a party; he probably got several numbers that night, but he has to call someone eventually, right? Maybe it will be you, maybe not. When you don’t get the call, you’re not too surprised. Some agencies are huge, and successful. They don’t take too many new clients, so when you are not among them, yeah, you’re disappointed, but not surprised. Sadly, it is more common for me to feel there could have been something. Not only was the agency good looking, but they have so much in common with my book. I mean seriously. I could totally see my book on their shelves. What are your current favorites? Mine too! We have so much in common, what to you mean we’re not a good fit?
I shouldn’t complain too much about rejections. Not only did I know it would happen, but I have been lucky enough to not get any of the cruel, overly insulting letters you hear nightmare stories about. I’m honestly not sure what I would do if I got one of those. I’d like to say I would laugh, maybe frame it for when I’m successful later. Truthfully, I’d probably cry and finish off several bottles of wine, while sitting in my sweats and eating ice cream. I’m kind of hoping to never find out.
For now, I’m working on using rejections as motivation. Someday I would like to be the author sitting in front of the hopeful writers, a room full of people who are struggling, and tell them, yes. Once upon a time I sat in your place. I cried, wondering if things would ever come together for me. I wondered if I was making a mistake, and I thought of giving up. But instead I sat back down, and wrote some more. I tried again, I persevered, and in the end I made it.