Tuesday, January 4, 2011

There’s Got to be a Better Way

Tic, tic, tic . . . days pass. You check your mail every day. Tic, tic, tic . . . days become weeks. Aha, the first response! You tear open the envelope (or click “open” for electronic mail), and it reads, “Dear author, Thank you for your submission, but I am not able to use your manuscript at this time. Good luck.”

With a small sigh, you console yourself, “That’s okay. I sent out thirty-five queries. That’s only one rejection.”

Weeks morph into months. Declinations grow, all written with that fateful “but” right in the middle of the first sentence. You’ve gotten past disappointment and fear of rejection. Anger came and went. Each turn-down is now met with a sardonic “ppfffttt” as you log the reply in your list of agents who you will never-do-business-with after you become rich and famous.

Then, doubts creep in. “Maybe my masterpiece lacks a market. Maybe the industry has all the authors it needs and there’s no room for a newbie. God forbid, it's not good enough...naw, my ego won't let me believe that. (LOL) It must be that my query letter or synopsis needs revision. Maybe I should self-publish. I've got it! I'll put my story in eBook format and open a website? If it’s not good enough for the big leagues, then maybe a few people will enjoy my story on the internet. Hell, I’d be happy with just one satisfied reader . . . well, other than mom.”

Meanwhile, your daily writing discipline grinds forward, crafting a sequel. Characters from the first novel grow larger. Some live. A few die. Obstacles for your protagonist(s) fill the sequel. Each fictional personality leads future readers through another fantastic journey. All the while, your first novel waits for a willing agent and publisher.

One day, you stare at your computer while wrestling with depression, and a subtle electronic sound announces the arrival of a new message. You ignore it--must be more spam, of course. After lunch, (and time out to cook a batch of anti-depressant-double-chocolate pudding) you resume tormenting your main characters, but that nagging you-have-mail icon catches your attention. You open it.

“Dear Mr. Sault, Thank you for your query letter and synopsis. I am interested in reading the entire manuscript. Please forward it at your earliest convenience . . . yada, yada, yada.”

Whoopee! Yahoo! Success! Months of uncertainty, ended in an instant of victory. No more speculation. Somebody now holds your fate in his or her hands and will pass judgment on your full story. Who are these gods of publishing access? As Lois asked Superman, do they “eat”? Do they experience insecurity? Who would want a job crushing a hundred writers’ dreams to find a single gem among the emotional rubble? It would drive me to drink, well, perhaps to drink more. The emotional high of getting representation is better than dope...of course, I’m just speculating about dope.  <wink, wink>  And, if the agent produces results, all those months of toiling at your craft might pay off with that ultimate achievement, satisfied readers.

After enduring this marathon process, I can’t help thinking “Is there a better way?” How could the process be improved . . . or can it? Maybe all the failures are the best way to sift the wheat from the chaff. What do you think?


  1. There is no easy way, or if there was, it'd have been discovered and be in use by now.

    There is so much competition out there for the available publishign slots, from best-selling authors to midlist and down to first time hopefuls.

    And luck does play a part. Is the manuscript too similar to one the agent just took on last month, or the editor/publisher just signed a contract for? Or did it arrive on desk clearing day (email box overflow reduction day) and not even get an ounce of consideration--just a form rejection?

    Who knows?

    It is a long process and it can wear at a writer's self-confidence. Being an author--or attempting to be--isn't easy. Whoever said it was is quite wrong (unless you happen to be a celebrity/politician with a ghost writer and a platform already).

    Hang in there and good luck to you Dean and all those other hopefuls/writers/authors out there.

  2. Post script to this post...I signed my agent-author contract with a good NY literary agent on Feb 23, 2011. Next stop; aquisition-editor desks. I am confident "it" is going to happen.

    Terry, you are so right. Luck is an important factor, but luck only opens doors. The manuscript MUST then stand up to professional scrutiny or that "luck" is wasted.


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