Just Like the Rest of Us

Good morning, self!

Today begins a new week, Monday, with the usual errands to run, checking pertinent email, banking, shopping, the mundane fillers that get in the way of the fun things of life.

Morning coffee was spent with a lovely redtail hawk perched on the deck rail, attentive to the small pond’s shores where hang little field mice, unaware they are tempting breakfast to my visitor. My bird book guide says my feathered friend is a female this morning. Her patience is laudable, and often rewarded, likely why she shows up with frequency.

This is the usual day I research literary agents, stalking my (mostly) female, young, and sometimes interested keepers of the gates to the publishing world. So far, I seem to attract two kinds: those that respond with kind, and sometimes helpful, rejections, and then there are those who don’t respond at all. At some websites the latter will warn that if I don’t hear back in a timely manner….that is rarely defined…I can assume they have passed. Their words!

What, they died?

Likely I wouldn’t want representation by them anyway, and I can see why. This is their business. If they don’t attend to their shop, they won’t work very hard to rep my book. So it’s a good method of sorting.

The responders with real interest, but perhaps few contacts, or too many books already on their plates, or because it’s Monday when my e-query arrives and they are inundated with so many writers wanting representation, or they are suffering a zit or a broken fingernail, or truly are swamped with way too much work….like the rest of us out here slaving, this group still takes the time to encourage me, not with auto-reply, but with genuine interest in my story, but don’t feel they can service it well enough to make it profitable for them or me. In that order. Hey. This is their business. And, understand, I am deeply grateful for their honesty. To a person, they tell me to keep looking, to not give up. They will make it onto my acknowledgements page.

One responder, a polite, helpful male, allowed as how he might be making a mistake to reject my request, and thinks he might be kicking himself later, but he just can’t take on one more book. That kind of rejection is high praise, and I thank him for it. Too bad; that kind of fellow would be worth working with.

See, because this isn’t a piece of pottery to display on a shelf. And I’m picky about who gets to represent it to the world of readers. He likely would have done a bang up job, so I really feel the loss of that prospect. To be honest, other than his decision, rejections can be taken with a grain of salt. Agents are busy people, but I remind them, just like the rest of us. They look for the easy deal: hottest topic, already known author….though they swear they seek new voices…repeater writer they know well. They stalk Amazon looking for the self published who are selling good numbers of books. They want to contract with those. You can see right through that, can’t you?

I remember Stephen King’s 200 rejections for his first book. And Madeleine L’Engle, writer of A Wrinkle In Time. A Small Rain. Many Waters. A Wrinkle In Time was rejected more than thirty times. Finally she handed it to a publisher. So much for agents. That was, I think, 1962. That book has sold millions, continuously in print since 1963. I don’t notice much improvement in the chaotic process that is writing and publishing. Hence, the dominant rise of Amazon, where a self-published author can park his or her own effort and sell it.

I don’t compare my skills to Ms. L’Engle. Nor to Stephen King. I do look to them for their experience in what feels like treacherous waters for a new swimmer. And I don’t think landing an agent is any sign of a duck’s nest. All of this is surprisingly hard for the novice. The writing, by comparison, was easy.

Dear me. All of this angst and I’ve only been pitching for a mere six weeks. But I do it for my own entertainment, out of which will come enlightenment. I am well aware that these are real flesh and blood people at the other end of my queries, sincere about their efforts and looking, like the rest of us, for the winner that might make their bones. And, note to self, when that happens for them, they sometimes fold their agent tent, bank their hard earned money and become something else in the business as a reward. Agenting is very hard work on the way to better things. Just like the rest of us.

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