This is a post I never wanted to write. I don’t want this to be happening, and I really don’t want to be talking about it out loud on the internet for strangers to hear.
Remember that book I spent a good part of the last year writing, and then heavily revising? The one with the cursed lost treasure and the diverse ensemble cast and my blood, sweat and tears soaked into the pages?
No one wanted it. It’s not getting published.
*Dives headfirst into humongous mountain of fluffy pillows, peeks out to see if you’re judging me for being a huge failure and total loser*
I haven’t said anything about it before, because frankly, I was embarrassed. I still am. I talked big about my shiny hopes and dreams, and was more than a little bit naïve. I boasted about my plan – come hell or high water I was going to write this book. It was going to be the best book ever, and it was going. to. get. published.
…And I failed. That is incredibly embarrassing to share with people.
In the end, I sent my book to a list of my preferred literary agents, as one does when pursuing a traditional publishing career. I ended up submitting to more agents than most writers do, I think. I don’t want to tell you the actual number because of aforementioned embarrassment. Buy me a stiff drink and maybe I’ll tell you then.
When you submit your book to agents, one of three things can happen. First, the illustrious magical unicorn response: the agent loves your book and signs you as a client. You work together on more edits and revisions, the agent sells your book to a publishing house and after tons of other steps I don’t even know exist, your shiny new book baby is sitting pretty on bookstore shelves. Second, the agent will reply with a form rejection – these aren’t ideal, but given how busy agents are, it makes sense that they use them to save time. Third, the agent might not respond at all.
I got a lot of #2, and even more of #3. Every so often, an agent would take time to write a personal note. The internet tells me this is a good sign, because if an agent didn’t feel strongly about some part of your pitch they wouldn’t bother; and if something you were pitching wasn’t in some way redeeming, they wouldn’t feel strongly about it. But, at the end of the day, they still didn’t want my book.
“Great premise, but your writing isn’t good enough.”
“Strong writing, but I didn’t connect with the story.”
“Wonderful story. I would love to take it on, but it’s not the right time given my current client list.”
I would be lying if told you I didn’t spend a night or two crying my feelings into a bottle of wine. Okay, fine, more than one or two nights. It’s really, really hard to pour everything you have into a project, to truly believe in it…and then have your worst fear come true. Failure just plain hurts, no way around it.
This is the part where I’m supposed to say something inspiring and uplifting. Soooo….if anyone’s got any spare fortune cookie inserts lying around, hit me.
I still stand by the book. Sure, when I come back to it in a few years I’ll probably think “Holy crap what talentless schmuck wrote this garbage?” But honestly, I’m proud of it. I’m proud of how hard I worked, and what I accomplished. Heck, even if no one cares about it I wrote a freaking book! With characters and a plot and pages and everything. It just turns out that it wasn’t my time. At the end of the day, all any of us can do is our best. And damnit, I did that.
Life is too short not to aggressively –foolishly, even– pursue what you want. So I’m working on another book idea. And this time, I’ll know more. And I’ll be better than before. And hopefully, maybe, someday, I’ll see my name on a bookstore shelf.
—The Wife in Training
P.S. – don’t tell the literary agents about all those “Ands” I just began sentences with. Or that preposition with which I ended that previous sentence. They’d blacklist me for sure.