April 21st, 2011

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Congratulations, You're The Straw

I was debating whether or not to write this post, because as an aspiring to b published writer, there are a bunch of implied pitfalls in what I'm about to say. When you're trying to sell a book,  there are kinds of rules to follow. Each liteary agent want different things out of the query letters they recieve. Various numbers of pages included with the letter, perhaps they want a synopsis of the book, and that sort of thing. I'm supposed to research each agent for their likes and dislikes and make sure they represent what I'm trying to sell. Then I'm to wait patiently while they take anywhere from 20 minutes to 20 weeks to decide if they want to read some or all of my manuscript. Most don't. If they do, then there's generally like 3 to 6 months for the agent to read it and make another decision. Most say no, and I start the whole thing all over again.

That's the way it works. I know that. I'm trying like hell to work the system. I do my research. I send off my letters and pages and whatnot. I  do my best to graciously accept rejection and keep going. I tell myself again and again and it's a subjective business and that someone will see that me and my little book are worthy enough to join the party.

Today, I had a little breakdown. Because, I got a really insulting rejection. And while I'd normally brush it off, I've goten to the point where I've had enough. I've heard so many conflicting things about what my book needs. Again, subjecitive business. I've done my best to sort through the advice, to be flexible and open to suggestion. Anything to get to my goal, you know?

But the agency that rejected me today had the audacity to  suggest that it if I added about 35,000 words -  then they might be open to reading a few chapters, if, of course the synopsis was "reasonable." And this, without having read a word of my book. Not even the first line. I ask, how can anyone make a suggestion like that? First of all, adding that kind of length would put my manuscript well outside the general range of word counts for young adult novels, by about 20,000 words. Which, from all the research I've done, means most editors won't go near it. But again - how could anyone who hasn't read a word of it say anything about how many words are needed to tell the story?

And what's that business about the synopsis being reasonable? That doesn't make any sense. I'm more than willing to submit one, and have it judged good or bad, but for goodness sakes, what does anyone mean by reasonable?

And so, I did something I've never done before - I wrote back and called him on it. Because seriously, I was really, really insulted. I guess that's obvious. I don't normally go to extremes. I mind my manners and keep plugging away, but, for the love of Pop Tarts and Diet Coke, I couldn't brush it off. Not this time. In a couple of short sentences this agency managed to imply I hadn't done the work I needed to do, and by extention the half a decade or more I put into this manuscript isn't enough. Beyond that the "Well, maybe if" tone just annoys me. Way to make this whole process like a bad relationship. Want to tell me you might think about marrying me if I don't get too ugly? Cause it's about the same sentiment.

So now I'm wondering if I've totally jeopordized my chances of ever finding an agent. I'm supposed to be humble and gracious, but you know, I just couldn't let it go. I still can't. I tried not to go too far in my response, I tried to keep my language circumspect and tried not to sound like I was whining, but I doubt that matters. This agent will either ignore me or  even potentially smear my name. But considering both possibilities, I just had to say something and get it out of my system. Tomorrow I'll go back to minding my manners. Today, I had to stand up for myself.