I haven’t posted one of these in a while so…
There was an agent who asked for my full submission last year in the summer. I sent it to her. A year later, after asking her if I could send her a superior version, which she then took a month to read, she rejected The Book. I was devastated for a week or so, before making a new list of agents and just blitzing it, sending the chapters to 10 agencies. I have since received 2 more rejections but I didn’t expect much from them anyway (despite their submission guidelines and preferences, I couldn’t really see any authors who looked like me or who wrote the genre I had written on their clients lists).
The reasons for my boost in confidence are as follows:
The year goes by quickly. I will never wait that length of time on one agent ever again. I have absolutely no reason to be loyal to any person who hasn’t even offered me representation.
In her rejection letter, she gave me some great advice to make the story more compelling, and was very specific about what I could add and where. In the letter, she wrote three words
you write well
No literary professional has ever told me this before. If I had opportunity to attend literary fairs and events, had connections to show an industry insider my work, maybe I would have heard those words sooner, but I hadn’t, and with every rejection came the looming dread that maybe I’m not a good writer, and maybe the story has no audience, and perhaps my talent has been a dream in my own head, some pitiful nostalgia from childhood. Those words meant everything to me, and I guess it gave me more courage to keep going.
It has been hard. I expected to at least have had an offer of representation now, and I started this blog as some silly twisted way of manifesting my success, but I’ve always been sceptical of that “tell the universe” stuff anyway. I’ve wanted to be a published author since primary school, and my childhood was spent writing stories and having adults around me stare wide-eyed that I had written so many weird and zany things at so young an age, but this experience isn’t unique to me. Probably every published or aspiring writer shares a similar childhood to mine, and that means there is no special reason why I should get published when I want, just because I want it. This waiting game is the height of indignity, having to rely on other people to make your dreams come true—a faceless wall, very white, very middle-class, very British at that. And it hurts.
The pain has caused me to mute certain words from my newsfeed: I don’t want to see tweets of everyone else’s success right now. I’m trying to remain courteous, graceful and happy, whilst navigating my own insecurities and fears that I’ll always just be “sending work to agents” and never getting any further than that. Whenever I see someone similar to me getting published, I just think “so why not me, then? Why did that agent reject my story and accept theirs? What did I do wrong? Where can I get help to put me in the right direction?”
Someone retweeted IAMINPRINT’s website. I saw that they were offering 1:1 sessions with top literary agents: names I had seen before, and I realised that a colleague of one of them had already rejected an older version of The Book early last year. At £60 it’s not cheap, but I snapped at the chance anyway.
I’ve noticed that a lot of underrepresented writers like me are snapping up book deals through more unconventional means: no longer are people relying on the old traditional model of sending their 3 chapters to faceless judges. Pitching events, writing competitions, and their own social media buzz are getting them the deals they want. So maybe I too need to be a little more unconventional, and start grabbing opportunities when they come.
I’m not expecting this 1:1 to be the end of my “aspiring writer” journey, but I at least think it will be useful, and I’m expecting something positive to come out of it—for 60 quid I bloody well should.
In the meantime, I’ve just been writing a few articles here and there, but I really hope to get back into story writing. I think the slog and exhaustion of the submitting life has taken away my motivation for it. I can’t afford to let that happen.