Walk into any bookstore and behold the vast collection of titles sitting on shelves waiting to be purchased and read. Hardbacks, paperbacks, picture books and guides. Fact and fiction, cookbooks and tall tales. Where did all these books come from and how did they travel from keyboard to printed pages with a price on the dust jacket?
Ah… such are the things an aspiring author (like me) wonders whenever a rejection letter arrives in the mail. In this case, the second rejection for The Extraordinary Adventures of the 25 Year Old Birthday Muse — this one, like the first, not from one of the major publishing houses (rejection you can sink your teeth into), but from a literary agency. Publishing a novel, I’m finding, is not as straightforward as they make it out to be in the movies:
- Write wonderful book.
- Ship hopeful manuscript in sturdy cardboard box to publisher.
- Jaded editor lifts the lid on sturdy cardboard box, while hollering for a secretary to fetch a cup of coffee.
- Manuscript glows brightly from inside box.
- Editor skims the first page, flips to the second, the next and the next.
- Pages fly, the hands of a wall clock spin, the secretary brings cup after cup of hot black coffee.
- Editor slaps down the last page, exhausted — shouts “Gadzooks!” and reaches for the telephone.
- Your book is published and sells millions!
Nope, doesn’t work that way. The days of finding a home for your work based on an unsolicited manuscript submission are long gone. Today, the process works something like this:
- Write wonderful book along with equally wonderful query letter for prospective literary agencies.
- Send wonderful query letters to literary agencies.
- Wait for rejections to wonderful query letters and hope for a request for manuscript submission.
- Go back to step 2, until….
- Eureka! An agency expresses interest in your project!
- Submit manuscript (or partial manuscript for review).
- Wait for either….
- Rejection, because your book either…
- Sucks — go back to step 1
- Doesn’t quite fit the work the agency chooses to represent — go back to step 2
- Acceptance! Yay! Someone liked your book and you have an agent!
- The literary agency shops your work around to the publishing houses, making convincing pitches for your book or project.
- Rejections surely follow, but one day…
- …someone decides your project should become a real live book!
Today was step 7.a.ii with a note from the agency calling my manuscript “interesting and well-written.” The previous rejection was also a 7.a.ii, calling the story “playful, charming and entertaining,” so I can safely and with some confidence and determination trudge back to step 2 to try again another day.
In the meantime… anyone know a good literary agent?