Today I received another rejection from an agent. Another beating. Unlike previous form letters that felt impersonal, this one was bittersweet because I received it two weeks after the agent requested the full proposal. (I remember my excitement when I first got that email request. As it turns out, she was deeply intrigued by my story but didn't fall in love with the narrative voice.)
When I first started querying agents, I had a snazzy query letter my editor helped edit and polish. Some weeks later, I had a full proofread proposal. Shopping had officially begun.
Then the rejections began trickling in and as they did, slowly, I began to notice how my excitement slowly began to fade. Yes, I would check my inbox often to see if there was that life-changing email. I wasn't looking to be an overnight success, but I wanted to prove I was worth the external validation. After all, I had spent thousands of dollars and waking hours on my memoir Accidental Soldier. Although I had temporarily dropped the agent world when I professed I was going the hybrid route of publishing, there was still that voice that wanted to believe I was agent worthy.
So imagine each rejection you get goes along the lines of: "Sorry, this sounds like an interesting story, but it doesn't fit my list." OR "I'm not the right agent, but I'm sure there are other agents out there who will think differently. This is a subjective business."
Of course, there was merit in each of their rejections. In a way, I was "agent worthy" because they were suggesting that even though their lists were limited, my memoir was still agent worthy. Still, the agent world is so subjective. How do you find the right one that will champion you and your book and isn't so proposal driven and focused?
Finding the right agent is almost akin to searching for a needle in a haystack.
Two agents previously said they were intrigued by my story premise but didn't fall in love with the narrative voice. While it's reassuring that both of them wholeheartedly admitted to their subjectivity, they also wished me well for my journey in hopes that I would find the right agent.
Just when you are about to give up, trust, believe and trust again
Despite the "beatings" or agent rejections, I know there is an audience for my work. I've worked hard to get to this point. Very stinking hard. I wrote that memoir with the intention of building my business and opening many professional doors. Everyone knows that being a published author is the gateway to speaking opportunities where you can make a larger impact. Podcasting is huge right now.
I must have sent out over 100 queries by now (I haven't officially counted) but I've sent a few queries a day over the course of 63 days. I still want to give the process a chance before I officially say goodbye which will probably be in July if I don't get representation. But that still means I need to recognize that external validation is very different from beta readers because they represent a sample opinion of a wider readership.
Whenever I get a rejection, I have to recognize the different world from which it comes:
For example, an agent wouldn't ever say these things about my memoir:
1. A clearly defined narrative arc -- through narration, sensory details and authentic dialogue, you "show" us your struggles and your eventual triumph
2.The plot is evident. Shy girl breaks away from mother's clutches to find her way in the world by joining the IDF and fulfilling her intent to achieve independence.
3.Your introspection about your inner thoughts, feelings and responses adds a rich dimension. You are brutally honest with yourself and in doing so, make me want to root for you. Too much self-disparaging behavior would have been a downer but you balance it with a fierce determination and perseverance that I admire.
Many thanks to Kathy Pooler of A Memoir's Journey
Perhaps the closest one agent came to validating my journey is indicative of the words: "You have led a thoughtful and unique life that I think a wide variety of readers would find interesting."
Perhaps publishing with an agent isn't in the cards for me. In today's highly competitive traditional environment, there are many other ways to publish including the hybrid route which has traditional distribution and is becoming the answer for many authors worldwide.
No matter how many more rejections I get until the end of July, I will consistently remember that there is an audience for my story. And if you're an author like me trying to secure representation, please remember this too. I've decided to give voice to these and other similar experiences both to my radio show Giving Voice to Your Story and over at my blog. As Dr. Brene Brown says, "it takes great courage to be seen." Vulnerability requires courage. To take a beating requires courage. Yet life is too short to take too many beatings. It's tough, very tough out there even if you've written the best of bestest stories. Rejection stings. It hurts. But when you fill your writer-self with love and compassion, the sting goes away. Today's rejection from an agent which I had hoped I would get a favorable response, went away after 15 minutes. Onwards.
This story will find its way into the world whether I find an agent or not.
What has been your experience with agents? Have you found some success? What tips can you share?