I started looking for an agent twenty years ago. This statement makes me either a fool or steadfast. A fool because isn't it common knowledge that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results--yes, I know that foolishness and insanity are two different words and greatly differ in meaning. Am I a fool? Am I insane? I don't think I am either. I sometimes think I rely too much on hope, on needing others to validate my work. Is it wrong for me to want to make a living from doing something I love?
I am steadfast and tenacious. I am one of those people who can work a little most days toward a huge project like a novel. Mostly, people don't say much about my writing. Or they ask, "Are you working on a new book?" But success has been small for me--again, I know I find myself writing one thing, and then my mind takes me to something else. Kimberly, you are defining success by society's standards not an internal one. Most moments I am content and love the life I have.
Yet, I have been writing for 24 years. I have been a writer for 24 years. I have been a student of writing even longer than 24 years. I still dream of being on the New York Times Best Selling List. I need to bring in an income. I am now a single mother with two children. Over the years, I have sent approximately over 400 queries to agents seeking representation. (I had an agent for a short time and I will write about that some other week.)
When I first started sending out queries, I'd use snail mail. As was part of the industry standard I enclosed a SAE, self-addressed envelope. I always sent these queries with hope. Hope is one of those feelings that interest me--giving this surge of emotion that often later turns sour. Weeks, months later I'd receive these envelopes back. Every time, I saw the white envelope with my name in my hand writing, I grew anxious and sad. Inside was a copied rejection, sometimes signed by the agent in her own hand.
Years later, I am again seeking representation and have sent 85 agents queries. On their webpage they are very clear that if submitters do not hear back in six to nine weeks depending to assume it was a pass. Out of the 85 I have only received one agent asking for pages. I have received six rejections mostly all form emails, cut and pasted into the email. Seventy-eight agents give me silence.
Does this make me angry or bitter? Not really, not at the agents anyway. If I think about why they aren't responding many thoughts come to mind. They hate my work. They think of me as an amateur writer--because all writers are amateur until published by a New York publishing house. Mostly, I think they have a plethora of queries, like the fact that on octopus has millions of babies and only a few survive, only a few queries catch the attention of the agent, (Yes, I did just watch The Octopus Teacher).
It is true that I look at my email account I use only for my writing in the morning, while on vacation, waiting and hoping that my query will be read, and the manuscript will be of interest. Almost always there is no mail. No email asking to read further, no rejection for representation.
How do I handle this silence? I read and I write. I send out more queries.