With Valentine’s day around the corner, my thoughts are focused on finding that special someone. I’m looking for my perfect match, the right fit, the individual who ‘gets me’, who likes what they see and who wants a committed relationship. I won’t find this person on eHarmony or Match.com. I highly doubt I’d run into my kindred spirit in the grocery store, or at the gym. Because I’m not looking for a partner in life- I’m looking for a literary agent.
Granted, I am very lucky to have already found a partner in life, someone who encourages me to keep trying after every disheartening rejection letter. He manages to make me laugh even when I’m feeling depressed. And it took me twenty-five years to find him. So how long will it take me to find an agent?
At first the process seemed simple: 1. Create an Excel database with a list of literary agents interested in women’s fiction. 2. Write kick-ass query letter. 3. Send kick-ass query letter to agents and receive enthusiastic requests to read my manuscript. 4. Get an agent!
I started off with a bang. The first big name New York agent I submitted to was interested in my manuscript. She requested a ‘partial’ ( usually the first 3 chapters or the first 50 pages). I was thrilled! Until she wrote me two weeks later to say that she wasn’t ‘in love’ with my writing. Ouch. I had been dumped.
The letter was kind and I appreciated it, but it still stung. Seasoned writing veterans urge newbies to develop a thick skin, to not take these things personally. But how can you avoid personal offence when you’ve poured your heart and soul into your writing? It’s like showing someone your new baby and being told that it’s ugly. Still, every week I keep trying, sending my query letter out to agents on my list. Sometimes I receive no response. Like an unanswered email on a dating website, my letters go unacknowledged. Being ignored is even more frustrating than receiving a rejection letter from an underpaid intern.
I’m beginning to dread the phrase, “Remember, this is a very subjective business.” In the same vein as “It’s not you, it’s me,” this literary version of heartbreak sounds just as awful.
My second rejection after a partial request was even nicer than the first. Looking at the agent’s profile picture on her website, I really felt like we could be friends. I wanted to say, “But you don’t know how hard I’ve worked on this! What can I do to be a better match?” Like an unexpected break-up after an awesome third date, I had to sigh and let it go.
But more importantly, I need to believe in myself. As a sensitive cancer, I’m still pretty terrible at stomaching rejection. However, I’ve gotten better at dusting myself off and sitting down at my laptop, ready to try again. I don’t want to be a jaded writer, worried that I’ll never make it. I’m not a celebrity or socialite with New York connections. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not special, or worthy of telling my story.
So this Valentine’s day, I’m going to be an optimist. Tomorrow morning I’ll put on a red dress and ride BART to work with a secret smile. Like thousands of hopeful singles, I will go forth with confidence, knowing that eventually, I too am going to find The One.