My mailbox is terrifying.
I find myself sitting in my car everyday after work, trying to avoid taking the key out of the ignition, hopping out of the driver’s seat and walking to the mailbox to see what it has in store for me. Yeah, sure, the bills suck, but the real concern is the small white envelopes that bear my address in my own handwriting. Today I received two of them. And I knew it couldn’t be good news.
Last month, I sent out a total of 17 query packets — about half of those packets were sent to agents via e-mail and the other half were sent via snail mail. In the five or so weeks since I sent them out into the atmosphere, I’ve heard back from almost every single agent. All but two have been flat rejections, including the two I received today. I’m really trying to not take it personally because, honestly, the odds are stacked against me. Everything I read and everyone I talk to tells me that that’s just the way it is. An infinite number of rejections and hopefully someday an acceptance.
And I can handle that. After all, the book is about a protagonist who continues to put herself out there in the online dating scene, only to fail time and again. But Max doesn’t give up, because she’s strong and stubborn. And I’m not going to give up either.
Still, Max wasn’t completely immune to the pain of a crushed ego — especially when it’s crushed over and over again — and neither am I. I make a very solid effort to let each rejection letter roll off my back and take a deep breath. But most times it’s more a sigh than a calming inhale.
Earlier this month, a really great agency asked me for a two-week exclusive — which basically means they wanted 14 days to review my entire manuscript, during which time I promised not to shop it out elsewhere — and I thought I was going to die of happiness. For the first day. Then came the second day. And the third, and all the others afterward. As time ticked away and the two-week deadline neared, I found myself staying up at night, wondering what the agent was going to say. I re-read the draft I’d sent, found a million stupid mistakes, and mentally flogged myself for being too impatient to iron it out more before sending it on. Finally, two weeks came to an end.
I wanted to email them the second the clock hit 12:01 a.m. that Tuesday, but I waited. And waited. And waited some more. And that Friday I emailed to say I’d had interest from another agency (which is true, they’re reviewing it right now, though they didn’t ask for exclusive access), and asked whether they needed more time. They told me to go ahead and send it out to the other agency. They were still reviewing it, but didn’t need to be exclusive any more.
I’ve been dumped enough times to know that’s the beginning of a break up. See other people? No! I don’t want to see other people! I want to see you! You’re the one for me! You’re the best agency ever, according to Google searches and the perfect version of you I’ve constructed in my mind. You and me, we’ve got a nice house by the shore and a white picket fence coming at us in the future, how do you not see that?
Three days letter, the break up was official. It wasn’t me. It was them:
Thanks again for your patience and for your interest in [agency redacted]. We wanted to give your manuscript a proper review and we feel you have a well-written and fun manuscript. Unfortunately, we don’t feel it’s quite right for our agency. As you know this is a very subjective business and as you’ve already received interest from other agents, we have no doubt you will be able to find enthusiastic representation for your novel. We wish you the best of luck in your writing career!
At least it seems like they still want to be friends.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my protagonist, it’s that giving up just isn’t an option. And while it can be a bummer at the bottom, it’s the contrast between the bad days and the good that make you appreciate when true bliss comes around. I just hope it comes around soon – in a tiny white envelope bearing my address in my own handwriting.