Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The 'Dear John' I Sent to My Agent

I have ended the arrangement with my dear agent. The contract expired months ago, but we hung in there together, despite the fact that she was ill for most of last year and was so far behind with her work.

It was a very hard decision for me. She absolutely loved The Place of Dreams - which title she suggested rather than the original, somewhat cumbersome, Hafan Deg. So I will keep it. It's almost representational of all my writing - for when we write, doesn't it feel like a kind of dreaming?

And I continue to dream about what is possible for all my work, despite the setbacks.

Finding an agent who has fallen in love with your work is a very special thing. I clung to the idea that this was the one, this time we would get somewhere...but it wasn't to be. I didn't want to add more stress to her days with constant emails, didn't want to ask where the manuscript had been. I was so very, very patient, and I truly am not getting any younger.

But on Monday, sending off queries for my other books (which I mentioned I'd started doing in my last post), I suddenly saw how underhanded I was being. It felt a little treacherous, even though I had signed with her for only one book, over eighteen months ago. So I sent off my sad little message, suggesting it was time to find someone new. And it felt just like a 'Dear John' letter - really!

So The Place of Dreams is now out there in the agent-ozone, waiting to be opened, to be read, to get a nice "Interesting!" or "Do-able!" response. Or to join the other books on some kind of digital slush pile.

I'm sort of ok with it now, but I was a bit lost after I fired off that email on Monday. Trooper that she is, a true lady, she was friendly and understanding about my decision. She even agreed that we should remain in touch, shoot the breeze from time to time - my need more than hers, I suspect, as a writer does crave a certain amount of sympathy quite regularly.

And once again I'm back at QueryTracker and Publishers Marketplace, et al, every day, researching, researching, looking for that perfect agent who will fall in love with one of my manuscripts - well, let's be frank - who will fall in love with one of my queries.

Shakespeare wrote "The play's the thing!" as Hamlet tried to "...catch the conscience of the King." But the Query is the most important thing from where I'm sitting, as it tries to catch the eye of an agent. Of course, Shakespeare didn't have to look for an agent - in fact, some say he was the agent for the real playwright of all those works he claimed as his.

Boy, did I get off topic. It's been happening a lot, lately.

This querying business could damage one's mental health. Just saying...


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Empathy for the Unpublished Writer

I know I've been very quiet, but I've been working hard. It seems irrelevant to put my word count up on my blog as I used to, because this is something that is meant to inspire me, but could irritate those who are in the doldrums with their own work. So nothing about the new book. Absolutely nothing.

My agent is due to check in with me any day. I am not feeling very optimistic right now, as it's been a long time since she sounded really gung-ho about my book's prospects. So, in the interim, pragmatist that I am, I've started querying agents about my other books, not the one that's presently spoken for. Figured that if I got an offer, I could then decide who I go with.

And what a wild ride it is. I'd completely forgotten the amount of work involved in querying.  At least now I have the luxury of deciding which book might suit which agent, and it's rather an enjoyable experience, despite the usual rejections.

Speaking of rejections, does it hurt for an agent to set up a nice, friendly, personal-looking form letter that almost uplifts us? I find the "Not for us, thanks." response totally degrading. Are we not worth just a little bit extra for all the research we do -- all those lovely letters we compose directed to their special preferences, the carefully submitted synopsis and chapters in the body of the email, or as attachments in Word, or submitted via their online forms, no synopsis because they're evil, letter query only, or five pages, ten pages, one chapter, fifty pages, whatever? I am going a little mad here, you'll see... And all of this AFTER we've written the best damned book we were capable of, perfectly proofed, edited again and again, and formatted within an inch of its life.

So (takes deep breath) I sympathize with all of you in this rocky boat. It takes huge courage to decide we are ready to put our work out there. It takes a massive amount of faith and belief in ourselves. I salute all of you for hanging in.

But when we rush to our computers every morning to see what the overnight mail has brought us, it would be so nice, assuming there is yet another rejection, for it to be worded kindly, with empathy. "Not for us, thanks." is like a slap in the face.

Good job we all have thick skin (don't we?) and know we are worthy of far, far more. It will come!

Love you.