Now What? One Yes and How to Surf a Tsunami of Rejections by Eddy Boudel Tan

It happened during dinner. My husband and I were celebrating his birthday in a quiet corner of the Japanese-Peruvian restaurant everyone was talking about at the time. We had devoured an enormous platter of buttery sashimi and oysters we cheered like tequila shots. He stepped out to the men’s room, and I couldn’t resist. I had to check my inbox. And that’s when I saw it, a sentence I’d been waiting for so long to read that I thought I might have been hallucinating from the shellfish: “I would like to take a look at the entire manuscript.”

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Photo by Skitterphoto from Pexels

An agent wanted to read my book. A real live literary agent, from the center of the publishing universe, New York freaking City, typed those words out for me because she liked my sample pages enough that she wanted more. After several months of learning how to get a book published, writing and rewriting my query letter, researching agents, querying agents, teetering between optimism and surrender, and refreshing my inbox with a thumb that twitched like an overly caffeinated pigeon, those words on the screen of my phone were a lighthouse in a sea of silent rejections.

I was giddy when my husband returned to the table. We ordered more wine and toasted this milestone, but I was eager to get home to prepare my manuscript. After rereading my response several times and triple-checking to be sure the correct version was attached, I hit send. Then I waited.

I was used to waiting by then. I’d heard so often that it was as essential a part of publishing as paper. I felt less patient than usual, though, so I continued to query agents. That request to read my manuscript was a buoy of reassurance. I felt reinvigorated, now hopeful that my queries weren’t just lying unread in a junk folder. This could actually work.

A few weeks later I got another request for the full manuscript. A third agent reached out to me two days after that. My imagination was abuzz with agency contracts and book deals. I told my friends I was content with knowing that professional literary agents were reading my work, but that was a lie — I wanted to be signed. I wanted them to love me, to duel over representing me. I wanted, and needed, someone to be my champion.

The following week I got the email. I saw the sender’s name and probably stopped breathing: Jessica Faust, president of BookEnds Literary Agency, who sat at the top of my agent wish list. I opened the email to read: “I was hoping we could set up some time to talk.”

We discussed my book over the phone, and I could tell she just got it. I tried to be cool, but it wasn’t possible. I felt like a child talking to Santa Claus. Jessica explained how she liked to work with her clients and her style when it came to submissions, eventually making an offer of representation. “You can take some time to think about it,” she said. Not necessary. That forty-minute conversation told me everything I needed to know. She was the agent for me.

The days that followed were a marvelous blur. I signed the contract, worked with Jessica to perfect my manuscript, and told everybody I knew that I was a giant leap closer to becoming a published novelist. I notified the other agents I had queried that I was off the market. Jessica provided insightful feedback on how to strengthen my book, and we collaborated on revisions. I didn’t always agree with her comments, but she was open to my thoughts. In the end we were both happy with the finished product, polished and gleaming like a pearl.

It was then time to submit. Jessica pitched a handful of editors, and they all sounded enthusiastic about the premise. I researched each of these publishing houses in depth — their history, their authors, their #bookstagram posts — convinced that one of them would be the home of my debut. Only a few months earlier I was doubtful anyone was even reading my queries, and now I was certain I’d have a book deal within a month, destined to be the next Yann Martel or Dave Eggers. I think about that starry-eyed version of myself, just one year younger, and chuckle sympathetically. Such innocence.

What I should have realized then was that another wave of rejection was heading my way, and this time it would be a tsunami. Querying agents was a maddening process filled with silence, but being on submission was like swimming to shore only to be pulled out to sea again by the undertow. I knew exactly when an editor passed (the nicest word for rejected), because Jessica would forward me their response. They were always lovely, filled with descriptions of what they liked and their reasons for stepping aside. Either they didn’t connect with the voice, or they already represented a book with too many similarities, or they simply weren’t obsessed with it.

That’s when I learned an important truth — like agents, an editor must be obsessed with a book to be the right person to champion it into the market. As one editor mentioned, it really had to be a “head-over-heels situation” to take on something new, perhaps especially from a debut author.

I also came to understand the fierceness of this industry’s subjectivity. One editor would love the voice but find the characters unconvincing, while another editor would love the characters but not connect with the voice. Editors and agents are also readers. They have their preferences and tastes. There’s no science behind how a story speaks to someone on a deeper level. It’s mysterious and ineffable.

Every single publisher from that first round of submissions, who showed such initial enthusiasm, ended up passing for one reason or another. My confidence went from the summit of Everest to Mariana’s Trench, but hope was still alive. I had a wonderful agent who knew how to drum up interest with editors, and she showed no sign of stopping.

Jessica gave me some good advice: “Start writing your next book.” Being an author on submission is a helpless, powerless position. I was confident in my agent’s abilities, so no amount of worrying or inbox-refreshing or stress-eating on my part was going to get me any closer to being published. I had to focus my energy on something I had control over — my writing.

I pitched a concept for my next novel to Jessica, and she very clearly yet sensitively talked me out of it. There were too many problematic elements, and she was uncertain about how it’d be received by editors. I felt defeated at the time, but now I realize the importance of that feedback. My agent isn’t just my business partner. She’s an industry maven with experience and instincts I simply do not possess.

I began writing as soon as we agreed on a concept. Suddenly, I was so immersed in this new story, getting acquainted with these new characters, I didn’t have time to worry about the submission process. The thoughtful passes continued to come, and there were some narrow misses that were difficult to swallow, but I was having too much fun writing to get worked up about them.

Eventually, the call did come. The call that I’d dreamt about for years. “We got an offer!” Jessica squealed. Then I squealed louder. After reading the acquiring editor’s reactions to the manuscript by email, I knew we had found the right home. Everything she loved about the story and how it made her feel was exactly what I had intended. She just got it, like Jessica did.

After Elias will be published fall 2020 by Dundurn Press. My follow-up novel, the one that kept me from going mad during the submission process, will be released the following year.

My journey to publication has been wild so far, and I’m grateful to have learned a few lessons I can now share with other writers who might feel adrift:

  • Focus your energy on what you can control. Agents, publishers, readers, and the industry are fickle and unpredictable. Only you can write the way you do, so create the best work you can, then make it even better.
  • Querying works, so don’t give up no matter how futile it might seem. There are mountains of info online on how to do it right. If one thing doesn’t seem to be working, try it a different way.
  • Being published isn’t everything. Fall in love with the process of creating.
  • Find the right people to advocate your work, who believe in it as much as you do. Find the people who get it.

Rejection is inevitable. It doesn’t stop when you sign with an agent, and it’s not likely to stop after a book deal. Don’t let that slow you down. Keep creating and improving. When you feel like you’re lost in the middle of the sea, hold onto whatever you can find to stay afloat. Celebrate each little victory. Let every rejection make you stronger. Be immune to the word “no,” because it only takes one yes.

Follow Eddy on Social Media


About the Series:

Now What? is a series dedicated to navigating post-query life and the agent-author relationship. Authors from every stage of their writing career have come together to tell their stories. They understand the struggles of querying and moving forward with an agent and are here to help.

New posts go live every Friday!

Previous Posts in this Series:

How to Discover Editors
Carolyne Topdjian

Signs You’ve Got a Legit Agent (and Red Flags to Look Out For)
Shannon Price

Inside an Offer Call
Alexis Ames 

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Totes Casual July Reads

Hello Readers & Writers,

It’s been a while since I talked about books on the blog, but today I’m here with four amazing titles you need to read and new graphics courtesy of VickyCBooks. Summer really is starting off well and I hope yours is too!

But now onto what we’re really here for: books. From virus outbreaks to powerful crows to magical dresses, July has something for everyone.

The Storm Crow by Kalyn Josephson

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Pitch: 
A story where the bond between crows, a teenage girl, and her kingdom can lead to incredible things.

Reasons To Love This Book:

  • Elemental Crows
  • Well Portrayed Depression Rep
  • Gorgeous Prose
  • Best Friends Getting Things Done
  • Grapples with Identity and One’s Place in the World

My Rating: 5/5 🌟

Learn More & Where To Buy

 

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Wilder Girls by Rory Power

Pitch: A dystopian horror novel where 42505366the world and your own body is a monster.

Reasons To Love This Book: 

  • Prose That Creates Atmosphere
  • Queer Rep
  • Protagonists That Feel Like Real People
  • A Plot That Plays with your Mind and Makes you Hungry for More
  • A+ Twists and Turns

My Rating: 4.5/5 🌟 – The writing takes getting used to and I wanted just a bit more from the ending.

Learn More & Where To Buy

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Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

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Pitch:
An adventure that pulls from Chinese Mythology and Project Runway to create a breathtaking fantasy.

Reasons To Love This Book:

  • Shows the Importance of Familial Bonds and How They Motivate Us
  • Girls Being Badass
  • Clothing As Magic Itself
  • Adventures To Save a Kingdom
  • Slow Burn Relationships

My Rating: 5/5 🌟

Learn More & Where To Buy

 

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Immunity by Erin Bowman

portfolio_immunityCoverPitch: A sequel that raises stakes and pushes the boundaries of how far humanity will go for survival and power.

Reasons To Love This Book:

  • Satisfying Tension to Place You at the Edge of Your Seat
  • Characters That Hook You In and Never Let Go
  • A Virus Outbreak But in Space
  • Multi-Pov
  • Shows Readers the Many Faces of Infection and Power

My Rating: 5/5 🌟

Learn More & Where To Buy

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If you’ve read any of these books, feel free to share what you thought of them below! I’m always happy to gush about stories I’ve loved.

Xx
Megan

 

 

Now What? How to Discover Editors by Carolyne Topdjian

Congratulations! You’ve completed revisions. You are ready to present your work to publishers and have devised a submission strategy with your agent. Industry wizard that they are, your agent has already pitched your novel to several editors over drinks and has cast several spells. They have a list—an entire LIST of editors who might be a great match for your project.

Now what? Other than high five your agent and thank the stars for their expertise and partnership, is there anything else you can do? Let me rephrase: is there anything else you can do that’s more productive than diving into a hole, eating your body weight in Oreos, or, (and this is a staple for most writers), Twitter-stalking the editors your agent mentioned? Short answer: yes.

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Photo by fotografierende from Pexels

Writing more projects aside, there are better ways to use your time and energy. For example, you can scout potential editors that may include and extend beyond your agent’s recommendations.

Now, for anyone who has ever Googled “find an editor,” researching the market can be daunting. A simple online search will yield endless indie editors for hire; great for writers who are self-publishing, but what if you’re agented and aiming for a traditional deal?

Well, below are five methods I’ve used to research editors—starting points of “places to go.” Whether or not you find your future editor through one of these routes, I guarantee each method is more effective and focused than hours spent stalking social media feeds.

  1. In Person at Literary Festivals and Conferences

Follow the published authors. Go where they go: to a book festival. Voilà: you will find editors.

Editors may participate in pitch sessions at conferences; some will attend select panels and talks; others will mingle in the lobby with fellow book-lovers. It’s a great opportunity to meet and greet them in person. Keep cool. Don’t pitch. Just socialize. As scary as it may be for many emerging writers, nothing beats a face-to-face human connection. You never know where it might lead to—or when.

  1. At Your Bookstore

Can’t shell out hundreds of dollars to attend a conference? No time or sanity to hobnob at book festivals? No problemo!

Visiting a bookstore may well be my favorite method to research editors. Not only is it introvert-friendly, it’s fun. Now you may be asking yourself, “What about my bookshelf? I don’t need to wear pants to browse there.” True, true. Same goes for your local library, (though pants are recommended at the latter).

But here’s the thing: the most current, well-organized, best-selling novels and debuts may not be stocked in your home or at your library. The best resource for these is your brick-and-mortar bookstore.

Browse the appropriate sections and featured displays. Find novels like yours in terms of genre and readership. Go straight to the copyright and acknowledgment pages. Authors thank their editors just like they do their agents. Ta-da! You’ve got your lead.

  1. Through Professional Organizations

Write a genre? Organizations like MWA, RWA, SFWA, and SCBWI often provide resources for their members where you can research potential publishers and editors. For example, I recently picked up some good info at an author panel organized by my local Sisters In Crime chapter.

You can also refer to hubs like Writer’s Digest. Each year, WD publishes an updated guide titled Writer’s Market that lists various publishers and what they’re looking for. I borrowed a copy from my local library, free of charge. Writer’s Market also has a complementary website devoted to where to sell your work.

  1. Through your Writers’ Network/Community

You can think of this as an extension of consulting your agent. Without question, your agent should be your primary contact and source of referrals. (Networking with editors is what agents do for a living.) Further to this partnership, it’s a good idea to liaise with select authors in your writing circles—all off public feeds, of course.

Keep your ear to the ground; referrals and references go a long way. You’ve heard it said time and again, the writing community is a small world. Chances are your existing network is full of useful info. So, from private forums and message boards to one-on-one hangouts and emails, reach out and get talking.

  1. Online of Course!

While Twitter may give you a glimpse into select editors’ personalities and tastes, many editors may not even be active on social media or be posting anything of use.

Rather, when it comes to online research, most industry professionals will tell you to subscribe to Publisher’s Marketplace. This can be costly; however, PM does offer advanced search options for agents, authors, publishers, and editors alike—assuming you can navigate the site’s outdated web design. It’s also worth keeping an eye out for their promos; every year, PM will offer a free one-month trial to attract new subscribers.

This is in addition to checking out the “Who we Are” pages on publishers’ official websites, editors’ LinkedIn profiles, their online manuscript wish lists and occasional blog interviews.

There you have it! By hanging out in these various “places,” odds are good you’ll discover a few editors whose tastes fit your project. In this case, go back to your agent, consult with them for additional intel, and devise a plan for pitching.

On a final note: the methods suggested above are not an exhaustive list. In fact, I’d love for you to share your own “places to go” in the comments. The reality is, in a creative, go-getter industry, finding an editor-match is tough work. No one-way exists to go about it. The process, however, is similar to finding an agent; it takes targeted effort. It may not be painless, but like all growth—professional, creative, or otherwise—it’s well worth your energy.

About Carolyne

Carolyne Topdjian is a writer of noir suspense and gothic tales with publications in PRISM International and Firewords Quarterly. She studied creative writing at the Humber School for Writers and obtained a PhD in Social and Political Thought from York University. Her latest feature story, “Itch” is forthcoming in Dreamers Magazine in Summer 2019.

Website: https://www.carolynetopdjian.com

Twitter: @TopdjianC


About the Series:

Now What? is a series dedicated to navigating post-query life and the agent-author relationship. Authors from every stage of their writing career have come together to tell their stories. They understand the struggles of querying and moving forward with an agent and are here to help.

New posts go live every Friday!

Previous Posts in this Series:

Signs You’ve Got a Legit Agent (and Red Flags to Look Out For)
Shannon Price

Inside an Offer Call
Alexis Ames

Parting Ways with an Agent
Caitlin LaRue

Now What? Signs You’ve Got a Legit Agent (and Red Flags To Look Out For) by Shannon Price

“Shmagent” is a funny sounding word for an unfortunate and serious concern for querying authors: shady folks who appear to have your best intentions at heart, but are ultimately going about representing authors—or attempting to represent authors—in ways that will hurt a writer’s career.

Whether you’re querying, have an offer, or have signed with an agent, it’s important to remember that your relationship with you agent is one of the most important factors in a strong, stable writing career. So how can you tell if you’re looking at a good one?

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Below are some high level but key factors to look out for—and yes, this post could easily be titled “Shannon’s Letter of Appreciation to Elana Roth Parker”, my own agent who, for the record, is so legit she practically invented it. (She is accepting submissions here, but please follow her guidelines.)

  1. A good agent respect their fellow agents.

A legit agent knows their peers and will honor industry norms, such as giving an author time to alert other agents they’ve queried that they’ve received an offer of representation. The offering agent should know that you need time to send those emails and that the other agents will require time to read and respond.

Any shmagent who pushes back, or insists you accept right away, or threatens to rescind their offer because you want to alert other agents is not worth your time, because they clearly don’t respect their peers within the industry—if they don’t respect their peers, they won’t respect you as a client.

When Elana offered me representation, I asked for two weeks to alert other agents and make a decision, and she didn’t bat an eye. That’s how it should be.

  1. They work with you, not against you

Before I went on submission, Elana and I worked together closely to strengthen my MS and better flesh out my characters. The way she delivered her suggestions to me was, luckily enough, in a format that made a lot of sense with my brain (I love numbered lists!). However, in reading through, there were suggestions that gave me pause. I agreed with much of what she said, but one or two suggestions made me shoot up in my seat like “uh-uh, not changing that”. I made notes, asked questions, and sent an email back to her. We did several rounds of these emails as I worked through the changes.

Never forget that a legit agent works FOR you—they should want you to have the best book possible, but they should also make sure the book is yours. That stuff I reacted strongly to? I explained why it meant a lot. Why I thought it worked. And ultimately, I weighed both my personal feelings and Elana’s expertise before making the final call.

Your agent should want you to succeed and believes you can—that’s why they offered or are offering rep! Before you sign with an agent, make sure you’re on the same page about what you may need to work on before going on sub.

If you are represented and are confused by a note your agent has made, try to focus on the larger issue that the agent may be trying to correct. Do they suggest cutting a scene down because it slows the pace of the book? If they say the romance “isn’t working”, ask yourself honestly if you agree or not. If you disagree, start by explaining your intentions and why you think it works. The agent might need it to “click” in their minds. Ultimately, they should work with you to find solution that makes the whole narrative stronger and makes both of you happy.

  1. They ask for your preferences

Before we sent my book out on submission, Elana asked me how I’d like to receive the feedback from editors, and if I wanted to receive it at all.

For a lot of people, reading all the reasons a certain publishing house passed on a manuscript could be draining, and I appreciated that Elana thought to ask and honor her clients’ preferences during a stressful time. Personally, I wanted to know everything and see the feedback as she received it, and I told her as much.

You should feel comfortable communicating with your agent about anything that is bothering you, or anything you want to start doing differently. Which brings me to my next point…

  1. They’re never more than an email (or text) away.

A good agent shouldn’t ignore you. While even the best agents are only human and may need time to focus on other clients, their families, their children, etc., they shouldn’t ghost you. They should also never make you feel badly for reaching out, whether you send them a quick text or a long rambling email because you just thought of something you think is important and you *have* to send them a crazy long email RIGHT. AWAY.

A schmagent that never responds, never sends updates, and/or belittles you when you do finally connect is not your friend, and not someone you want as a business partner, hard stop.

For me and my agent, we communicate mostly via email, but have hopped on phone calls here and there. When things are urgent or exciting (like my cover reveal a few weeks ago!), Elana texted me straight away, which I loved. Communication is vital to any relationship, and your relationship with your agent is no exception. Make your own preferences loud and clear, and don’t be afraid to ask your agent what they prefer and what they are comfortable with.

  1. They never ask for money from you. Ever.

I have to mention this one because it would absolutely crush me if I ever heard about a would-be-author excitedly writing a check to a shmagent, only to be ghosted. This applies to any scam: if they say they need money to represent you, or money to sell your book, or money to publisher you…all huge red flags.

A legit agent should never ask for money from you up front, during the editing or submission process, or after. Agents get paid when the author sells a book to a publisher. Period. The shorter, snappier version: an agent gets paid when you get paid. The end.

(Please don’t send money to a shmagent.)

Final Thoughts

Your relationship with your agent is first and foremost a business relationship. If you’re querying and have an offer, ask yourself if you feel 110% comfortable going into business with this person. If you already have any agent, listen to that tiny voice in your head if you feel something is amiss. Google them, ask other authors for advice, and ultimately trust your gut. The tips above should be able to get your started on the right path, but nothing will work out better for your than a lot of research and your own intuition for what’s right for you.

About Shannon

Shannon Price is a proud Filipina-American and Bay Area native. Her debut novel A Thousand Fires is a YA reimagining of the Iliad set in modern day San Francisco. She is represented by Elana Roth Parker of Laura Dail Literary Agency and thanks her lucky stars that she is. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Check out her website, and  pre-order A THOUSAND FIRES here!


About the Series:

Now What? is a series dedicated to navigating post-query life and the agent-author relationship. Authors from every stage of their writing career have come together to tell their stories. They understand the struggles of querying and moving forward with an agent and are here to help.

New posts go live every Friday!

Previous Posts in this Series:

Inside an Offer Call
Alexis Ames

Parting Ways with an Agent
Caitlin LaRue

Writing the Post-Query Book
Rachel Feinberg

Now What? Inside an Offer Call by Alexis Ames

The querying journey that I have gone on with my novel is unusual compared to most querying writers. I submitted this manuscript to Pitch Wars last summer, and I ended up being chosen as part of the 2018 class of mentees. Pitch Wars is a revision marathon that culminates in an agent showcase, where agents sign up to browse the participants’ entries and comment on the ones they would like to receive more materials from.

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Photo by Alex Andrews from Pexels

Shortly after the showcase ended and the materials were submitted, I received an email from an agent who wanted to set up a call with me. It was two in the morning on a Saturday – my now-agent, Zabé Ellor, sent a quick email to me to say that he’d stayed up late reading my book, it devastated him, and he wanted to know my availability in the coming days for a call. Needless to say, I was beyond thrilled! And then I was terrified.

Luckily, there are a ton of great resources out there for writers who are prepping for The Call. My go-to website for any writing resource is Jane Friedman’s, and there are many great articles there about the questions you should ask during the call. I would also recommend getting a subscription to Publishers Marketplace, so you can track agent sales. It can take some time to sift through everything and decide which questions are important for you to know the answers to, so be sure to allow yourself that time. You don’t need to ask every single question that’s out there. Think about what you want most out of an agent and/or agency – are sales numbers most important to you? Their years of experience? Would you prefer to have an editorial agent? I gathered the questions that I felt were most important into one document prior to having the call.

Zabé opened our conversation by talking about what he loved about the MS, and from the very beginning, I knew that he got my novel and my main character. He understood my vision, and what I had been trying to accomplish with this story, which was incredibly reassuring. He then gave me a brief overview of the changes that he would like to see should I choose to sign with him. I had already decided what my one line in the sand would be, the one change that would be make-or-break if he asked me to do it. Thankfully, this was not one of the changes that Zabé mentioned! But it’s important to know ahead of time which revisions you would be willing to make to your novel, and which revisions (should they ask for them) would be make-or-break for you.

Once Zabé finished with his overview and I agreed that the revisions were doable for me, I jumped right into my questions. He was incredibly knowledgeable and was able to answer all of my questions about himself, his agency, and what it would look like to sign on with them. Zabé also provided me with an example of the agency agreement, so that I could look it over while I made my decision. He was available to answer questions after the call, too – I had a couple of points that I wanted clarified that came up after the call, and so I quickly emailed them off to him. His responsiveness was another one of the many reasons I had a good feeling about him! He also provided contact information for some of his other clients, so that I could reach out to them and hear about their experiences.

After the call, I had two weeks to make a decision. I nudged the other agents who had my materials right away, to see if any of them also wanted to offer. Once those two weeks were up, I decided to go with Zabé! We are now in the edit letter stage, and I couldn’t be happier. Working with an agent who understands your characters, their motivations, and the story as well as you do is an incredibly fulfilling and rewarding experience, and I look forward to seeing where the rest of this journey takes me!

 

Follow Alexis on Social Media

Twitter: @alexis_writes1

About the Series:

Now What? is a series dedicated to navigating post-query life and the agent-author relationship. Authors from every stage of their writing career have come together to tell their stories. They understand the struggles of querying and moving forward with an agent and are here to help.

New posts go live every Friday!

Previous Posts in this Series:

Parting Ways with an Agent
Caitlin LaRue

Writing the Post-Query Book
Rachel Feinberg

How To Come Up with a Marketing Plan for Your Book
Larissa Lopes

Now What? Parting Ways with an Agent by Caitlin LaRue

When I started writing five years ago, I had no clue what I was doing. I had an idea and a computer. I wrote the picture book (admittedly, not very good) and researched. Through Twitter and lots of Google searches I decided I needed an agent. I was a brand-new mom and writing was born from long nights of Postpartum Depression. I also knew I’d be going back to full-time teaching in a few months and self-publishing was not an option for me. I thought “if I can just get an agent, I’ll have someone to sell my work.”

Which, in a perfect world, where publishing is predictable, that’s how it would work. However, it doesn’t work that way. I worked hard to find my perfect agent other-half, which I likened to the terrifying world of dating. But no one talked about the facts that having an agent doesn’t guarantee selling a book and that agents and authors do, in fact, break up *gasp*.

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Photo by Tom Swinnen from Pexels

Here’s the gory truth: authors and agents break-up all the time for a multitude of reasons. The relationship isn’t permanent, just like other relationships may not be. This is tough to swallow. Especially after working diligently to research, pitch, polish, query, get rejected, tweak some more, send more queries and on and on and on in an endless loop.

My first agent found me through a contest in which, she did not request my work during the contest (I did not get a single request, but that’s a whole other post). I waited and waited. I finally got that call and I was ecstatic. She got me, she got my work, she was passionate about it. I signed on. I revised and then went on submission. But as time went on, communication fizzled out, manuscripts I sent went unread, and the relationship was no longer working for me. I decided to part to ways.

I was petrified of sending that break up e-mail. It would put me in a career limbo. The fear of diving back into the query pool was real and paralyzing. “What if I never find another agent? It took me more than two years to find this one.” But the reality was, my career wasn’t really going anywhere anyway. I also considered her a friend and I knew I was breaking that relationship too. There was nothing mean about it. There was no hostility. It was a career move. She was no longer who I felt was best for my career and I moved on. Ultimately, I hit send, because in my gut, I could feel it was the right thing to do.

I dove back into querying. I started with agents I had built a repour with, their wishlist matched my manuscript, and I thought might like my style. This time, it only took a few months, and I’d found another agent who loved my work, saw my story for what it was, and we clicked instantly. Again, I went on submission, and we worked on other projects. She was kind, responsive, supportive and a great friend. But then, she decided she needed a career change and left agenting.

I was devastated this time. I had not seen that break up coming. It wasn’t personal. I knew it wasn’t. I still don’t hold any hostility for the move she made. But it hurt. The first time, I knew I wasn’t moving forward, but this time, I thought we were making progress. It felt like the rug had been ripped out from under me when I was so close to the ultimate goal of getting published.

Once again, I’m back in the query trenches. It is so hard not to get discouraged and to keep on going some days. But I will get there and so will you. When I started this, I wish someone had spoken about break-ups. I wish someone had warned me that my romanticized notions of the agent/author marriage happily lasting forever, was just that, a notion. So, I’m here to tell you the brutal truth: it does not always last forever. The key is to not take it personally. Though everything about your work is personal, this is still a business. That dichotomy is often hard to reconcile. But breaking up is hard no matter what.

Follow Caitlin on Social Media

Twitter: @caitlinlarue


About the Series:

Now What? is a series dedicated to navigating post-query life and the agent-author relationship. Authors from every stage of their writing career have come together to tell their stories. They understand the struggles of querying and moving forward with an agent and are here to help.

New posts go live every Friday!

Previous Posts in this Series:

Writing the Post-Query Book
Rachel Feinberg

How To Come Up with a Marketing Plan for Your Book
Larissa Lopes

Keeping Motivation After Signing with An Agent
Holly Hughes

Now What? Writing the Post-Query Book by Rachel Feinberg

The book that landed me an agent took me two years to write, from conception to final draft. I shuffled it through CPs, a revision program (obligatory shoutout to Author Mentor Match), and an R&R before I got my first offer. It was an exhausting journey, so after I signed the agent-author agreement, I took a short break to recover my author juices before beginning my next book.

I created an 8-page outline, ran it past my agent, started writing— and immediately hit a wall. It wasn’t the productivity vampire called Writer’s Block. The pages flowed naturally, and I knew where I was going with every scene. The wall was more like a gauzy curtain hanging between me and my computer screen. I wrote through the dreariness, sometimes in a haze, and I wondered if what I felt was just an aspect of Post-Querying Life.

After some time of wallowing behind the curtain, a certain tweet appeared on my dashboard. I don’t remember the tweeter or the exact words, but two special words were mentioned, and sirens went off in my head.

The persistent curtain I could never bat aside was Imposter Syndrome. Despite getting into a revision program and signing with an amazing agent, I doubted myself. I had taken two years to make one high-quality book, and half of the time, it seemed luck, not skill, had seen me through.

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Photo by Tasha Kamrowski from Pexels

After identifying my ailment, I was able to tear it apart at the roots— as you do. (The easiest way to defeat problems is to identify them so you can tackled the causes.)

Sure, luck is a key component in the publishing industry (right book, right person, right time), but a larger component is good writing and persistence.

I had been rejected from other revision programs before Author Mentor Match. Were the rejections bad luck? Maybe, but my writing wasn’t the greatest, and my ideal mentor wasn’t in any of those programs. My ideal mentor was someone who wanted my book, and that mentor wasn’t in PitchWars or #RevPit. She was in Author Mentor Match.

I had collected 100+ rejections over two books before signing with my agent. Were those rejections bad luck? Maybe, but my first book was sloppy, and my second book couldn’t appeal to everybody. It was persistence that improved my writing and finished my second book. It was persistence that led me through 100+ agents to Rachel Brooks (BookEnds).

It’s easy to look back and point out all the tiny coincidences and attribute them to luck. But a closer look will show that often, coincidences are results of persistence.

Luck won’t create a top-notch book. That’s the key thing to remember when you’re struggling with a post-querying book. You’ve done it once, and you’ll do it again. You got through with hard work.

You’re not an imposter.

Follow Rachel on Social Media

Twitter: @RachelFeinberg_

Blog: https://rmfeinberg.wordpress.com/


About the Series:

Now What? is a series dedicated to navigating post-query life and the agent-author relationship. Authors from every stage of their writing career have come together to tell their stories. They understand the struggles of querying and moving forward with an agent and are here to help.

New posts go live every Friday!

Previous Posts in this Series:

How To Come Up with a Marketing Plan for Your Book
Larissa Lopes

Keeping Motivation After Signing with An Agent
Holly Hughes

Five Things You Should Do Once You Sign with a Literary Agent
Elizabeth Toth