I got an email from Gill yesterday. She was depressed and, as always, she needed to share with me, her understanding mother. Actually, for once, I WAS able to understand and relate. The reason for her glum mood was a rejection letter regarding her latest novel. She had not just one but three last week. Being a fellow writer, I knew her pain. Rejection is the name of the game. And we always take it personally. It matters not a whit that J.K. Rowling was on welfare, down to her last thin dime and had thousands of rejections before she hit it big. What matters is that you, the current rejectee, the undiscovered gift to the world of letters, have just suffered a slap upside the head. A ‘you’re no good’, don’t waste our time,’what were you possibly thinking by sending us such crap?’ rebuff. It stings no matter how thick a hide you’ve developed over the years.
“Well, at least you got a reply from an actual person,” I ventured, trying to find some crumb of hope. “What I hate is when you send work out and they don’t even acknowledge its existence. Oh, you know logically that they’re inundated with books, scripts, plays…but you seriously believe your work will be the one that glows in the dark, radiating vibes of ‘best seller’ and ‘pick me’ from the slush pile from Hell.”
“But Ma, why would you logically think they like your work enough to take it on?” Gill asked, incredulous.
“Duh, because they said they liked it when they asked for it. And I quote: we think it’s fresh and funny…How did it go from that to ‘it’s a pile of shit and we can’t believe you sent it to us’ in the space of a week? That’s just rude! Do these people have no manners?” I railed.
“Ma, they’re agents or editors. They don’t have to have manners. They just have to spot money makers. That’s what they’re being paid for.”
“Well, it’s just plain hurtful.”
The change to email queries has made life a bit easier in some ways. Back in the Dark Ages, when I was sending things out by snail mail, since most agents and publishers were in the U.S., I had to scramble to get U.S. stamps. I enlisted every friend I had south of the border to buy them for me and send them so I could send packages back again.(This was before Crazy D lived here and did his monthly run to visit Trader Joe’s and his P.O. Box in Buffalo. Don’t ask.) A circuitous, time-consuming route at best.
Now, it is fast and easy to send queries by email…except when it isn’t. I have often checked out the websites of agents, followed their directions to the t (send a query letter (single spaced), Title of same in Subject line (i.e.: ‘Best Seller’, you fool), a one chapter sample of the manuscript double-spaced, three unicorn toes and a baby’s tear) to a certain email address. When you’ve pressed ‘send’, it turns out that they didn’t mean THAT email address, they meant another one. And since I don’t read computerese, I am completely flummoxed when a failure notice comes up. I mean, rejection is one thing but rejection before the real rejection is quite another.
Gill has, in the past, tended to be much more discreet about letting people know about her current writing projects than I am. I’ll tell anyone and everyone. I’ve often said that I’d stand at the freeway entrance handing out copies if I thought I’d get an audience. I wonder if that’s what the agents mean when they say “you need an established platform” to get ahead in the publishing world. If you ask my opinion, the freeway tactic would be easier, even dodging the salt splashes, mud clumps and other road hazards than navigating the world of Twitter, Pinterest, etc.
Perhaps, with her 40th birthday coming up soon, Gill will reconsider her tactic and join me at the side of the freeway, manuscript in hand. At least, if we both stood together, we might attract some media attention…but only if we convinced Justin Beiber to stand with us (well, he IS a local boy and the experts do say ‘any publicity is good publicity’!)