The end of this summer will mark one year since I sat back from my laptop, deeply exhaled, and announced triumphantly “I’m done!”
After writing, erasing, brainstorming, reorganizing, and editing, my second book was finally complete, but that was only the beginning of the battle.
This September would have marked one full year that I would have been querying (letters to literary agents describing your work, and hopefully convincing them to take you on as a client and sell your manuscript to a publishing house). A YEAR! It was a long and at times incredibly difficult and frustrating process- one that I kept very private because I knew that the statistics are not stacked in a writer’s favor of snagging an agent, and I didn’t want to get anyone’s hopes up only to have to let them down (since rejection is just a natural part of the process).
I say “would have” because today marks the day I officially accepted an offer of representation from Maria Ribas at the Howard Morhaim Literary Agency!
This is HUGE for me, and not just because it means someone finally took all my poop jokes seriously, and finally I get to unload a huge weight from my shoulders and tell you all about the long harrowing journey to get to this point.
Believe it or not, this journey actually started YEARS ago. It was right after I released my self-published book “Musings of a 20-Something Mom” that I started thinking about getting an agent to really push my book to the next level. I wrote the query letter, I wrote the book proposal, and I started sending it out. I’d done no real research on the subject, so I had no idea that telling an agent your book has been self-published is nearly the kiss of death unless it has seen astronomical sales. At that point, I decided to just keep Musings as my personal project and looked toward the future. I had plans to continue work on the paranormal experiences book I’d been planning since “Musings…” was still in the drafting process, but somewhere down the line, inspiration hit, and what came pouring out of my brain was a second funny and honest book on parenting (the premise of which I am keeping under wraps for now!)
While I think self publishing is a great tool, I think you REALLY need to research whether taking that route is the right one for you. After my experience, I didn’t want to self-pub again. I don’t regret it one little bit, but it’s just not for me. At that point, I knew I would have to not just dip my toes, but go plunging back into trying to snag an agent. I’d worked for years building my platform and writing as much as I could wherever I could and for whatever company I could- so I felt pretty confident that the agent-snagging was going to be “easy”. I think all the Disney fairytales I’d watched lately had gone to my head.
After bugging friends, bugging them again, and then bugging some more, I finally had a query letter and a proposal I was proud of, and I’d already picked out a handful of agents to send it to. The first query is always the hardest. Is it really ready to be seen by agent eyes? Is the hook strong enough? The plot alluring enough? Does my query have enough of my voice? Will this agent really get what I’m trying to say and more importantly will they LIKE it? We writers wrack ourselves with these questions, but there is a point where you just kind of have to let it go and see what happens.
Once I finally worked up the courage to hit that shiny red (not red) “send” button, I felt like pooping. Kidding! I felt a strange mix of relief, nervousness, and excitement. I knew some agents would never respond at all, some might send a form rejection letter (which, when you’re waiting, is better than nothing!), and if you were LUCKY- you would have one write you back requesting to see more.
I was lucky.
One of the first agents I queried responded the next day asking to see my proposal. YES! I KNEW IT! She seemed excited, and from my research, the kind of lady who might really dig my style of writing and my use of 4-letter wonderful sentence enhancers. Over the next few weeks, I got a couple of rejections, but with those- a few more requests to see my proposal. This was really looking up; if this many agents are requesting to see my material, I must be doing SOMETHING right! Excitedly, I waited to be able to move on to the next step. I just wanted that YES. Unfortunately, it didn’t come.
For months, the farthest I got was sending my proposal, and the agent interested would eventually end up passing. I knew this was all a part of the process; there isn’t anyone I know of who isn’t famous that doesn’t get at LEAST one rejection, so I had to hold my head up and keep plugging along.
I had referrals come and go, close calls, disappointments, even a little discouragement- and then an agent I really liked requested a revision. It was going to be a HUGE job, but the suggestions she gave were ones I understood and even agreed with. I’m all for making my work as best as it can possibly be, so for the next month I almost completely re-wrote my work. I spent EVERY free moment I had working on it. People say they put “blood, sweat, and tears” into their work- and I LITERALLY did; especially tears. When I was done, I felt accomplished, proud, confident. My book was a million times better, and my beta readers agreed. There was NO way this could ever result in a rejection. If the agent liked what she read before, she was going to LOVE this! Right?
Unfortunately not. Ultimately, I just don’t think our visions for my work matched up in the end. I was crushed.
There is a point in every writer’s career where they doubt the validity of their path. Maybe this just wasn’t meant to be? Maybe it’s not as good as I thought? Maybe my beta readers are just humoring me. Maybe I should just… stop.
Instead, I decided to just take a little bit of a break. De-stress, re-group, find my footing again- and hopefully my confidence. During that break, I realized that the rejection on the revision didn’t have to be a bad thing. I came out of that with a stronger, better book that I liked even more than the one I’d written originally. After the revision, I knew my work better, and I knew how to describe it better and even more specific parameters on what kind of agent to look for.
I revamped my query, did an overhaul on my proposal, and got back to work. No cannonball this time, just a slow and steady forward motion. Just like with the previous query, I expected there to be a flood of response one way or the other on this revised one- but there was nothing. Nothing at all!
Dear sweet baby Jesus, what have I done?? Did I mess everything up by going with the newly edited version?? Crap!
Not one to be discouraged, my quest continued; I’d come too far to give up now. It was then that I came across the Writer’s Digest profile of an editor turned agent who specializes in internet platforms who was looking for something “un-put-down-able”. She sounded like my ideal agent. Knew what editors were looking for, knew how to further develop a platform, and it sounded like she had a good sense of humor. Whether or not she could handle mine… well, I had to at least try.
The next day, we were setting up a time to chat on the phone. I’d gotten this far with “Musings…” so I knew not to get ahead of myself and assume this phone call would lead anywhere- but it was hard not to be excited after we talked and all of the ideas she had and advice she gave were ideas I had been considering already and advice that really fit with my own vision of where I wanted to go with this new project. I hung up the phone feeling positive. She wanted to read more into my proposal and said I would hear back from her soon.
After a few more e-mails, she asked if we could speak on the phone again. Don’t get ahead of yourself like me! I’d gotten to a second call with “Musings…” too!
I hung up that call still feeling positive. She’d requested my entire manuscript- yeah, the newly edited one that I had recently wondered if sending out was a good idea. I’d only ever gotten this far in the process one time before, and that ended with me feeling crushed- so I tried not to stress during the wait. Maria is so quick to respond usually that when two weeks had gone by without hearing from her, I started to feel the pangs of rejection creeping into my stomach.
During that wait, I started to get signs. Yes, I’m the crazy bee who thinks my mom, who passed away over 10 years ago, gives me signs when significant events are about to occur in my life. It’s never failed before! Only… most of the time, these significant events aren’t exactly… positive. These signs come in the form of songs- one in particular- “Open Arms” by Journey. This isn’t played on the radio very often, so when I hear it 5+ times in one week, along with other songs that AREN’T the crazily over-played “Don’t Stop Believin'”- I start to get the feeling that something is about to happen. Thomas thinks I’m batshit crazy- but even he had trouble denying that we were hearing her songs FAR too often for it to be coincidence. But what did it all mean? I found myself upstairs in my house, standing in the hallway staring at a needlepoint picture my mom made that had once been in my nursery as a baby.
“Mom. Tell me what this all means. Please let this be good news! This is what we’ve always wanted!”
That night, I had a dream. I don’t really remember anything about it except that at one point, a notification popped up on my computer telling me I had a new e-mail. I have no idea who I was with, but I said to them “My mom is trying to reach me”- and it felt real. In the dream I was 5,000% confident that it was my mom trying to reach me. I made my way to the computer, but just as I was about to read her message, I woke up.
This might not seem significant, but I NEVER dream about my mom. Ever. Shitty, right? So the fact that I dreamed about her during this very important time in my life when I already thought she was giving me signs had to mean something, didn’t it?
Even though, aside from a select few, no one knew what was going on- I posted about all the signs on Facebook. Of course, the responses were “Are you PREGNANT? der da der!”
No. Geeeeez. Just as I was about to rip someone in half (because I was actually bleeding from my nethers at the time and felt VERY stabby) a notification popped up on my computer. A new e-mail. From Maria.
THIS time, I really DID nearly crap my pants. I wasn’t prepared for rejection that day! Especially not after EVERYTHING! Crap. Why did I do this again? I’m not ready to start over again, AGAIN!
That was the moment I officially became a turd, because in that e-mail was the big fat YES I’ve been working toward for years.
Message received, mom.
I’m honestly still pinching myself! This is only the beginning, and there are still some big hurdles to jump (like submitting to editors), but now I have someone at my side who I am confident in, and is confident in me- so I get the feeling this next leg of my journey is going to be a lot less hair-pulling-out-y!
Thank you all for coming along on this journey with me! I truly believe it’s only up from here!
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