Many of you have encouraged me to write a book so I wrote up a non-fiction book proposal for a collection of essays. It's 36 pages long. If you want to write a book the first thing you do is hope to just get discovered. If you don't, then you have to get a literary agent. So then you write a "query."(I don't know how yet.) You send out queries and if people are interested by your query they ask you for your proposal. I wrote my proposal first so it would be all ready in case someone requested it. (Ever the optimist!) You also have to figure that if you can't write a proposal (it's kind of involved) you probably can't write a book.
So now I have to read up on queries and write one. But I jumped the gun out of excitement after finishing my proposal and sent it out to 4 literary agents who let you submit proposals online even if they don't request them. Of course, that doesn't mean they want them. Intellectually I know that I will get lots--if not only--rejections. I set a goal to get 50 rejections. JK Rowling got 12 before she got published and my book would be AT LEAST 5 times worse and a katrillion times less profitable. So 50 rejections seems reasonable and an accomplishment in itself. When I get 50 rejections I plan to celebrate by buying myself an outfit and giving up on my dream.
But I have to say, as the rejections come pouring in I really don't like it. In fact, I hate it. Each rejection has dampened my enthusiasm for writing. I can see myself stopping after 3. I've already gotten 2. It bites.
The first rejection came almost immediately and it was obviously an auto-response. Frankly I'd rather receive an auto-response then a long, personal, specific response detailing everything they didn't like. I knew the first agency wasn't a good fit for me because they publish mostly academic and how-to non fiction. But they looked classy and didn't specialize in erotica. They seemed cool. And I have to say, rejecting me only makes them seem discerning, successful, and choosy.
My second rejection came in today. I knew this one was a long shot. Let's face it--no one is really clamoring for non-fiction essays about foster dogs by stay-at-home moms. (This isn't the 80s and I'm not Erma Bombeck.) These literary agents often have websites which talk about their interests and the types of books they want. I became very intrigued by Jeff Kleinman. He is really specific about what he likes--upbeat, NOT post-apocalyptic. There's a picture of him on his site and he looks so nice. As it turns out, he is nice. He rejected me like this,
Thanks so much for sending your query - I appreciate the chance to take a look at your project. I'm sorry to say, though, that I'm going to step aside instead of asking to read more.
Please bear in mind that everybody has different tastes and interests - my decision is based on my present work-load, and also based on the kind of material that I'm presently representing. That said, keep in mind that this is a crazily subjective business: I absolutely think you should keep looking for representation because what works for one agent (or publisher) may not work as well for another. I'm afraid, though, that I cannot recommend someone for it.
Very best of luck!
I'm sure it's his standard reply but I felt that he took great pains to let me down easily. I appreciate that in a person. In fact, it might be my all-time favorite quality. I wrote back, "That was nice. When I give up it won't be your fault. Good luck to you too!" just to, you know, acknowledge my appreciation. Nevertheless, I was systematically deleting all copies of my proposal and samples of my writing and all my old e-mails out of mortification (sometimes I overreact) when he wrote back,
Why give up? You can always publish it yourself, you know! No need to give up – just choose a different avenue, if it should come to it …
I knew he was a nice guy. I can always spot a nice guy. I'll still probably give up very soon, but Jeff doesn't need to know that.
After I figure out how to write a query the rejections should really start coming in. Stay tuned.
48 to go!