Don’t get your hopes up
In a recent article about Kathryn Stockett, the author of the bestselling book The Help, she revealed that she had been rejected 60 times by literary agents before she found representation. Sixty times!
I’m not sure I have the kind of tenacity it takes to be rejected that often.
As of March 14, 2012, I submitted Embracing the Elephant to three agents. I thought I would start small – I don’t want 60 rejections all at once. Besides, something else in the article about Ms. Stockett lead me to believe that, with some of the rejections, Ms. Stockett received feedback from the agents which she subsequently used to improve her book. That would be nice – it might even make the rejection a little more palatable.
Thanks to my publishing friend Megan, I had one name – a start.
I found a webpage that identified representatives with the books in their portfolio, so I perused that site and picked two agents who had sponsored books I admired. It felt a little like that game where you close your eyes, spin the globe, then place your finger on its surface – where in this big wide world would I travel? Again, a start.
Each of these agents required something a little different for submissions. This was going to be interesting.
Agent #1, Megan’s suggestion, wanted authors to fill out a form. In it, I would state: a) how I found out about the agent and why I thought he might be interested in my work, b) the size of my book (number of pages and word count), c) what books I thought were similar to mine, and d) whether or not I had submitted the manuscript to others. There was nothing explicitly asking what the book was about, what themes were incorporated, or what else I had written (although that may have been implied in the “why he might be interested” requirement). Authors were not to submit any of the actual work or a synopsis or anything like that – per his webpage, if he wanted to see those things he would ask for them in future. Altogether this submission was not as I expected.
The submission site for Agent #2 stated that the agency required a query letter, no more than two pages, which was to include my credentials and an explanation of what made my book unique and special. I needed to submit a synopsis along with a self-addressed-stamped-envelope for a reply. Just as with Agent #1, the site indicated that I would not hear from them for six to eight weeks. At least with a synopsis, the agent would know what my book was about, so that seemed a little better to me.*
Agent #3 wanted a query letter, a brief synopsis, and the first three chapters of the book. The self-addressed envelope and a six-to-eight week timeframe were also specified. Bingo! This agent was going to know what Embracing the Elephant was about and have a sample of my writing and the style of my book. I liked the system this agent used!
I produced a one-page synopsis. I wracked my brain to determine what other books I had read that might be similar to my own (which drives me nuts because I don’t pretend I’ve read everything. I have eclectic tastes in books, but can’t remember ever reading anything that had quite the same tone as my writing). At the time, I had no applicable credentials, so I tried to turn that into a positive (no easy task).
I attempted to follow each of the varied directions to the letter – I didn’t want to be discounted due to a technicality.
So the wait began.
* A week after my submission to Agent #2, I received an email from the agency. They admonished me for not having sent my first chapter to them and stated that all submissions must be accompanied by the first chapter. That was their policy. I reread the directions on their Submissions page and could not find anything that stated this. However, Megan’s advice was to always send the first chapter, just to get them reading, unless the agent specifically requests that you don’t. I will know for the next time.
In the meantime, I’ve decided that this email was a good sign: this agent had my letter (indicating I had no experience in publishing) and my synopsis. If either of those items had put them off, they would not have contacted me for that first chapter, right? It may just be that someone at the agency was tasked with ensuring that all submissions had all of the elements in place, but I have chosen to think it’s more than that.
However, I’m trying not to get my hopes up. Right.