This spring marks a bittersweet milestone. Two years ago, I nervously sat across the very first literary agent I’ve ever met and pitched her Phoenix. She was lovely, said it sounded very interesting but had a few suggestions. Then the clincher, she was actually leaving the business, but encouraged me to send it to her boss (but the boss rejected).
Let’s fast forward to today. According to my Querytracker stats, of the 250 agents I’ve flagged I’ve sent 206 queries and have received 184 negative responses (either rejections or no responses). Six agents have requested pages, five have ultimately rejected and one has had my full manuscript since August.
“Egads!” you’re thinking. “Why isn’t this girl taking up crocheting or calling time of death on this manuscript and moving on to something this?”
Because I believe in Phoenix with all of my heart. I believe that writers are only partially in control of the story, that when the author is ready, the story will present itself to the person best suited to write it. Phoenix believed in me, it unveiled itself to me at a time when I needed it. I can’t give up on it.
With 44 agents left to query and fewer added to the list on a daily basis, I’m now asking myself what’s next. Am I ready to give up on Phoenix? No. And thankfully, Plan B is looking more and more enticing.
Self-publishing is no longer the literary walk of shame. Other authors, even those who have traditionally published, don’t look down at us emerging authors with disdain like we’ve accidentally tucked our skirts into our pantyhose as we walk home with our heels in our hands. Instead, they are walking alongside us (hell, maybe they would even be so kind as to tell us we’ve tucked our skirts into our hose).
This month’s Writer’s Digest is the annual self-publishing spotlight, and the grand prize winner, Kingdom of Simplicity by Holly Payne. In the magazine article, she tells how the manuscript was rejected by several publishing houses, but rather than give up on the story, she launched her own imprint and publish the novel herself. In addition to the WD honor, Kingdom of Simplicity received the Independent Book Publishers Association’s Benjamin Franklin Award for best first fiction from a new press. My friends, that is no walk of shame, that’s proudly strutting.
I know this doesn’t mean I’m home free. There is a reason that people sell their stories to agents and then publishing houses, they do all the hard work and guide the author through the process. But, nothing worth having is every easily attained.
So, I stand at the crossroad. One road leads me down the path I’ve been traveling. The other takes control of my writing career and literary journey. Both are uncertain, both are terrifying. Which would you chose?