Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Today It Sucks

It’s easy to be the next great undiscovered author when you’re sitting home alone with your manuscript. Your characters love you. You made them. Your mom and your former editor and a couple of other Beta readers love your manuscript. You think – this is going to be my breakout novel. Should I go with a veteran agent or find someone fresh and young who’s looking for their big break in the industry? Because this could surely be their big break as well.

And then you start sending it out and you realize that the road to publication is far longer and more difficult than the road to a manuscript ever thought about being.
Writing has got to be the most emo thing I’ve ever done besides bearing and raising children. You’re in love and then you’re disappointed. You’re euphoric and then you’re shattered. It’s enough to turn a healthy brain bi-polar.

This week I’ve been stalking my email inbox waiting to hear back about a contest I entered. 200 writers were accepted into the contest, essentially at random. Hundreds of hopefuls didn’t make it in because their internet speeds were too slow to upload their information in the first 30 seconds the contest was open to submissions.
And I’ve watched on Twitter as writer after writer has been chosen. There are 40 spots in the next round. So, the top 20% move on. I felt good about my query, and like nearly every other writer in the contest, I had no doubt I’d make it. After all, if I can’t be chosen as one of the top 40 in a group of 200, how will I be chosen out of thousands in a cold submission to an agent by email?

One agent I currently have my eye on said she accepts 1-10 new clients per year. She receives over 50 queries per day. So I have a 1-10 in 15000 chance of her choosing to represent me. The 1-in-5 odds of this contest seemed promising.

So, like a 20-something girl headed out to a singles mixer in an outfit she spent half her paycheck on, I put myself out there again. And I went home alone.

Maybe it should be comforting that many of the writers chosen for the contest appear to have a history with the judges. Among the winners, there were judges’ critique partners, online friends, people whose partial or full manuscripts the judges have already read. But it doesn’t. If my content were strong enough, I would have managed to rise to the top 40 entrants. That’s a lot of winners, my friends, far from an impossible nut to crack.

And the judges’ picks overlapped quite a bit. Some entrants were picked by multiple judges and some that were picked by only one judge had other judges saying, “Yeah, I had her on my short list too.” So there appears to be somewhat of a consensus about what is good and what is not.

When setbacks like this happen, successful authors seem to always use it as motivation to work harder and go stronger. Maybe I’ll get there, but today I’m just gonna let it sting and suck for a while.


  1. Let it sting. Wallow. Scream. Cry. Rage. You have a day (at most) to be down there in the pit of frustration. Then? Pick yourself up. Dust yourself off. And write. And send out your manuscript. It only takes ONE yes no matter how many no's you hear. Just don't give up on yourself. Ever.

  2. I have wanted to be a writer since first grade, but I gave up on it before I even wrote anything. I admire you for completing a book. Don't give up. It will happen!

  3. Am sending hugs your way. Yes, it does suck. But not for long, I hope.

    If it helps, the odds are huge BUT not as bad as they look. A lot of queries are thrown out right away because the person writing them didn't do enough agent research. They didn't find out how to write a good query, or they sent their query to an agent who specifically says they don't take queries, or they cc a hundred different agents on a query, or they dashed off a quick query and never had anyone else read/critique it. You are better than that, so already you're ahead. And you WILL get there, with this book, or the next, or the one after that. (Which, I know, sounds kind of depressing, but think how much you're learning as you write!)

    Mucho good luck.