Life As I Have Seen It
I scanned my proposal, checking and double-checking the agent’s name, as well as the name of the agency. I also scanned addresses, links, the spellings of my own name—and any other potential typos.
Lit agents read through hundreds of emails each week, wading through submitted content to decipher that which is quality and marketable. Entries by authors who spell the agent's name incorrectly likely never receive a response. My co-author and I spent four months writing the proposal, editing it, asking others to edit it. Now, time to let go.
My fingers sweat slightly as I prepared to click "Send," the arrow cursor hovering over the now-ominous blue button. I literally counted down from ten and then click. The document sailed into cyber oblivion. Tomorrow morning, the agent's assistant would see my submission.
I immediately reread the proposal, synopsis and first two chapters of the manuscript.
And I found four typos.
And I panicked.
Eleven days later (who's counting?) I received an email saying, "We have received your MS."
I felt like there should have been more. "This is garbage, please don't ever email this agency again" or "This is the best manuscript I've ever written and you will be famous by Christmas when hundreds of thousands of women will buy this book for every friend they know and, also, I want you to be my new BFF because you are just that awesome."
Life continued, but always, the proposal sat in the back of my mind. Was the agent disgusted with what—toward the end—we referred to as, "this stupid book?" Was it too juvenile? Did we write the plot succinctly? Did the agent read it every night before bed, scrolling through pages because she couldn't put the book down? Would I be a famous? Could I make legit money writing, as opposed to working other jobs in order to support my writing habit?
After several months of torturous email silence, I knew our proposal had been set aside. I came to terms with that, accepted it. It's okay. No one gets an agent on the first try.
"Your manuscript made it to the next round of review."
What the what?
I danced in the kitchen. I called all my friends. (Always keeping the agency's name anonymous).
"She said I made it to the next round of reviews!!!!!"
"What does that mean?" my friends asked me.
"I have no idea," I replied every time. “None.”
"And that's it? That's all she said?" my co-author asked.
My co-author and I spent an hour in conversation about those ten words and what they could mean.
Slowly, in other conversations with my co-author unrelated to writing, we began using this agent's name as an adjective and verb.
"Give me the [Agent] version."
"I only have a minute [for this story]," I said over the phone to her one day. "You're going to need to [Agent] it." She laughed and made it brief.
The emails made me want to rip my hair out. I wanted so much more. I wanted to sit at a table with the agent and drink coffee and have a long conversation about the MS, the greatest book ever written.
Three months later, I knew that our novel had not made it through the next round of revision.
"Shorten your document by 50K words and replace [this] comparative work in your proposal."
WhatWhyWhat? What just happened? What does that mean?
I forwarded the email to my co-author. She called me immediately.
"What does that mean?"
"My sentiments exactly."
"Did she give any more clarification than that?" I laughed. "No, no, of course not."
We joked, deciding that the agent must pay $10 per every word she types. Which, I imagine, is fairly close to the truth.
We shortened the manuscript and, months later, resubmitted the proposal.
And heard nothing for months.
I attended a writer's conference. I pitched the book and received one bite that didn't pan out.
However, I came home from the conference with motivation to bolster my online presence on Facebook, Twitter and my website. As one agent urged in a workshop, "present the image that you want to sell." I posed for professional pictures and infused them into my website, Amazon author profile and Facebook pages.
After three months of focusing on my online profiles, I sent another email to this agent, telling her about what I learned at the conference and how I applied it.
"Send me the new and improved proposal."
So, I did.
The proposal consumed my thoughts, but not nearly as much. I focused on the life in front of me. Then I received another email.
"Still considering. Stay tuned."
I forwarded that email to my co-author and said, "Maybe she's confused emails with telegrams."
"What do you mean?"
"Still considering. Stop. Stay tuned. Stop."
About a month after that, I received an email:
"I have been very reluctant to let this project go because you are talented and would be a delight to work with. I [even spoke with colleagues] about your work. It breaks my heart that I feel that in this current market, I must decline... I would be happy to consider your future work, though. I really mean that."
And though I'm sad that this MS didn't work out, standing on the other side of the submission process, I feel encouraged. Though waiting drove me mad, I enjoyed the process—laughed at times. I would not have that agent change a single thing about our email correspondence.
Because, my talent and persistence earned for me the gift of her generous encouragement. And, we have already been in conversation about potential future projects. ;)
So, what did I learn?
Don't let proposal submissions consume you.
Be respectful yet persistent.
Be gracious regarding the agent’s side of the laptop.
Spell the agent's name correctly
Find the fun in the process.