Two Steps Forward – One Step Back



I’ve chronicled my journey towards publication…in detail…here on my blog. There have been the false-starts, steep learning curves, detours – both personal and creatively, extensive querying, all of it culminating with my current rigorous submission process. In many ways my voyage has been similar to others I’ve read about here in the writers blogoshphere – comparing the process to an emotional roller coaster ride. I prefer to think of it as a deep water dive. At its lowest depths you feel so alone, so isolated, so unsure of why you’re there in the first place. But when recognition finally finds you, in whatever form, the rush to the surface can be so exhilarating. Unfortunately, ascending too fast, or being reckless, is when the bends set in.

Lyrics from the Gilbert O’Sullivan song – “Alone Again” have been stuck in my head recently. At some point I have to wonder if this ‘get published’ quest was really meant to be. When I think back over these past seven years on everything I’ve experienced, two phrases have guided me through. 1) If it were easy, everybody would do it. 2) Persistence is the key to realizing your dreams. Looks like I’ll be putting both of those to the test again.

When I landed my agent in February of 2015, I was beyond ecstatic. We got along well and she seemed truly passionate about my novel. It seemed like a good fit. As the months rolled by and my book hit the submission trail, that glow of excitement began to erode. I experienced long periods of time when I wouldn’t hear anything from my agent -- and contrary to popular beliefs – bad news is better than no news, at least for a writer. I communicated my feelings to my agent and we agreed to mandatory monthly updates. That worked well for 5-6 months, but then things began to slide again. I began to suspect that my chosen partner wasn’t working as hard as she should for my interest. Looking back on it now I'll admit there were early warning signs, but the prospect of moving forward to the next level easily blinded me.

So I’ve decided to cut ties with my agent and seek other representation. I don’t take this decision lightly, because I REALLY don’t want to dive back into the query waters again. However, I can’t abide the current situation either.

The funny thing is that now I feel like the one that has failed…again. When I was querying the first time around, every rejection letter felt like a failure. You become numb to it after a while, but it’s a failure none-the-less. Then when I went on submission, every decline from a publisher – even the ones that were hotly debated – became another chalk mark in the failed column. Now I’m walking away from my agent and I feel like a failure again because I didn’t do a good enough job of research. In my professional life (my real job) I’ve never experienced disappointment like this. In the 33 years since I graduated from college, I’ve worked for only to companies. I’ve succeeded, been promoted, and essentially excelled in my field. So absorbing so much failure, and still voluntarily setting yourself up for more…well…just take that as a testament of my determination to succeed – as well as my belief that I have something to offer for the bookshelves in the commercial marketplace. 

So here I am…back on the ocean floor. Yes...it’s cold, pitch-black, and so so quiet – except for the sound of my own breathing. The good news is I’ve just finished revising my latest book and I am extremely pumped about it. I know (feel) that there will be a post someday announcing my ascension from these murky waters yet again.

Stay tuned.

8 comments

  1. Sorry you had to dump your agent. But if she wasn't working to find your book a home, then why waste even more time.
    And it's not failure. It's business and it has nothing to do with us personally.

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    Replies
    1. It may be business, but it feels personal when you can't deliver. Re-calibrating our expectations takes some getting used to. :)

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  2. Don, I'm so sorry. It's not your fault. You picked who you thought was the best person for the job and it just didn't work out.

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    Replies
    1. This business is like climbing a mountain, one where every hand or toehold can never be totally relied upon. :)

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  3. It took me three tries to find the right fit. There's one out there for you. Keep trucking.

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    Replies
    1. I'd like to say that's comforting...but it isn't really...is it? That sucked for you...and now for me. As someone who works in customer service, I can't fathom acting with so little disregard to a customers feelings, and that's what we are to these agents - customers.

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  4. So sorry you've had a bad experience, Don. The rejection is hard, isn't it? But there is no point staying with someone who you're not happy working with. I'm sure you'll find the right agent for you.

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  5. Don, it may seem quiet and lonely on the bottom of that ocean floor... but you are most definitely NOT ALONE. There are so many other people who have been where you are. Do not despair. I highly recommend you read this blog post: http://project-middle-grade-mayhem.blogspot.com/2016/01/on-parting-ways-with-literary-agents-by.html

    For every person I know who is agented, I know at least another who has broken up with (at least one!) agent. And I've seen some fabulous success stories come out of those circumstances.

    This is your chance to breathe. Reflect. Take time for yourself. Then dive back in, because you've done it once and you most certainly can do it again. Every "wrong" step we take, every dead end, is pushing you onto the right road. You'll get there. I believe in you!

    ReplyDelete

 

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