It’s been months since I’ve written anything for this blog. The reason is, there’s not much to say. As far as my writing goes, I’m in a bit of a slump. For several months, I just can’t seem to muster the energy or focus my concentration. First, there was the quintuple bypass operation I had in October. And then my dad died in November (coronary artery disease), which, despite his advanced age (93), came as a surprise. And then our tiny dog died in December (kidney disease). The last few months of 2018 kind of sucked for me.
I’m feeling much better now, with just a few lingering minor medical annoyances, but getting back into my daily writing routine is proving difficult. I suspect I may be suffering from a mild case of ‘What’s the point?’.
I was very excited when an agent asked to see the full manuscript of my novel Troubled Space back in September. I sent it to her immediately, of course, but I haven’t heard back. I sent a polite follow-up a few weeks ago. No response to that, either. I don’t know why. Maybe she didn’t get it. Maybe she’s backlogged and hasn’t yet opened it. Maybe she didn’t like my manuscript and lacks the common courtesy to let me know. Whatever the reason, it’s kind of depressing, and it’s probably the main cause of my current deficit of enthusiasm.
But I still think Troubled Space is a great novel, so I’ve sent a query to one of the few reputable publishers who accept unagented submissions. They want three months to look at it before I send it to anyone else. So, until the end of May, my queries are done. I expect no more replies from agents, not even from the one who asked to see my manuscript. I do expect a reply from the publisher, and I’m hoping for the best, but I expect another rejection.
Advice to prospective authors: Writing is not a good hobby to take up if you need positive reinforcement to maintain a sense of self-worth.
But getting back to my current case of ‘What’s the point?’. Well, for me, the point is that I enjoy writing stories. Yes, I wish other people would enjoy reading them, and I can’t say that’s not important to me, but it’s not the main point. I simply like creating stuff….
Speaking of which…. At some point in the not-too-distant past, my dad decided he wanted to take up painting as a hobby. He bought paint, brushes, easels, and canvases, and, in the course of three years, he produced one small painting. When he died, I had to decide what to do with the unused canvases and art supplies. It seemed a shame to waste them, so I tried my hand at painting. I’m not very good at it, but it’s a creative hobby that I find I enjoy in the same way I enjoy writing. One advantage it has is that it takes nowhere near as long to complete a painting as it does a novel.
It’s been a slow week for query responses, although I did get a couple more rejections. The score now is:
Queries sent: 36
Reply stating “closed to new queries”: 1
Rejections received: 15
Full manuscript requests: 1
Still awaiting replies: 19
So, nineteen more agents still have a unique opportunity to ask to see my amazing new manuscript. 🙂 Of the one who already has, I’ve heard nothing more, although I know this can take quite a while. I remain hopeful.
In the meantime, I’ve been working on revisions for new editions of my Warden novels. I recently republished the first of these in digital format. A new paperback will be following soon. It will be less expensive than the original because I changed the size from 5″X 8″ to 6.14″ X 9.21″. The pages are larger, so there are fewer of them, which means less cost. I hadn’t known this before, figuring the cost of the larger page would balance the cost of having fewer of them. Not so, apparently. This puts the cost back to something I would consider reasonable. The eBook edition will remain free until the publisher objects.
Here’s the new cover. I think it came out well. The other five books set in the same world will receive similar treatment in the coming months.
It’s been two weeks since I sent out the last of thirty-six queries for my (as yet) unpublished book Troubled Space. The spate of instant knee-jerk rejections now seems to have ended. I got half as many over the last seven days as I did on the first week, now making a total of twelve. The bright spot is that two-thirds of the agents I queried did not instantly reject it. I can only hope that some of them may actually consider representing me. Who knows? Stranger things have happened.
Of course I’m not just waiting around for some unknown agent to acknowledge my existence. I’m also not diving into to writing my next book. I’ve decided instead to take time to produce new editions of my Warden’s World stories. There are a few reasons for this. The first is that they need new covers. I have five novels set in this world, and the covers don’t look much alike. I think they should, and soon they will. They also need a bit of revision. These were the first novels I ever wrote, and I was pretty nervous about publishing them. Before I did, I reviewed as much guidance as I could about the whole process, and I ended up following a lot of bad advice. Basically, I over-edited and ended screwing up the tenses and making the prose choppy. My goal is to correct the corrections I made trying to follow the ‘rules.’
The first book to get a makeover will the An Android Dog’s Tale. It’s a prequel to the others and probably the shortest of the bunch at around 75,000 words. It may also be my best seller. I’m not talking bestseller as in toping anyone’s charts, but it’s either in the top (or possibly the second top) sales spot for my books. It’s currently getting over 100 Kindle downloads per month and a few more in other formats. The revised version is almost done and should be out within the next month. (I considered showing the new cover in this post but decided against it. I have a proof copy of the new paperback sitting on my desk. Take my word for it; it looks damn good.)
So, that’s my writing time accounted for until at least the end of the year. I’ll be revising five books, creating new covers for them, and releasing new digital and trade paperback editions.
Oh, and I’ll also be waiting to hear back from agents.
Over the course of three days last week, I sent queries to 36 literary agencies. I am happy to report pretend that most of them are still seriously considering my latest book. Sadly, nine others must have illiterate monkeys with absolutely no taste monitoring their emails because they almost immediately sent back rejection letters (one within only a few hours of me sending the query).
Okay, that’s unfair. Perhaps they’re not actually monkeys, but they clearly don’t realize what a unique opportunity they’ve just denied themselves. (Listen, lying to yourself is something an author has to do in order to keep writing, so it’s either disparage the good taste and wisdom of some unknown interns at a few obscure literary agencies or curl up into a fetal position, drool into my bellybutton, and admit that I’ve wasted the last seven years of my life.) Regardless of who or what caused those rejections, I am sure that my latest manuscript could find a large and appreciative audience, if given a chance. It’s good. I mean, really good. It had me laughing and nodding my head when I proofread it, and I knew what would happen next.
Which makes me wonder….
We’ve all heard stories about how many agents and/or publishers rejected queries for books that later went on to being bestsellers and were sometimes even mangled into blockbuster movies. The current favorite anecdote is about how J.K. Rowling received ‘loads of’ rejections before she finally found a publisher for her Harry Potter books, and she is far from the only writer with a story like this.
A moment on Google led me to this site, which lists several: http://www.litrejections.com/best-sellers-initially-rejected/ It’s not the only one like this out there, and it mainly focuses on rejections from editors, but the point remains valid. Now, you may not agree that all of the listed books are good or even readable, but the fact is that each and every one of them did find an appreciative audience. The agents and publishers who rejected them missed out on amazing opportunities.
So I have to wonder. Are there consequences? There are for the authors, obviously. The snap decisions made by agents and editors can substantially change their lives. But what about for the people who made those decisions? Did those who rejected Rowling’s queries all keep their jobs? Do they still sleep well? Do their peers make fun of them? Do they look in the mirror every morning and see an idiot?
I don’t know. They may not even remember whose queries they’ve rejected among the thousands they get each year. I have a feeling, and I’m not sure I’m right, that agents are more afraid of taking on a book they can’t sell than they are of rejecting one that later goes on to be immensely popular. There are consequences for the first. If nothing else, they’ve wasted their time. But rejections might be safe. If the author doesn’t keep a record of these and disclose it afterward, who is going to know?
Somehow, this just doesn’t seem fair.
But, for now, 27 agents still have a chance to appreciate the opportunity I’ve given them. I do hope they don’t screw up.