It’s been eight months since I decided to sit down and write a novel. It doesn’t feel that long.
It’s been, say, seven months since I decided that it might actually work. I initially didn’t tell more than a few people I was even doing it because I was afraid it would peter out and end up incomplete.
And it’s been six months since I declared that particular dragon slain; it was done, I told people. Done!
Of course, it wasn’t. There’s revising. There’s editing. There’s revising and editing again. There’s tweaking.
And there’s a whole industry to figure out. I’ve mentioned this before, but one of the first real turn-offs for me was seeing how many agents tell you right on their websites that they don’t respond to the majority of people who send them queries for representation. They don’t send form letters or thanks-but-no-thanks or anything else; they just tell you that if you haven’t heard from them in some predetermined amount of time, anywhere from two weeks to four months, then just assume they’re not interested. They don’t want you to re-query or nudge them or anything; if they don’t like your work, they just don’t tell you and pretend you don’t exist, and don’t particularly want a reminder.
None of them put it quite so rudely as I just did, of course; they’re more professional than that. But from a writer’s point of view, that’s how I heard it.
They’re not all that way, of course. Some of them are apologetic about not being able to respond to everyone, at least; and it seems many of them do at least send out form letters. (I’m not speaking from personal experience, here; most of the agents I’ve queried are still reviewing what I sent them.) From an objective viewpoint, though, I do get it. These people get hundreds of queries a month. And I’m sure some of them are downright terrible and don’t warrant a response (though it would still be polite). And I get that if they sat down and wrote a response to each person, they’d probably never get through all of the submissions in the first place. Still, that sort of passive rejection doesn’t feel right, somehow. And that’s why I’ve sent my earliest queries to agents who do appear to respond to a high percentage of contacts, even if it’s to say no.
I’ve also been intrigued by those agents who take the time to blog about how the industry works. It’s invaluable. I was reading one the other day that posted a whole list of questions authors should be asking when an agent offers to represent them. I never would have thought of half of them on my own. Sure, perhaps web research at that juncture would have revealed them to me, but as it stands now, I could get a call tomorrow with an offer of representation, or at least a request for a full manuscript that leads to an offer within a week, and I’d be scrambling to prepare. (I still would, actually, but at least I have that blog as a starting point!)
Only now am I starting to appreciate how vast and complex this industry is. It’s a little intimidating, sure, but I’m also excited about it.