The day I landed my first agent, I thought I had it made. She was one of my top choices – a reputable agent who’d had some big name clients. And she loved my novel. She gushed. She said she didn’t want to change a thing and planned to send it out just as it was. She did warn that it would be a tough sell. But she sounded so excited, so enthusiastic about my book that I knew, I just knew, that in a few months, she’d have found my beloved little first novel a home. I was on cloud nine – blissfully oblivious to the realities of the world of publishing.
So… my first novel didn’t sell. Never mind, I wrote a second. And my agent was a little less enthusiastic. She pronounced it “dark” but again, said she wouldn’t change a thing. Out it went making the rounds from one house to the next, every editor passing. Too dark. Too incoherent. Not enough action. Too much action. One editor said he was in love with the writing, but it was just after September 11th and he couldn’t face anything this depressing. I wrote a third novel. A long rambling thing that seemed too much of a mess to show to my agent. So I put it in a drawer and began work on novel number four, determined that this was “the one.” This book would sell, damn it, or I was quitting. I’d start a sheep farm, grow shitake mushrooms. Anything but this masochistic writing thing. At last the book was done. And I thought I had something good. Until I showed it to my agent. I waited. Time went by. No phone call. At last, a letter came. She was dumping me.
I drank a lot of margaritas. Made a list of all the things I could do instead of writing. Then, at last, I decided I’d been through too damn much to just quit. And I believed, and still do, that success in the writing world is only partly about talent: the rest is perseverance, shit luck, timing, and the way the planets are aligned. It’s all about not giving up.
I soon lucked into finding an amazing agent who is brilliant and stubborn and has a sort of tough love approach that works for me. He sold my novel, the one I got dumped over. It took a long time, and many revisions, but it found a home and is going to be published by HarperCollins in April. My novel. And I have to say that, while there’ve been a few unexpected twists in the road, all in all, things have gone incredibly well since my book was picked up by HarperCollins. And then, damned if Wonder Agent doesn’t sell another novel – my first book for young adults – to Dutton. It’ll be out in 2008. I feel incredibly lucky and a little in awe, and at times, I’ll admit, maybe slightly unworthy. But then I remind myself that I’ve worked my ass off to get here. Suffered piles of rejections. Until one day, as if by magic, the planets lined up, the clouds cleared, a giant finger loomed and pointed: You’re next.
The sheep farm will have to wait.