I was terrified of the game of Duck Duck Goose* when I was a kid. I’ve always been an anxious type, so Duck Duck Goose was second only to dodgeball on the list of most dreaded recess games. It’s ironic, then, that as an adult I would submit voluntarily to a similar game–that is, the game of getting a literary agent.
For me, getting an agent took two years, two manuscripts, and more rejections than I care to advertise, but let’s just say that Katherine Stockett ain’t got nothin’ on me. The game went a little something like this:
Rejection, rejection, partial request. Rejection, rejection, FULL! Run around like crazy with excitement, make a couple of last tweaks to the manuscript. Hit send and get bonked on the head again with another rejection. And so on, until I’d run around the circle until I was dizzy. I even had a revise and resubmit in there from a fancy-name agency that turned into a big, fat nada. When, after a few months of not hearing anything, I followed up with the agent, her assistant emailed me to say, “Oh, she passed. I thought we had told you.”
Like so many other “debut” authors, my first published novel is not the first novel I ever wrote. I queried a prior novel for a year before deciding to set the first project aside to chase the story that was tugging at my imagination–a story about a Midwestern vintage clothing store and the women who work and shop there. That second project, VINTAGE, is the one that ended up getting me an agent and publishing contract.
That being said, all of the no’s along the way, especially the ones where I got feedback about what wasn’t working, helped me get to YES. So I actually owe all of those people who rejected my novels a thank you. I even connect with some of them on social media from time to time, so I know it’s not personal. It’s just that my project, in whatever stage it was in at the time I submitted it, wasn’t what they were looking for. Or the manuscript needed guidance that they didn’t have the time, inspiration, or inclination to provide.
It’s hard, though, when you’re in the trenches of submitting and querying and blog contests and Twitter pitches, not to take it personally. It’s hard not to sulk and slump your shoulders, thinking you’ll never be the one who gets tapped on the head with an offer. But stay in the circle. Stay in the game. You’ll be a goose soon.
*I hear that, it in some places, the game is called “Duck Duck Gray Duck.”
Image credit: TheAngryRobot Etsy Shop.