I have a client who has written, revised, edited and polished a 500 + page epic novel, and who has just began to pitch agents. She wrote me this note this week:
"I got an immediate response from Agent A and Agent B! They asked for the entire manuscript! I am not euphoric. I am petrified. What if they both hate it???? I feel as if I am sticking my head into the lion's den."
I thought others might be interested in the response I wrote:
I get being petrified. I really do. It’s like in one second, they can dash all the hope you have nurtured for all these years. If you didn’t feel some paranoia about that, you wouldn’t be human!
So...what if they hate it? Well, first of all, that will just be their opinions. Other people might have other opinions. So if they hate it, you will move on to seek other opinions.
If they hate it, you will probably start to feel that you hate it a little bit, yourself. You’ll have to fight that instinct.
If they hate it, you may hate them a little. That’s okay, and only fair. It will probably pass.
At some point, if you develop a long history of agents hating it, you may have to take a harder look at it and see what they are saying about it and if it has any merit. You may decide to tweak your book, and start in on revisions again. You may decide to do more than tweak it. It will depend on how, exactly, they hate it. Do they just hate the first chapter? The first 30 pages? The last 30? The middle 300?
At some point, if you develop a long history of agents hating it, you may have to come to the conclusion that you did not write something worthy of agent love. That does not mean it is not worthy of READER love. And it certainly does not mean that it is not worthy of YOUR love. To determine whether it could be loved by readers, you would then have to self publish and see.
So at what point do you determine that you have developed a long history of agents hating it? After 20 rejections? 30? 50? That’s up to you and how thick your skin is and how determined you are. The annals of book publishing are filled with stories of writers who landed agents after 50 or 100 rejections and whose books went on to enjoy enormous success. To wit:
- The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Beatrix Potter was so discouraged by rejections that she published it herself. Her first print run was 250 copies.
- Margaret Mitchell got 38 rejections for Gone With the Wind before she landed a book deal.
- Louise L’Amour got 200.
- Jack Canfield got 140 for Chicken Soup for the Soul
- Agatha Christie spent 5 years pitching and getting rejections before someone took a chance on her.
Google “famous book rejections.” It will blow your mind.
I just read an interview with author Dan Brown from the alumni magazine of a certain college that holds a prominent place in my household. In answer to the question, “Who is your ideal reader?” this is what he said:
“I write the book that I find interesting, that I find exciting. I’m writing to my own taste. I choose symbols and codes, or plots and locations, that I myself would want to read about. And then I just hope that people share my taste. Obviously you wish everybody loved what you do. That’s just not the way it is.”
Can we just stop and think about that for a minute? A man whose books have sold 200 million copies, and who is among the most successful authors of all time, said, “Obviously you wish everybody loved what you do. That’s just not the way it is.”
There is a profound lesson here for you as you face your first possible rejection. No matter how well you do, it will not be your last.
I can promise you that it hurts worse to do nothing. It hurts worse not to stick your head into that lion’s mouth, not to send it out, not to try. Silencing your book? That’s the worst kind of hate because it’s akin to self-hate.
So sending it out is an act of love. It’s an act of defiance. It’s the right thing to do and the brave thing to do. So just take a deep breath and do it.
I hope that helps.