There’s been long gap since the last post. It’s not that I’ve lost interest in blogging, but other things seem to have intervened. And I didn’t feel like writing about rejections yet again. There seems to have been a law of diminishing returns: a nice email telling me what was good but why the agent wouldn’t take the book; a standard letter with my name filled in by hand; a couple of fairly terse emails; a small compliments slip (the quintessential rejection slip); and finally nothing at all from the last two agents. The whole process has felt a bit like standing in an exposed place and inviting people to throw things at me but – after more revisions and a revamped submission – I’m getting ready to put myself up for it again. Am I a masochist or what? Or does it mean that the desire to get published, to put one’s work out there in the public arena, is even stronger than the hurt and shame and disappointment?
Either way I’m still (for the moment) refusing to listen to the voice that keeps saying, “If nobody wants it, it can’t be much good,” even though that seems to be the rational explanation. I know it may not only be that, though. The book may not have appealed to the particular agents I sent it to – carefully though I chose them – or (and this is depressing) they may not have thought it was marketable, which isn’t the same as thinking it was bad. Or I may not yet have found The One, the agent who will love it and nurture it and feel impelled to seek a publisher for it. Or, more obviously, the book may still need more work before it is ready to send out: at this stage its flaws and implausibilities may be too great for a discerning reader to swallow. I’ve taken some heart from the fact that people who aren’t agents have read and enjoyed it – one person even stayed up late into the night to finish it – but the temptation (no disrespect to them) is to feel that an agent’s opinion counts for more – and so far the agents have voted with their feet.
When friends who aren’t in the writing game ask me how it’s going with the book, they usually imagine that authors still send their work direct to publishers the way they did when I (briefly) worked in publishing about thirty years ago. “You mean you have to get an agent before you can even find a publisher?” is the usual aghast response, followed by: “So why don’t you self-publish, then?” I’ve explained why not (or at least why not yet) in a previous post but, reluctant as I am, I may well have to start getting my head around it eventually.
Not yet, though. You can call it instinct or determination or sheer stubbornness, but at the moment there’s something in me that’s refusing to lie down and die. I do think I can write, and I’ve had enough feedback from other people to convince me this may be the case. I also think – again guided by people’s feedback – that my book has potential, but of course that doesn’t mean that it will be published or even could be published. My father liked to say, “The proof of the pudding is in the lap of the gods,” which always made me think of a row of gods in long robes sitting with their laps full of rice pudding. Nevertheless it is a reminder that we don’t know what’s going to happen or what the outcome will be. And not knowing can be hard. It’s much easier to tell myself – on a bad day – that the book will never get published or even find an agent or – on a good day – that of course it will get published. Sometimes I manage to find a middle way between despair and expectation from which I can simply go on trying for as long as it feels right to do so.