An additional note on the agent search

Last week I posted some tools to help writers embarking on the search for an agent to represent their work. Today, I’d like to make a sort of addendum to that post, because over my years in the writing community, I’ve seen a lot of people struggling to cope when the agent search or the publisher search doesn’t go as well as they hoped.

I think it’s easy to put a lot of expectations and dreams on one book, the most recent book you’ve written, maybe your first book, maybe your fifth. But to stay sane in this business, you can never forget that this book might not be THE book.

And that’s okay.

GIVE UP THE GHOST was my first published novel; it was also the tenth I’d completed. (I posted the full list of my completed novels pre-GHOST a few years back, for those interested.) Which isn’t including the many unfinished novels I had to abandon along the way. I queried agents with two books before GHOST: one only a few before I decided the hook wasn’t strong enough; one quite widely, and ultimately realized based on agent feedback that it wasn’t working and I didn’t know how to fix it. I could have queried for the earlier books, but each of them, for whatever reason, I felt wasn’t strong enough before I got to that point.

The only reason I’m now a published author is that, when I got those agent rejections, when I decided a book wasn’t ready, I accepted it as part of my learning process as a writer, and went on to write the next book.

As Lisa Schroeder explained so well a few days ago, “Oh well” should be a writer’s favorite words. Not everything will work out the way you’d like. Most likely, most things won’t work out the way you’d like. Whether you cope well enough to continue working toward your dreams will be determined by your ability to roll with the punches, shrug it off, and keep going.

So I wish the best of luck to everyone planning on seeking publication this year. But I also wish you the ability to accept both the successes and failures along the way, and the knowledge that if this book isn’t THE book, there’s still the next book. And the one after that. And the one after that.

The dream only dies when you give up and stop writing.


An additional note on the agent search — 5 Comments

  1. I’m always curious (and a little depressed, to tell the truth) when I read about authors who wrote ten books before getting one published. I don’t write particularly fast, and I tend to do deep multiple revisions before querying, and well, if it takes 10+ finished, polished books before one garners interest, I might be dead before I get to publish anything. So it’s actually helpful to hear that not all the finished books were revised or even queried! Also to hear that the actual time elapsed between each book wasn’t all that long. It’s easier to keep up hope when you’re excited about a new project.

    Still, I’m really hoping that the models of writing ten books, not all of which are revised/queried, and writing fewer books and revising more lead to equal amounts of writing growth. Obviously you need to know when it’s time to leave a project and write something new. But you still have to put the hours in on just writing, you know?

    • I think you have to take into account a few things. One, that I am not the average (I think most authors I know wrote 3-5 books before they sold one). And two, that six of those ten novels I wrote while still in my teens, so part of the problem was lack of life experience informing my writing, not lack of practice.

      I’m definitely not saying that a person specifically needs to have written ten books before they can hope to be published. Rather, that even if you’ve written nine books and that ninth one isn’t getting agent or publisher interest, that’s not a reason to give up trying. (Nor would it be if it was your ninteenth, IMHO.)

  2. True–I’m not counting anything I wrote as a teen, none of which was in any way ready for any human being to read. ! The lack of life experience–yes. You can be a great reader and even a great writer, but writing also involves a kind of knowing that it takes some time to get and understand.

    3-5 sounds much more doable!

  3. Great advice. Though I’m like Rose. I write slow. But I’ve learned so much from each revision that it’s been worth it.

    • If I’ve learned anything about writing it’s that each writer has a process that works best for them–and there’s a huge amount of variety from writer to writer! The important part is figuring out what process lets you get the best work done that *you* can. 🙂

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