You’ve finished your book. You’ve edited until your eyes bled (then edited again). You’ve built a small but manageable marketing platform. You’ve networked, advertised, revised, and lost countless hours of sleep preparing the best query package you can.
You’ve spent hours, days, and even weeks researching your specific publishing demographic. You’ve handpicked a few dozen literary agents and small publishers who specialize in your genre. You’ve taken the time to read what they’ve read, support authors they promote, and generally get acquainted with them– long before you ever dare to write their name in your introductory line, ‘Dear Ms. or Mr. Agent Person’.
The rejections come in quick. Some are brusk and rude, and you’re slightly insulted after spending so much time trying to get to know them before you pestered them with two-decades worth of hard work. You wonder why they would reject you so swiftly and spend yet more hours, days, and weeks pouring over your work to glean what in the world could be so bloody wrong with it that it deserved such an offhand dismissal.
You get depressed. You feel like a failure. That twenty years of your life, might as well have been spent journaling. No one will ever be interested in your work, if a professional such as ‘SO AND SO’ doesn’t find anything marketable in it. You wonder why you stopped drinking, and take to watching Investigation Discovery in your pajamas in your spare time. Soon, you’re eating crackers upside-down on your couch and weeping into your twentieth can of LaCroix. You’re a joke; a middle-aged wannabe with no life and zero talent.
Then, the requests for manuscript roll in. There are more than you hoped for at first, when you were still capable of ‘pre-rejection’ rationale. A tiny glimmer of hope pierces your hazy, self-pity bubble. You start to wash your hair and drink actual fluids again. It’s going to be okay. SOMEONE thinks your work is worthwhile. Just be careful… don’t get cocky. Don’t get excited. Be cool. BE ZEN. They may yet tell you you’re a hack.
The second round of rejections comes in, and you weather it better this time. You’ve had one acceptance letter, but the terms were terrible and you’re not going out like that, son! That glimmer of hope is flickering but constant, in a distant, very Great Gatsby sort of way. Through the fog of self-doubt, your potential career flashes green over a wide expanse of cold water. It’s steady, but faint.
You wait… and wait.
You take terrible part-time jobs to keep the lights on while you wait. You opt not to query additional publishers and agents, until you’ve heard from the first round– because as every agent and small publisher will tell you– they’re going to take their time and if you’re serious about them, they expect you to be patient. So you wait some more. The bills stack up and you’re working forty hours a week, while trying to squeeze in time to write your sequels. You remind yourself that you were going to have to wait it out and in the end, might have to self-publish just to keep food in your fridge. You’re prepared, but the green light is still flashing on that far dock… and you know you’d be better served waiting it out. Months drag by and you’re still in limbo, wondering why you ever thought you could do this in the first place?
You read self-help articles. Positivity articles. You follow hordes of talented, recently published authors, who inspire you to keep going. You go to work. You come home and work. You get up early, and go to bed late. You hit ‘ignore’ on any random phone calls… you know who they are and you have nothing to give them. You’re tapped-out, stretched thin– a tearing canvas, drawn far too tight over its frame. You’re worried you’re going to be stuck chasing that far green light for eternity; a lifetime spent serving others, while your one passion withers on the vine. Who even are you? Do you know anymore? Did you ever?
You wait… and wait…
… and wait some more.