The publishing odds are stacked against an aspiring debut author. In the cutthroat industry that converts stories to books, even having an established name (not to mention talent) doesn’t guarantee your work is going to make it to e-readers and bedside table stacks across America and beyond. But I couldn’t let myself dwell on the negative while writing my first novel. In the world of fiction writing (which differs from non-fiction) you write the book first, pitch second. So as I poured my heart and soul into completing my work, the farthest thing from my mind was failure.
My mentor later warned me: “You’ll probably get over 100 rejections. But don’t let it get you down. The right literary agent will love your story enough to take a chance on you.” Her words didn’t lessen the impact of the first rejection or even the tenth. I’ll spare you the final number of agents who sent their regrets. I’m sorry, I’m not the agent for this work. Most wish you luck. Some don’t respond at all. One stapled a mimeographed slip of paper to my original query letter. Suffice it to say, I began writing a second novel as a form of therapy.
Then I got a nibble. A request for the first three chapters. A few days later, the same agent asked for the full manuscript. It had been months since anyone had asked for the full. A flicker of hope fluttered in my stomach for three weeks. She ultimately rejected the story, though it wasn’t despair she left me with, but hope. She complimented my storytelling ability and even my novel. She had read in my blog (yes, agents read the blogs of prospective authors) that I was writing a second novel and offered to read it when I was done if I didn’t yet have representation. I nicknamed her Nice Agent, short for the nice agent who thoughtfully rejected me. Then in late January, I took her up on her kind offer.
Fast forwarding through the details, I’m thrilled to announce that the last agent to reject my first book, the first agent I pitched on book two, offered me representation on that second book. Barbara Collins Rosenberg of The Rosenberg Group is officially my literary agent. (Cue applause and champagne.)
There’s nothing more validating than a professional who believes in your work. I recognize we have an uphill battle ahead of us; having an agent doesn’t guarantee publication, but I trust in Barbara, her instincts and connections. I know she’ll be thoughtful about which publishers she takes my story to, and she already has a great hook in mind. I’m fueled by her enthusiasm for my career as a novelist. Here’s how she laid it out: the second book gets published first, the sequel gets published second, and the first book I wrote (with a tiny facelift) gets published third, while I work on my seminal fourth novel.
I’m a jumble of feelings right now: overwhelmed, giddy, relieved, scared. But mostly, I feel gratitude for Barbara. My agent. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of saying those two words.