After I cried a little, this is what I did.
When the email popped up on my phone from an agent I queried last week, I didn’t open it at first. Instead, I stared at the subject line in the mental space between hope and disappointment. I’d just sent the query a few days ago, and the quick response impressed me. Would the agent want to see more of my manuscript? It almost seemed too great a wish.
Once I was brave enough to open it, the agent wrote that she had too many memoirs right now and could not take another. Well, it wasn’t exactly a rejection. It’s not like she said I had the worst writing she’s seen in all her years working in the industry. She took the time to write me back, so that was something promising. I have a lot more agents on my list to query, so it’s not the end of the world.
Then why do I feel so bad?
This book I’ve written contains my heart and soul. It’s taken three years to write and edit. I’m as shocked as anyone that it’s done. I’m the kind of person who never finishes what she starts, so that’s an accomplishment in itself. I’ve had beta readers who loved it, and I’ve made some changes they suggested. There was nothing left to do but try to have it published.
I started using Query Tracker, selecting agents who are representing memoir. They have a great system to keep track of your queries and a whole list of agents and publishers. My current list is about 30 names long so far, and I started at the top and am working my way down. This is not something I’ve ever done before. Sure, I blog and write articles online, but this is the big leagues, the shining star everyone wants to grab.
My memoir is very personal and spans ten years of my life when I changed the most. When I started writing it, I faced reliving my past. Some of it was gritty, and I don’t always come out looking great. I remember the days when I would run away from my office chair when writing the especially painful parts. When I forced myself to sit down and write, I found the experience healing. It was almost like I was afraid to write about the past because somehow I’d find myself trapped there or I’d change back into the person I used to be. Instead, writing about those events took away their power over me. It was like three years of therapy for free.
Being rejected makes me wonder about the quality of my writing. Sure, it’s good for blogging, but do I have what it takes to write an actual book that people want to read? It’s so scary to put myself out there. I am the biggest introvert you’ll ever meet, and the idea of everybody knowing my deepest, darkest secrets sometimes makes me cringe. Still, I think it’s important to try. If just one person reads my book and finds hope in it, then everything will be worth it. I want people to know they can get out of a toxic lifestyle and become greater versions of themselves whenever they decide. My thought is that if I can do it, so can anybody else.
I remember a time when my mind was too messed up to even read a book, much less write one. My anxiety was too high to sit down and lose myself in the pages. In the throes of mental illness and addiction, I gave up my favorite way to pass the time. Books were a part of my life since I was a little girl. I learned to read when I was four years old, and I stuck my nose in books for the rest of my childhood. Losing something I loved so much made me feel empty and disappointed in myself.
When things got better in my life, reading became a big part of it again. Most of the books I read are about writing, but I’m able to read just for fun as well. Writing came back soon after that, and it made me feel amazing to get some words on a page whether or not anybody ever saw them. The book itself just sort of happened, a bunch of writing that came together into a memoir. I’m proud of it even if it never gets published.
Rejection is tough. My heart sank a little with that agent’s email, but I’m trying to push it aside and keep querying. Hopefully, when more rejections happen in my future, I can keep a positive attitude and sent out the next query without dwelling on it too much. Maybe I’ll have to self-publish down the road but either way, it will be okay. I’ve accomplished more writing this book than I could have ever imagined. That’s what I’m holding on to as I go forward.
I saved the email the agent sent me. I’m thinking about printing it out and having it made into a coaster where I’ll set my glass of champagne when my book gets picked up. Rejection is part of the business, but I don’t have to take it personally. I’m not a failure, but I am a writer. That makes me happiest of all.