Eye of the Beholder

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Location: San Augustine, Texas, United States

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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Lamenting Rejection

and reacting


I was whelmed (not over, but moderately) with depression this week when I heard from an agent that the manuscript for my novel Becky Bright "Was not for her." She had responded to a query letter I sent her with a synopsis and she asked to see the manuscript. I sent it to her with high hopes. I mean, how could she possibly not like it?

She didn't.

Adding to my deep blue funk was the fact that she asked if I wanted the manuscript back. Well, duh. I wrote back and told her that's why I sent the $11.00 money order when I sent the manuscript. She wrote back that she had lost my address; that's why she was asking. Yeah, right. The address was on the box I sent the manuscript in, so unless she had thrown away the box. . . Anyway, I think what probably happened was she had misplaced or forgotten the $11.00. So back to the bottom of the hill.

The road to publishing a book, particularly fiction, runs up a steep hill, like the old tale of Sisyphus who was cursed by the gods to pushing a rock up a mountain and whenever he reached the top, the rock rolled back to the bottom so he had to start pushing all over again. Getting a book published is like that, except that the publication mountain has an ungodly number of pseudo crests: first you have to get an agent to respond to a synopsis (with cover letter and SASE*.) asking to see the manuscript. I got that far with Ms. Baldi before my rock rolled back down when she didn't like the story. "It wasn't' for her." Whatever that means.

Whatever!

Assuming an agent likes the manuscript (which actually means she thinks she knows where she can sell it) you're still not at the top of the mountain yet. The agent has to find a publisher, but at least by then it's her rock to push, but you're trapped into the role of bystander while the agent either aggressively seeks a publisher or doesn't. You've lost control, but if you do get an agent for your work, then you can go back to writing, which is what I'd rather do than send out query letters.

But since my rock was at the bottom of the hill again, I scurried around and mailed out 50 query letters, each with its own SASE, beginning:

Dear Agent Sissy Phus:

Women weren'’t fit to fly airplanes except as a joke. "“Like monkeys playing the piano!"” is how Becky describes the attitude toward women fliers in my novel Becky Bright. Becky Bright is the fictional story of a skilled woman aviator who flew for the renowned WASPs during WWII. A one-page synopsis of Becky Bright is enclosed. I would be delighted to send you sample chapters or a complete manuscript.

Now ain't that a killer opening for a query letter? If you were agent Sissy Phus wouldn't you piss yourself with your pants on for a chance to see the manuscript?

While I was printing, addressing, and stuffing (each with its own SASE) those 50 query letters, I had the idle thought that if I put about a tbls of talc in each one.....but in about three minutes every available federal agent (not involved in warrant-less wire tapping duties) would be on my doorstep with a free ticket to an undisclosed location--like Gitmo--but what the hell, I've always wanted to go Belgrade or Prague, but maybe not, so I forgot about the talcum powder. I don't have any and I don't feel like a trip to the store.

I would like to accompany one or two of those query letters to see what actually happens to them. I deeply suspect that most agents put them in an aging pile and after 3 weeks to a month, they get drunk on Moegan David or some other cheap wine--maybe smoke a doobie--and rip open the envelopes, put a "It's not for me. Good luck, sucker" form letter in your SASE and mail it back to you. What agents and publishers really want is a query letter that has "This is the next De Vinci Code" stamped on the outside of the envelope in a lively shade of neon orange. Instead, I suspect they actually roll up all those query letters and synopses into small tubes which they use to clean the wax out of their ears. If I ever meet an agent with waxy ear holes, that's where I'm sending my queries.

A heaping glass of Moegan David and a doobie don't sound all that bad right now.

*For the uninitiated, SASE means Self-Addressed, Stamped Envelope.

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