I’ve written a book. It has taken me over a year and a lot of work, but I’ve written a book.
I’ve said I wanted to be a writer all my life, so this is a big deal. I’ve sent this collection of my brain nuggets off on its first wave of agents in attempt to interest someone in representing me. My research suggested a strategy of soliciting about ten prospective agents at a time, continuing with query letters to a new batch of people every four weeks or so. The guru I consulted implied that it is not unusual for a new writer to receive 20-30 rejections from agents before receiving an offer of representation. The responses to the first wave of queries are starting to flit into my email. I am well on my way to those 20-30 rejections.
When I started work on the book, I told myself that I was doing it for fun. I told myself I was doing it for personal satisfaction. I told myself that I was just ticking off a box on my bucket list. I told myself that I wouldn’t be disappointed if no one wanted to represent or publish it. I told myself a lot of happy hoopla that people tell themselves when they are trying to force themselves to feel rationally.
I think feeling rationally may be an oxymoron.
At any rate, despite my best intentions, I do feel a little deflated as I collect my rejection replies. It isn’t that I am completely demoralized or depressed or anything so dramatic. I don’t even feel like I’ve given up yet (although maybe I should!) Still, I have to admit to feeling a bit dispirited. Maybe even vaguely ashamed.
I think it has a lot to do with the ingrained “need to succeed” that drove my every action and emotion while I was working. During my work life, so much of my worth seemed tied up with results and achievement. It was easy to feel exposed and ashamed when something didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to, no matter how hard I tried for a good outcome. It was as if any sub-wonderful result would mean that everyone would know I wasn’t as smart or talented or strong or whatever as I was supposed to be. I don’t think I’m the only one who carried that world view on her back. I’ve heard many people voice similar weird concerns that everyone would “find out” they weren’t all they were cracked up to be.
Now, with the book, I am wondering if I am voluntarily taking on this burden again. I remember that my stomach clenched when I hit the send button on the first query email. I knew, going into this project, that it was very likely that I would not find an agent willing to represent me. There are a lot of reasons why writers do not get representation contracts or publication deals. I’ve read that only about 2% of writers who submit their work for consideration are successful in obtaining agents. My writing may not be good enough to make it into the top 2%, which doesn’t make it bad. My writing may be good enough, but my subject or format may not be commercial enough to interest agents and publishers. My “platform” may not be strong enough to provide the credibility to convince publishers that I have sufficient built-in customers to reduce their risk. All of these are possible, even probable, reasons why I may never attract an agent. None of them should be shameworthy, however.
If the rejections continue, more and more people in the literary world (people who I don’t even know, by the way) will discover I am less talented or less commercial or less savvy or less something. I have to figure out a way to be okay with that, if I am going to play out the entire scenario.
There are things I could do to shore up some of my “lesses” that would probably increase the likelihood of attracting an agent and publisher. I could attend writers’ conferences. I could pursue speaking engagements more aggressively. I could figure out how to promote myself on social media. When I was working, I even had some experience and skills that would probably translate very well to this new challenge. The thing is- I’m just not that into doing any of them. The idea of attending writers’ conferences has some appeal, but I’m sure I’d have to mix and mingle at the conferences for it to do much good and mixing and mingling holds no appeal whatsoever. As an extreme introvert, it is difficult for me to even ask people to read my blog. The idea of aggressively trying to put myself in the public eye makes me cringe. I can challenge myself a little and I probably will try to expand my horizons a bit in the promotion arena, but I really don’t want to cause an earthquake in my comfort zone. As far as social media goes…. My idea of hell is dealing with technology.
If I am not going to do much to reduce the likelihood of rejections, maybe I need to concentrate on what I’ve already accomplished to evaluate the outcome of my goal to be a writer.
· I have grown personally and built myself a more satisfying retirement life through writing.
· I have been writing a weekly blog for just about two years.
· I have more unique visitors to my blog each month than I ever thought possible.
· I approach 30,000 hits on the blogsite each month.
· I have wonderful, thoughtful readers who leave generous and supportive comments.
· I have people contact me who say that something I’ve written has helped them.
· I have written a book that pleases me.
There isn’t anything wrong with having a need to succeed. You just have to be discerning about how you define “succeed.”
Do you feel the pressure of “the need to succeed?” How do you define “succeed?” Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a successful day!