Like I said in Part 1 of this post, I wrote a book and was personally invited by some literary agents to send the full manuscript as soon as it was ready. I also chose a few more literary agents I liked the look of and off I went, drafting pitch letters, personalising approaches and then refreshing my inbox hundreds of times each day in the hope of receiving a positive reply.
Now, I am sure that if you are a writer who has attempted the submissions process, you will have spent many hours scouring author case studies, literary rejection websites and agent’s manuscript wishlists #MSWL. If you haven’t, maybe you should pay particular attention to that last one to help you target your submissions, but anyway. I did my homework, I already had some agents warmed up, and as the process went on a few more full manuscript requests trickled in. By the time I had completed my first round of submissions, I had five of the UK’s most prestigious literary agents giving my book some serious attention. So I did what any self-respecting aspiring author would do and started planning the outfit I would wear on my trip to London to meet them. I wrote a list of questions I should ask the agents when they called to offer me representation and I gave some serious consideration to which actress should play my lead character Marta in the movie adaptation (I settled on Eva Green, dressed down).
My imagination kept me occupied for the first few weeks of waiting for responses, and then I slowly started to sink into self-loathing as the weeks turned into months and the initial interest turned into rejection for at least three of the agents. Feedback was always positive and encouraging, but each time led to a thanks but no thanks. One agent had spent weeks pondering over it and had even shared it with a colleague as she was so undecided, but in the end they had agreed they might not be able to place it with a publisher. Another had loved it, rattled through the first few chapters in a weekend but rejected it because she had decided that she didn’t like my writing voice. Ouch.
The real kicker came when the agent I serendipitously bumped into at that train station finally responded after eight months. Yes, that’s right. Eight months. She rejected my manuscript. She acknowledged that I write well and she asked to see my next book should I write one, but she just couldn’t get into this one.
So at this point I am down to one agent and very little hope. This final agent has had my manuscript for near on 10 months. Her assistant read it, adored it, sent me an email full of praise in which she described it as a page turner, said she was gripped, she even added a wow… and then she left the agency for a new job outside of the literary world. She reassured me that I was still being considered, but that was about three months ago and I am still in the dark.
The submissions process is slow and painful, it can crush your soul and destroy any shred of confidence you ever had in your writing. However, once I crawled out of my pit of despair and naivety I realised that I had actually gained quite a lot from the experience. If I reflect on the successful pitches, positive feedback and encouraging (if upsetting) rejections I realise that I now have confirmation that I can indeed write a book, a good book, a great book. Now I need to decide what to do next.
Do I keep plugging away at the agents? Do I self-publish and share it on Wattpad? Do I toss it in a draw, chalk it up to experience and get on with the next book? I don’t know what I will do yet, but I do know that whilst my debut novel might be finished, my work as a writer certainly isn’t. What would you do? Please share your experiences with me in the comments section below.