As a writer working towards becoming a published author, I face a difficult and potentially heartbreaking reality that I try not to think about. I work hard to shape my novel, mapping out the story, rewriting, fleshing it out, revising, adding here, taking away there, realizing new things about my characters and putting them in place. When I finish it, I will read it over, and I will like it. I will believe that it is good enough, that other people might want to read it, and buy it. I think that other writers feel this way, too. In fact, I think that actually finishing a novel is quite an accomplishment, one that sets me apart from a lot of the others out there.
There is still a barrier in the way, and that is finding a way to get it into the hands of the people who are my audience. My audience is not my wife, or my mother, or my friends. They are all wonderful, but my audience is out there, in the world, in that part of the population of earth who is really interested in what I am writing. Out of the seven or so billion people in the world, believe me, there is someone who will relate to what I write on a personal level. They would like to be entertained by me. I know that.
That is where an agent comes in, and the potential for heartbreak. After doing all that work to finish a novel I believe that it is the best thing in the world. I think any author would feel that way. The problem is, finding an agent to feel that way too is really hard.
Part of the problem is they get so much stuff. They get letters every day from people like me who have finished novels and want to publish them. They have to sort through all those query letters. There is not a whole lot of critical advice given out. Either they like something and ask for more, or they reject it. That’s all. I think it is important to realize that part of the reason for rejection may just be that what they are reading just isn’t good enough. I am sure that there is that moment when an agent is reading a query letter where the sun shines down and he or she says, “this is it, this is the one.” It is my job to make what I send in so good that they have that moment when they read it. I don’t think any writer wants to admit it, but I suspect that a lot of what gets sent in just isn’t on that level.
Here is where the right tool comes in. If you are a writer, and you have finished what you know is a perfect story, and you want to find an agent, make sure that you research the agents you send it to. All of them have profiles online that tell all about themselves. Find one you connect with, so that they can connect with you. Don’t be upset if you choose badly and aren’t considered. The temptation to believe that a great novel will appeal to everyone is a conceit. Agents are looking for a reason to skip on to the next query letter. If you send them something in a genre that they are not interested in, or a story idea that they have already said no to ten times, or a page with a misspelled word, you’re done. You won’t even be considered.
Go forth, writers, and write. Do not be afraid to write some more. If you (and I) truly have what it takes, then we will get there when the time is right, because they are looking for the right tool to do their job, too. All we have to do is keep sharpening it until the time comes that it is discovered.