I began querying agents for my YA Fantasy novel, Empire of Shadows, back in October. I’ve gotten a few kind rejections, one full MS request, but most never responded. I sent out another round today, and I am exhausted. So many agents who felt like a good match for my writing and story were closed to queries, and I find it incredibly frustrating to read through an entire agency’s worth of agent bios, find one that works really well with my style, only to clink on the “query here” link to see “This agent is currently closed to unsolicited queries.”
Also, there were a staggering number of agents who were looking for literary women’s fiction. Not judging, just giving an observation.
And so many agents weren’t interested in fantasy or high fantasy. It is my favorite genre, so I find it weird that more agents don’t represent it. (Of course, they’re all closed for queries.)
But, I am exhausted. My head hurts. I want to go take a long shower and drink. I feel like I’ve wrung myself.
Putting yourself out there is hard, and every query feels like I’m extending a piece of myself. I put so much time and heart into my writing, and it feels like I am exposing myself when other people read it. And it feels like a rejection of myself, my heart, when it gets passed over. I know that is not what is happening. I know publishing is very, very, very subjective. Agents look at the market, the trends, and must make decisions not based solely on books they want to read, but books they can then sell to publishers and make money in sales. They need books that they know will sell. That is how they make money.
This entire process of querying and waiting, querying and waiting, getting rejections – it is a cycle of hope, anticipation, and depression. It is one reason why I’m still – in the back of my mind – considering self-publishing. I know more about how to market and where to market than I did when I first started writing. I also write better, or I would like to think I do.
And, going through all the agency websites and what books they’ve published, I noticed something. I didn’t like most of the covers. None of the books looked like books I would read. I find this interesting because years ago when I first started to look for agents, that wasn’t something I looked at. I’m looking now. I know a cover sells. I know what covers I am attracted to. None of the covers I saw tonight were those covers.
If I were to self-publish, I would be in control of the cover, topography, trim size, and everything else. I wouldn’t be stuck with a cover I didn’t like, or a plot change I didn’t want to make, or words too close to the gutter, or other such things.
A lot of readers think self-published is synonymous with “not good enough to be traditionally published,” but that isn’t always true. Yes, it is sometimes true. There is a lot of garbage books out there giving self-published books a bad reputation with their typos, misplaced commas, and bad writing. There are books out there that bypassed an editor. There are a lot of well-done books too.
I am also drawn to self-publishing because if I have a bad month and don’t sell many books, or none, I won’t have someone breathing down my neck to do more marketing, or sell more, or do more. I won’t get that dreadful email explaining that I’m not selling as many books as my agent/editor wants, that I’m not selling as many books as other books in my genre. If I self-publish, the sales, good or bad, are all on me.
Either path, self-published or traditional, have challenges. Neither is easy.
Regardless of how many rejections you get, how many agents aren’t interested, how down you may feel, don’t give up. It only takes one agent, one editor, one publisher to say yes. To bring your dream to life.