Friday, September 15, 2006

Agents, Doctors, and Three Year Olds

We arrived. We came home. It's a rather long drive.

The very next day, I had my first pregnancy checkup--it's always nasty, long, and uncomfortable. They even drew six vials of blood (every woman in Colorado is supposed to get both an HIV test and a Cystic Fibrosis Carrier Screen when they are pregnant). But, to make up for it, they did an ultrasound. We have only one baby (what a relief) and it has a heart beat (also a relief). So now the kids are talking about "When Madeline comes." I keep asking, "What if it's a boy?" and they say, "Madeline is a girl's name." Aaaah, the logic of three year olds.

I spent all day yesterday agonizing over the cover letter that was supposed to go with my sample 30 pages that I finally got submitted to Nelson Literary Agency. It was hard because she wanted the same things that were in the query letter, but they didn't sound right as a cover letter for requested material. So I rewrote and rewrote and rewrote and finally got it right, I think, after doing some praying over it (funny how that works even on things that may be trivial, and certainly aren't "spiritual" in nature). So the pages went off today, despite the fact that I suddenly became convinced that everything I've written is garbage, especially the first fifteen pages. It didn't help that the next two responses I got from agents were "No thanks."

A note on agents: They beg and plead and beg and instruct and beg some more for new authors to act professionally. But some of them don't treat new authors professionally. For example, DMLA, a very well-established, large agency in New York, sent me a form rejection letter that was long, patronizing, condescending, and wordy. Okay, wordy isn't a bad thing, but the gist of the letter was "We don't want anything to do with you, but, sweet innocent baby, you should keep following your dreams and reaching for the stars because maybe somebody is stupid enough to want to work with you, if you improve everything you write." I preferred the response I got from Rachel Vater, also a biggie in the industry: "I am not interested in this right now, but that doesn't mean some other agent won't be."

My question, though, is why do they feel compelled to "soften" the rejection and encourage writers to not give up? Everything I've read has made it abundantly clear that the trick is finding the "Match"--someone who likes what you write and can sell it--and that a rejection is not necessarily a personal comment, but merely an expression of a mismatch (usually because they don't sell what you've written.) That said, most agents have also stated that they reject 99% of the queries sent to them--because 90% are poorly written, don't approach what they specialize in, or are just plain bad. I guess their "nice" form rejections are a way to soften the accusations they frequently get of destroying people's "art". I think maybe artists are too sensitive. It's a business, publishing.

So, my conclusion to all this: I hope I'm in the 9% that actually CAN write, and then it's just a matter of finding a match for my work with someone who knows the industry insiders who publish that stuff. Also, I'm glad I'm not an agent. I hate telling people they didn't make the team. Despite my fears that my work is in the 90% that is really crappy, I did send the pages to Kristin Nelson. Maybe she'll like them.

Meanwhile, the almost constant nausea I feel when I'm riding in Melody (or even driving) is preventing me from taking the next tour with moosebutter, and I guess I'm grateful. I didn't relish the idea of taking three-and-a-half little ones to Las Vegas. We'll see about back East.