It’s a part of every writer’s life. George Orwell was told, “It’s impossible to sell animal stories in the USA.” Nabokov for Lolita was told his novel was “overwhelmingly nauseating, even to an enlightened Freudian,” and that it should be “buried under a stone for a thousand years.”
Agents and publishers have, apparently, gotten much more polite over the years, because the standard is now: “Thank you for your submission. Currently it is not right for my list. Publishing is a subjective business, so best of luck placing it with another agent.” Not that I’ve ever received one of those, but it’s just what I’ve heard.
Anyway, I started this blog to chronicle my writing endeavors, so I am going to be honest. I want to show you how it is.
Yesterday I sent a pitch to a popular morning show. It looked like this:
“With layoffs at Simon and Schuster and Houghton Mifflin, salary freezes at Harper Collins and Penguin, and a total restructuring at Random House it’s harder than ever for first time writers to break into the market. Publishers and agents can’t afford to take chances on non-celebrities with little or no platform.
The self-publishing business has exploded in the last three years, and now, with the state of the economy and traditional publishers unable to take as many risks, writers who are serious about their work, believe in their novels, and have the passion and time to devote to self-publishing are finding relief from the tedium of the cold query, snail mail process that continues in publishing today.
That’s why I’ve decided to self publish my novel, Receive Me Falling.
Receive Me Falling is set in two centuries on a plantation on the Caribbean island of Nevis, as two women—one in the present and the other in the past—struggle to overcome the sins of their fathers. It is resonant of Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants and A. S. Byatt’s Possession.
Traveling in the Caribbean and growing up in Maryland influenced me to write my novel. I am an historian who has spent time at historical sights in Annapolis, Baltimore, and the Eastern Shore, and have attended an exhibit at the New York Historical Society on Slavery. I have also done heavy research on the slave past of the Caribbean.
Since viewers of your show also like the human interest side of stories, I am a stay-at-home mother of three boys, ages six, three, and one. Finding time to write and self-publish means a lot of nights with a little sleep, but my passion for writing helps get me through the day.
My friend at your network, (name withheld) , sent you an email last week about my novel. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Thanks so much for your time.”
Within two hours, this is what I got,
“Thanks for your note. Your book sounds interesting, but unfortunately, we really don’t do much with fiction on the show. While we will do it from time to time, it’s usually either a big name author or there’s some other back story involved. Good luck with your book.”
I’m not bitter. (Well, maybe a little bit because this show just featured a book about small talk conversation starters.) That’s the business. I will say that I was very impressed by how quickly the producer got back to me. A quick rejection is almost as good as a request for a manuscript.
Hopefully, one day I’ll be able to pull these little rejections out of a folder and laugh over them while I sip tea with Oprah. For now, though, it’s onto other networks…