When an agent agrees to read your manuscript, it’s a blessing and a curse.
You feel like you’ve climbed Everest’s first peak and the world below can hear you scream its name in full, colorful glory. Your hands tremble (overused writer word) from that initial click of the mouse when agent X says: sure I want to read the whole thing. You’re elated that someone with some taste finally, maybe sorta could be seeing the vision you’ve poured sweat, rewritten and nearly artistically died over. You feel like maybe this is it.
How could they want to read my book and NOT want to represent it?
Together, agent X and I will form a bond that will kick the writing world, no, the universe right in its ass! All of your hours spent inside looking like a disheveled hermit could finally be worth something. The idea that someone could go to bat for you and try to push your work into the capable hands of shadowy, faceless publishers is finally…not there yet, but possible.
You internally smile as you explain to the non-bookish people in your social and family circles “this is the hardest part of the whole process. Getting an agent is harder than finding a publisher. This is a big deal for me.”
When you tell your other writer friends the good news, they wring their little paws and prepare themselves to rip apart your dream as scientifically possible. Question by question they want to know what kind of voodoo you cast to get someone to actually say yes to you. Even if it’s just a reading, not a contract.
But here’s where the curse part starts.
- Agents are notoriously slow at getting back to you.
- Each moment you’re not busy sleeping or slaving away at the menial day job that you’re trying to escape, you’re thinking about your book sitting there.
- You wonder how much have they read?
- Do they like it?
- And if not, why aren’t they saying so?
- Are they talking to someone and comparing notes on my work? Are they researching if my topic is saleable in the market?
Every day you check the emails, you watch the phone hoping an area code that doesn’t match yours pops up. A fire burns inside of you as the seconds pass. The fire becomes an inferno as they days add up.
You wonder how you’ll accept the bad news on them passing. Will you cry? Will it feel like a one sided breakup? Will they be nice when they break your little heart?
Because why on earth would it be taking this long to read your book? The chills, the lapses in pulse as the wait continues.
You wonder if you should start rewriting the query letter while you wait? You wonder if they’re just playing a cruel trick on you to pass your manuscript around to their other agent friends to laugh at and make notes on like pictures from the office Christmas party. Only no one is making photocopies of their ass.
Nothing is funny about your suffering.
All of your hard work, the rewrites, the pulling of hair, the bottles of beer drained, the late night conversations with your lover explaining your dreams of buying that big house all from a book that you wrote. It’s what you dream of but it’s also frightening.
What people who don’t write realize is, that we’re chasing a dream in a moment in time where the printed word is evolving and we’re stuck tiptoeing on the knife blade as it makes up it’s mind where to go. We slave for our art. Our emotions are locked on those pages.
And people say, “I could write a book. I have a million ideas. One day I’ll get to it and I’ll be so rich.”
To that guy I say: keep dreaming and waiting cause here in the reality of living that dream it tends to be a scary fucking place some days. Rain or shine. Here’s to hoping we all find and destroy that Everest.
Robert Dean is a writer and journalist living in New Orleans. He writes the blog Death of the Cool.