A recent conference experience reinforced for me just how subjective this crazy business of ours really is.
At the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference in September, I pitched my novel, Alara’s Call, to two agents. I won’t name any names. (I won’t even reveal any genders, so if the singular “they” still grates on your nerves, stop reading this, and go read the linked article instead.)
I approached Agent A’s table, handed over my one-sheet, and said, “I have a Christian fantasy.” They put the sheet aside and asked me first to tell them a little about myself. So we spent a few minutes talking about my work in journalism and my writing journey. Then I gave my pitch, and they asked to see pages. Quite a few pages.
Go me. Or rather, go, Alara, because it’s not about me, is it?
An important lesson to learn — and ideally one learns it before one first gets a “this doesn’t meet our needs at this time” letter — is that rejection in publishing is not personal. It is about the writing, not the writer.
After my success with Agent A, I expected something similar with Agent B. But Agent B read my one-sheet right away, and then expressed concerns about the book’s “Pentecostal” themes.
Now, I’m not sure how any Pentecostal themes got into my book, because I didn’t put them there. I’m not even sure what Pentecostal themes are. I just put in some prophecy and speaking foreign languages because they’re, like, in the Bible and stuff.
Agent B didn’t ask to see pages. They didn’t know where they would place such a work.
Same work. Same writer. One agent asked for pages. The other didn’t. Totally not about me.
Sometimes rejection isn’t even about the writing. Sometimes it’s about the agent or editor. At another conference, I mistakenly pitched by book to an agent whose conference-program-blurb said they represented “all” Christian works. Only after my pitch did I learn that “all” didn’t include fantasy.
But Agent 1 referred me to Agent 2, who does handle fantasy and now has my ms. Same work. Same writer. Different result.
Here at NAF we have repeatedly seen brilliant works that collected dozens, sometimes hundreds, of rejections before finding their homes in print. There are many, myriad variables in publishing. Matching the book to the right agent, editor, publisher — not to mention readers — takes time, persistence, and, I suspect, some divine assistance. Frankly, it’s a miracle any of it ever comes together.
It takes time and talent and persistence. In truth, I’ve barely begun with Alara’s Call. It’s only been pitched to three editors and six agents. I’m not even into double digits yet! I promised myself that this would be the year I combed the Stuart guide and queried every applicable agent. Haven’t done it yet.
Guess I better stop here and go get to it.