As an artist — whether that be a writer, painter, or even a musician — I don’t think there’s anything harder than the process of asking for “approval” from an agent. And, really, that’s what the querying process is; it’s submitting your hard work to a select group of people and asking them to like it. When they come back with a rejection, it can be hard. And I won’t lie; every rejection hurts and, over time, it can start to play with your self-esteem. You might start wondering whether you ought to do something else entirely. Maybe it’s just not meant to be. You might even start wondering whether your writing is just “crap.” I’ll be honest — I wondered that recently when I got a rejection on my historical fiction manuscript. I was almost ready to throw in the proverbial towel. And then I read an article on Garth Brooks.
If you don’t know, Garth Brooks is the biggest selling recording artist in history. That’s right. He’s outsold both The Beatles and Elvis. Did you know that he was originally turned down by Capitol Records? He went to his audition one day and they passed; didn’t want anything to do with him. Later that week, the record execs went to the infamous Bluebird Cafe to hear another potential recording artist who failed to show. Brooks was bumped up to the slot of the no-show and the record execs saw his full act and were WOW’d. They met him backstage and admitted they’d goofed.
I like to think of Garth’s first audition as the first 10-50 pages of a manuscript. The “partial” request. I’ve received my fair share, and I get the same answer frequently: “I didn’t connect with the character.”
Well, Capitol Records didn’t “connect” with Garth Brooks, either, at his brief audition. It wasn’t until they saw more of his performance (the full manuscript) that they realized their goof. And lucky they are that they did! He’s made more money for them than any other recording artist in history! What would the world be like without Garth Brooks?
Yesterday afternoon, I was reading the twitter feed of a Q&A with The Bent Agency. A couple of the agents addressed that very answer: “I didn’t connect with the character.” They had some wonderful responses, but the one I liked the best was (paraphrased) that it just wasn’t their “cup of tea.” A couple of them (Jenny Bent, maybe?) went on to say that she’s had several NYT Bestselling authors that had been turned down countless times before finding the right publishing house. Another said that she had a manuscript that had been turned down by countless agents go up for auction.
So it seems to me that the real answer isn’t whether your manuscript is great or crap; it’s a matter of finding the right agent or publishing house for it. I hate the rejection process; but I think I’d much rather an agent who believes in what I’ve written than one who doesn’t really like it but thinks in terms of dollar bills.
And so I continue querying. Some day I’ll find homes for my manuscripts.