You Are Normal. Success is Hard.

About a month ago I decided to begin the query process to find a literary agent to represent me and my new novel, THIMBLERIG’S ARK.  I’d been working on this book for so long, had gone through a rewarding process of beta-readers critiques and revising and revising, I’d spent time working up query pitches and hooks and testing those out, and I knew that the process from that point forward would be simple!

I sent out my first queries, and checked back almost hourly for my dream response:

Dear Mr. Fleming,

It was with great pleasure and joy that I read your query this morning, and although I have an inbox with close to one thousand queries, yours immediately rose to the top of the list.  THIMBLERIG’S ARK sounds brilliant, and your writing style (in the little I read) is fresh and invigorating.

I can already imagine your book sitting on the front table when you first enter the Strand Book Store in the East Village, outselling the biggest best-sellers that have been published.  This is so thrilling to me!  Thanks to the relationship that you and I will develop, your book will be a hit, and I’ll be able to buy that beach house in Phuket I’ve always wanted.

It is without the least bit of hesitation that I am proud and happy to offer you representation, and I will  (at my own expense – that’s how much I believe in this) fly you and your family from China to New York next weekend to sign the papers, take meetings with publishers and Hollywood film executives (yes, a certain Mr. Spielberg has gotten wind of your novel, and is wanting exclusive rights), and to get your career started in the right way.

I’ll be in touch!

Ms. Big Time Literary Agent

But the funny thing is, that message never arrived.  What did arrive, after I sent out more queries, were variations on the theme:

Dear Mr. Nate Fleming,

Thank you for sending a sample of THIMBLERIG’S ARK for my consideration. I have now had the chance to review your material and I regret to inform you that I won’t be taking it further at this stage. Unfortunately, I wasn’t drawn in by the query and the story in the sample you sent to want to read on.   Again, thanks for your submission, and I wish you the best of luck finding representation elsewhere, and with your future writing career.

Best wishes,

Ms. Normal Literary Agent

And so the cold water.  Splashed right in my face.  It was nice cold water, the rejections were pleasant enough, but they were nice and pleasant rejections.

For some reason, I thought I was going to be better than all of those famous examples of writers who received multiple rejections before they were finally taken.  For some reason, I thought my book was more brilliant than Rowling’s or Seuss’s or (fill in the blank’s).  In other words, I was suffering from Delusionitus of Grandeuritosis.  To put it in an easy to understand graphic that I stole from a Facebook friend:

your planThe hard thing isn’t realizing that you don’t have a straight, slightly uphill battle to achieve your dream.  It’s not even realizing that you have all sorts of unforeseen obstacles in your path that are actively working to prevent you from achieving your dream.  No.  The hard thing is realizing that you are not so special and unique, that your ideas aren’t magical and hypnotic to anyone who reads them, that it is going to be a grueling, slogfest of a struggle to get where you want to be, and not a simple cakewalk, because you are normal, and success is hard.

Let me repeat that.

You are normal, and success is hard.

Here’s the thing about that graphic – the guy on the bike could decide at any point to stop.  He could conclude that it’s not worth it to reach his dream.  Or, he could decide to see the obstacles as opportunities, a way to make himself better and stronger.  In my case, these rejections I’ve started to receive are inspiring me to return to my query with the goal of trying to improve it.  Maybe that will lead me to  returning to my novel and working on unkinking all the kinks.  Or, I can set this project aside and start working a new project with the knowledge that I have now from attempting to get THIMBLERIG out into the public.

The point is, that I won’t give up on the dream of telling my stories to lots and lots of people, and you – dear reader – shouldn’t give up on your dream.  Whatever that dream may be!  In a variation of that old saying: if it was so simple to get, it may not be such a great thing in the first place!


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