Thursday, July 16, 2009

Return Ticket to Agent Town

I read a bit of advice a while back which loosely said, "find a publishing deal first, then an agent. You won't like the kind of agent you're likely to find without a deal." This is in reference to the plethora of good-hearted souls out there who claim to be publishers, but really just want to charge editing fees and take all your money without ever publishing your work. So I started approaching publishers directly.

I thought I had found the publisher for me! She was looking for "socially relevant personal journeys." The only way my book could be more perfect for her list was if I could have somehow rigged the book itself to play, "Don't Stop Believin'" (Journey's greatest hit in case you happen to not be old. Just thought I would explain the joke to the kids. And now I'm done.)

I sent her my first query, but she sent it back covered in red ink. She carefully explained everything I did wrong, but invited me to fix the query and send it back. She said I needed a strong marketing platform since the "Coping Memoirs" genre is so saturated. I was elated to have another chance, but I knew I lacked a gimmick.

I decided to focus on the sheer drama of my life, hoping that a good story could still sell a book these days. I explained the car accident, the pain, my crazy mother, the rampant abuse, rebuilding my life with nothing but $25 bucks and a cracker (do you think it's enough...) Just when I thought I had put it all back together there was the miscarriage, and my mother's suicide two weeks later. As I stuck what was left of my mother in a drawer and asked the Universe, "What's next?" a surprise baby came along to carry and care for just when I felt sure that my soul had already left the building... I could go on, but the James Frey police might come after me.

She said my query was better, but she still wasn't interested because the way I have survived this life was not revolutionary enough to sell to the media. Too bad I didn't rise above my grief long enough to buy a Julia Child's cook book or some other inane set up that seems to sell books.

I have thought about this for several days now. At first I just wanted to tell her that the very fact that I did survive AND became a contributing member of society IS revolutionary. But now I have decided to find comfort in the idea that I'm ordinary. It means that if I can go through this much garbage and come out a better person in the end, anyone else can too.

More research has led me to plenty of books about regular people coping with crappy things in ordinary ways. But those publishers won't accept work directly from the author, so now I'm back in the hunt for an agent. In the meantime, I plan to cook tofu everyday and journal about how it changes my life, and then I'm going to attempt the impossible and run a hundred mile foot race with no ability or training so that I can come to terms with my grief, blah blah, blah.


Maggie May said...

i know. i know! it's a long journey.

Tough Cookie said...

Keep at it! Perhaps she sucked and not your story!!!!