All right, I’ll admit that I, too, am guilty of the odd form of silence that LB discussed on Monday. Especially considering that I went from unagented to having a book deal in less than a month. Like LB, I’ve gotten into the habit of filling the space after “Congratulations!” with responses that begin with “Thanks, but—”
All of us EMUs remember what it was like. None of us want to do or say anything that might inadvertently discourage or bum out someone who’s still working toward where we are now. We want to assure them that no one waved a magic wand over us, that indeed there are no wands to wave. We want them to know that we, too, have piles of rejections and revision fatigue and the kind of self-doubt that makes us want to mutter screw it and go back to sleep when the writing-time alarm chips NPR at 4:50 am.
So we say things like, “Thanks, but I queried four books over ten years before this one sold.”
But here’s something I remember from not that long ago, when I was on the other side of sold: under my not-unconsiderable envy was a whisper of hope. A writer-friend would talk about her book deal and, after the almost-obligatory dart of envy shot through my gut, my very next thought would be and that’ll be me one of these days. An online colleague would post how he sold his trilogy and I’d think so I’d better get that next round of queries out there.
I’d be lying if I never thought geez, J, you’re friggin kidding yourself. But if book deals could happen to people I knew, in person or online, they seemed attainable. I just needed one more revision. Clearer motivation. One more round of feedback. Sometimes it felt farther away than others, but never out of reach.
That seems to be what we’re saying with our Thanks, buts. We’re saying I’m not special. No one sprinkled publishing pixie dust on me. I studied craft, I busted tail, I wrote a darn good story and you can too. Don’t give up.
Because, to paraphrase LB, the only way you’re guaranteed never to get there is if you give up.