For the past three-and-a-half years, since the publication of The Young City, I have had a frustrating time with my fiction writing. I managed to finish and revise and finish again three stand-alone novels, The Night Girl, The Dream King’s Daughter and, of course, Icarus Down, but I did not succeed in getting them published. I’ve had a few false starts, and some all-round bad luck that’s not uncommon with most authors trying to make a go of it in this business.
What advice can I offer anyone going through such a phase? Nothing more than just to keep your head down and plough forward. This is true of anything that you care enough about to try and make a living out of. It’s not going to be easy; it almost never is. And the only secret to success is that you don’t fail, and the only reason you didn’t fail is because you never gave up in the first place. The only guarantee for failure is to stop trying, though I know that myself, Erin, and any number of people around us have been tempted to just give up on many an occasion.
And, one other suggestion: back in April, when my last attempt to secure an agent for Icarus Down failed to pan out, Erin and I resolved this: NO MORE EXCLUSIVE SUBMISSIONS!! Putting a submission together, hunting down a single agent, sending it off and waiting anywhere from six weeks to six months for a more-likely-than-not rejection is just a new form of hell. Better to put together multiple submissions and send them off all at once. This way, when one submission comes back negative, you’ll still have others in the aether to set your hopes on. And if two prospective agents want you at the same time — well, you can only wish to have that kind of problem.
Though, I did end up having that kind of problem, and that’s a new form of pain. I agonized over the competing offers of representation and almost ended up flipping a coin. But in the end, I had to say yes to one and no to the other. I felt horribly guilty about the latter. But these agents are professionals. They know it’s the nature of the business. There were no hard feelings, for which I was grateful.
And now I can give you my news.
It gives me great pleasure to announce that I have secured a literary agent to sell Icarus Down and my other as-yet-unpublished fiction novels to publishers. Emily Gref started gathering clients earlier this year, and is eager to get to work putting her clients’ manuscripts in front of prospective editors. She brings to the table extensive experience in the publishing industry, working with editors at Penguin, Scholastic and Serendipity Lit. I picked her because she showed a passion for Icarus Down as well as a strong editorial eye on some remaining issues that, if fixed, could help the story pass muster with editors. I also liked some of her ideas when I sounded her out on some strategies of which publishers to contact and how.
Emily is backed by Lowenstein Associates, which has been operating since 1976 and has gathered a number of respected clients and has sold a large number of titles over the past year. I believe that this combination of eager exuberance, skill and longstanding reputation will be the best mix to help Icarus Down and my other novels sell.
In the next two weeks, I should be receiving an editorial letter from Emily (who has already shared with me some suggestions on how to make Icarus Down better), and I expect to spend a good chunk of August in revision. Fingers crossed, we should be getting this manuscript in front of editors by the time they come back from summer vacations in September.
So, this was the waiting game I was telling you about. Now that it’s over, I begin a new waiting game, getting my manuscript in front of prospective publishers and keeping fingers crossed that they’ll make an offer. But it’s major forward progress, and it feels good after three-and-a-half years of trudging along.
I’d like to thank Erin a lot. Not only did she offer kind words and encouragement when I was feeling the rejection blues, it was her request to Twitter back in April for prospective agents that caught the interest of both Emily and the other agent I had to choose from. I don’t think I would have found either agent if I didn’t have Erin’s help in searching for one, and it’s similar to how I don’t think I could have found the Dundurn Group if it hadn’t been for an out-of-the-blue suggestion from my mentor Marsha Skrypuch. It just goes to show how valuable contacts in the industry are. And it’s certainly great to be married to one.
- Fellow client (and Kitchener resident!) Kristen Ciccarelli shares her own agent experience with Emily.
- Literary Rambles, Agent Spotlight: Emily Gref
- Lowenstein Associates Website.
- Emily Gref on Twitter