I’m up early and I ought to be doing my work. I have writing group tonight and so I am supposed to be reading the pieces. But I can’t. I can’t focus, which for me is unusual. I am so focused. I have been so focused for so long.
You see, all this hard work – all the split shifts when I get up at 5 to work so that my husband can leave for work at 7:30, all the working through naptime and while the kids clamor for my attention – it is all to attain a “platform.” A platform is what an author needs to sell a book. So, I’m selling articles that take me 20 hours to write for $100 because they are in high profile publications. And I’m busting my ass looking for subjects and ignoring the garden and not reading blogs all because my agent has been telling me for two years that the only way she can sell the book is if I establish a platform. Which is what I am doing.
But this morning I cannot concentrate. Because this morning she replied to my email – the one with the list of publications I have scraped and struggled and gotten into. And she’s letting me go.
After all the work we did together on the book, she has to let me go. It’s just too hard for an independent agent to sell a book right now unless the author has been published in Vanity Fair.
So, later today I will interview experts for the article I’m writing and I will attend writing group and I will take Benjamin to get his sticker chart reward.
But right now, I just can’t focus.
Edited two hours later to add:
I’m not sure why I am taking this so hard. Usually, setbacks just make me work harder. I’ve worked so hard and wanted so badly to be an author. I’ve tried to take things in stride, to remember it’s a tough market, to believe in myself. Today, I am trying to decide where the line is between optimist, determined artist, and just plain fool. And whether I crossed that line long ago.
that’s rotten. i’m sorry, Emily.
That does sound hard. It sounds like a punch in the gut. I’m really sorry, Emily.
But it’s her loss. I can’t help but feel that she wasn’t a good agent for you. You are a talented writer and you write powefully and humorously and even when I’m busy with all sorts of other things, I can’t help but read every single post you have written. If your agent didn’t think you were getting into high enough profile publications, she wasn’t working hard enough to get you into the higher profile publications.
I’m so sorry. It’s so personal, isn’t it? Because you’re selling your words and those words, whatever the subject of the article, are you. Wish I could say something helpful or heartening or insightful but…
Oh, this is crummy – not sure what to say, but it just seems crummy – because you do work hard & you are that good.
Honestly, if being a fool means pursuing what you love and are SO SO good at, Em, then dammit, I personally will take being a fool over anything.
Still, I know what a gut punch this must be for you. I am sorry she is letting you go. I hope this means you’ll now find someone who is able to get your book a home.
I believe in you.
Huge bummer. Keep writing. You do have readers.
Emily, that sucks. But I concur with your friends above… you are an awesome writer, and she didn’t know a good thing when she had it. And oh, it’s ok to take a “poor me” day. Everyone deserves it when they got knocked down. I KNOW you will not wallow, so don’t worry. Allow yourself some time to grieve the disappointment… it will help you move on (and up! screw your ex agent!) – you rock woman, don’t forget it!
a) You already ARE an author. And published at that!
b) That blows.
c) I do a lot of reading, and you are the kind of writer that is not just dicking around. You are already doing great things. I think it will continue, it will be something big. I’m not just saying this to be nice; I would not mention it if I didn’t believe it, but I think you are going somewhere with this writing thing. I don’t think you are wasting your time.
d) Maybe you can give yourself a little vacation, though, for a week or so. That’s okay.
It strikes me, as someone who worked in publishing as a managing editor, that I always felt it was *my* job to sell my authors and their books. If I did a good enough job, it worked, and they got opportunities to build on their platform. Now admittedly, I expected/hoped they’d pull some weight, and invariably, they did, and also, they were published because they were already an export on their topic (even if unknown). But also I plucked authors for books out of thin air, so to speak. I’d have a hot topic, would need someone to author it with the right credentials, and I’d start polling contacts. I’d tell everyone this author and book were *all that* and I’d make it so. Even if I had to practically write or rewrite the manuscript myself. But I knew that *I* knew how to sell books, and I had the budget, the means, the resources, and, of course, the marketing department. Also, the publisher who expected me to prove it was all worth it, every week, in staff meetings when I was polled about stats and numbers.
So, just to say. You know?
I don’t blame you taking this hard. You have upheld your end of the bargain. There are plenty of published authors who have not been in Vanity Fair. You have poured yourself into this.
I would be shocked if you didn’t feel this way and weren’t asking these questions.
I can’t tell you how many times in the last few years I have asked whether I had crossed the line of fool.
I’ve stayed the course and course corrected, taken a thousand nos for one yes, but right now, it has been the right yes, for now.
You hang in there. I hope you let yourself have space to grieve and think and ponder. I know you will move forward, as you said.
You have talent. You have drive. It will get you somewhere, I feel confident.
You didn’t cross that line. You’re pursuing what you love and there’s nothing foolish about that.
This is rotten news but I’m hopeful that it will lead you to bigger and better things. I read you Emily, I know how talented you are. Everyone here does. I don’t see this as a failing on your part. You have the talent and drive and passion to do this. You just need a little luck now for all the pieces to fall into place.
What Magpie said.
Aw, this sucks. This totally, totally sucks.
I know that this is not the end of your story, but feeling upset is totally reasonable.
You are no fool. It makes sense to take some time to reassess when you’ve had the wind kicked out of you. Keep going, it will happen.
A movie producer who auditioned Fred Astaire reported:
“Ugly. Bald. Can’t sing. Can dance some.”
That always makes me feel better – sometimes people just don’t know…
I’m sorry, Emily, for that sucker punch. The publishing industry is such a mess right now, and I’m sorry you have to suffer with it. Fuck indeed.
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Damn Emily. That sucks. Bloodied but unbowed. Your fight inspires me as it always has. Maybe your agent wasn’t the right fit? I have no idea, but I know sight unseen that I really WANT to read what you have to say. You have something to say, Em. I believe you’ll get your chance to share it.
They’re missing out. Screw them. I’m sorry, and you know I understand. You’ll be stronger at the end, even if you have to go through yet another setback.
As my writing teacher says it’s not “no”. It’s just “next”. Her loss. Really.
Next meaning next agent for you (in case that wasn’t clear)
Wow. There are people here who clearly have some kind of insight into the publishing industry, who can offer you some kernel of wisdom from that. Having zero knowledge in that arena, I can only say I’m sorry. I’m sorry for your disappointment. It’s clear you’re working hard, and it’s clear, in the brief time I’ve been here, that you have talent.
That sucks. I’m really sorry to hear it.
Having thought about it a bit, though, my conclusion is this:
The publishing market seems to go in cycles. By all accounts, in the current cycle, it’s very hard to sell anything other than sure bets, so even the best agent couldn’t sell a beautifully written but downbeat memoir by a first-time writer. So as crappy as it must feel, losing your agent doesn’t actually make you any worse off.
At some point, the market will go to a new cycle, and your book will once again be salable. (Especially if you keep building up your platform.) And when the market is ready for you, I don’t think you’ll have a problem getting another agent.
I completely understand why this feels like a huge setback. In practical terms, though, I think it’s a lot less of one than it might seem.
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