Back in 2011 I wrote a manuscript (I guess it’s not a book until it is published) which blended a Christian text with Buddhist and Zen concepts. I described it as “using the Book of Saint James as a writing prompt, broken into individual lessons and expanded by sharing my insight, life experiences and the Buddhist precepts I have learned through the years.” I submitted this manuscript to over 250 literary agents and publishers in 2012 and even put together a small blog posting portions of the manuscript each week.
Prior to submitting, I had the manuscript professionally edited which cleaned up the grammar and punctuation but in the end I felt changed the tone of what I had written. Never the less armed with a book I bought containing the name and email addresses of thousands of agents and publishers I started sending it out to those I had narrowed down based on the subject matter. For two months I emailed or mailed literary agents and publishers. I set time aside every morning to thumb through my “Agents/Publisher” book and made the literary world aware of the masterpiece I had written. And then I waited.
Over the next ten months (yes the last response took ten months to get) I received emails and a few letters like the following;
I have now had the chance to consider your writing, and regrettably, I do not have sufficient enthusiasm for the project you’ve described to pursue representation.
We appreciate your submission and apologize for the delay in response. We regret that this project is not right for our agency at this time, as we are taking on new clients only very selectively. We wish you the best of luck in finding representation for your work elsewhere.
Please be assured that we have carefully considered your project. Unfortunately, we don’t feel the manuscript is right for us at this time.
Thanks for thinking of me for your book, but I’m not interested in religious enlightenment.
And my favorite;
This is a crappy ill thought out statement (“the essences of Christian values, ideals which are common to Buddhism and other world religions.”) and ignores the different quality of the contributions by each world religion. (Mr. Simon Warwick-Smith at Warwick Associates if anyone is interested)
250 plus submissions, 237 rejections.
After the first hundred or so I got my feelings hurt. I worked hard on this document. Carefully building each page with both thought and research. The next fifty made me angry. I assumed these people were just blowing me off. They didn’t really read what I had written. They had some intern cut and paste an email response. Hell in some cases none of the fonts even matched in their reply. And then it became funny, almost a game. Over the course of several months one or two rejections would dribble in. I marveled at the creative ways people told me no. Most were very kind about it, but for some like Mr. Warwick-Smith you could just tell I caught them on a bad day (at least I hope he isn’t like that with everyone).
For whatever reason I have saved all those emails going on three years now. I will occasionally read them to see if I missed some gem of wisdom, some advice to tweak what I have written to make it more marketable or appealing. Unfortunately no such guidance was provided. Some offered encouragement to continue, or at least to find another agent but after 250 submissions I ran out of air.
I realize that literary agents get thousands upon thousands of queries from would be authors. And with the advent of electronic mail it certainly makes the submission process easier for those of us who think we have just created the next great pièce de résistance. But it also makes the rejection process easier as well. Mark and click, mark and click.
So my masterpiece sits and waits. I hope it is aging like a fine wine, one that I will pop the cork on in a year or two and think that guy at Warwick Associates was a fool for passing on this remarkable, change the world work of art. What could 237 people possibly know about good literature? Hopefully Mr. or Ms. 238 will be much more enlightened.
“It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous.” – Robert Benchley