Last year, mid way through June of 2014, I began writing a book about a dragon. This dragon, dubbed Zhyx, was blackmailed by a group of adventurers into joining them on a quest they had no chance of completing alone.
About a year later, I finished the 4th draft of that book, thus ending the long and grueling, but at the same time worthwhile and exhilarating journey of writing it.
Today, another, quite possibly much more difficult chapter of Zhyx’s journey began, and that was getting his story to the masses. I started sending out query letters to literary agents, so that they may take the book to a major publisher.
It is a journey that every author had to go through. Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, George R. R. Martin, and all the rest. It is a treacherous path wrought with rejection and despair. There is not a one of these authors who found their book published on the first go, much less accepted by an agent after one query.
My journey began fairly modestly. I found myself a website that contained a database of agents who had been cleared as legitimate. There was a list of 160 that were interested in fantasy. I have thus far sent queries out to three of them. I very much doubt one of them is going to be the one that helps bring this story to you. I won’t start believe that until I hit the 45 person mark. Who knows? IN all likelihood, it won’t even be an agent listed on this site. I will likely have to go to many more venues before finding that right person.
In dealing with agents, you first have to get a response. Most of the time, they take one look at your query, decide they are not interested, and then don’t bother responding. Why should they? They get queries by the buckets each day, and only the ones they feel show promise are the ones they will respond to. If they were to answer every single rejected author, that would take up an awful lot of time, and presumably cost them an awful lot of fingers.
Then there is when they answer and read the manuscript, for which there are a few possible responses, not the least dreaded of which is the scathing shoot down.
“Too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling.”
“The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the ‘curiosity’ level.”
“I recommend that it be buried under a stone for a thousand years.”
“Too radical of a departure from traditional juvenile literature.”
“Our united opinion is entirely against the book. It is very long, and rather old-fashioned.”
“Older children will not like it because its language is too difficult.”
“We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.”
Those words are in the end, just words. But they sting. They stab into many an artist who poured heart and soul into their work to make something that was every bit as living to them as a child in a cradle. They are, respectively, the rejection letters for Dr. Seuss, The Diary of Anne Frank, Lolita, The Wizard of Oz, Moby Dick, Watership Down, and Carrie.
Imagine the tragedy if these authors had given up. What stories would we have lost? Think of the countless works of literature that have been lost. Ponder for a moment that another Catcher In the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Color Purple, never saw the light of day. Picture the frustrated artist reading either that first letter, or perhaps their fiftieth, or even their one hundredth.
Perhaps that was when they gave up. Maybe the story still found some life in their small circle of friends, but nothing more. Perhaps they put the manuscript in a box and left it in an attic to be found someday. Or perhaps, most chilling of all, in their moment of despair, they destroyed their work, so that it would never find life. Some of these works will die quiet deaths. Others will have the good fortune to be found, and will find success after their authors are long gone. But just to think that some of those stories are gone, it fills one with great sadness.
I fear that first letter. I can see it coming. But still, knowing it is coming, and indeed counting on it, does make things a little easier.
Zhyx is an interesting character, a fire breathing dragon who soon finds himself in the unlikely position of action hero. He, the orphan, the soldier, the teacher and the wizard kept me company for this last year. They were with me when I was at my lowest, and gave me a purpose when I had nothing left.
There are some who have given up, and lost great stories to the world as a result. Me? If it was any other story in my library, that may well have been the case. But not with Zhyx. The big bastard is more stubborn than I could ever hope to be. He won’t let me give up. I can hear him now.
“You presume to put me through this sentimental farce and then have the audacity to fold at the first sign of adversity? Oh my dear boy, I feel a fool for even expecting more of you.”
Yeah. His words will sting a hell of a lot more than anything the agents and publishers can throw at me. All I can say to them is, bring it on. Whatever words you throw at me, I can take it. With the wyrm ever heating his fire to keep me going, I will have much worse critics to deal with.
As those rejection letters keep coming in week after week, I will be writing book two of Zhyx’s saga. I do hope those letters are not too much of a distraction.