As I started querying agents to see if I could get some representation, I thought that the big bad world of professionals would take a long time to get back to me. In fact, that's what the big bad world of professionalism told me: to expect a long response time, if any response at all was forthcoming. "Due to the volume of queries we receive, we will be unable to respond to any projects that we do not find suitable for our office," or some such nonsense accompanied every agency's website and automatic e-mail response. And the estimated response time averages out to around one month. Geez almighty.
Within 24 hours of my first queries, however, I had already received two rejection e-mails. Within 48 hours, that number increased to five. Obviously rejection never soothes the soul. In this case, however, I feel rather relieved. The worst thing that I could have experienced would have been a long wait. A long wait would mean a long time before I can move on to the next phase of querying publishers and editors directly. Plus, I am a naturally anxious person and cannot stand sitting around without any indication of my chance of success or failure. Now I know exactly where I stand with a number of agencies (seven as of this writing) and know, too, that I will not have to wait months upon months before moving on to publishers. My main worry, to be honest, was that if I were going to have to retreat to self-publishing that it would be six months before I could get started. Since the big bad world of professionalism seems to have been wrong in their estimations, I can look forward to having my book(s) on the way to publishing much sooner than I thought. That is relieving, without question.
What most relieves me, though, is how nice the agents have been. Stating that the agency wouldn't respond unless they were interested meant first that a prospective author would have to wait out the silence but secondly that the prospective author wouldn't receive any personal recognition. As someone who purposely chose a lesser college to attend because of its small size and enclosed campus instead of larger, more prestigious universities well within my academic prowess, the painted picture of an impersonal world of representation and publishing didn't particularly interest me. Rejection I can handle and am prepared for, but impersonality just sucks. That's right, it sucks. Clearly the big bad world once again exaggerated its own badness. I wouldn't know that I've been rejected by seven agencies unless they responded to me. All of the agencies have been rather nice about it, too. All have wished me luck, some have encouraged me to keep writing and not give up hope, and some have said that my book seems like a good project but it just doesn't suit that agency. Apparently literary agents are real people with real emotions. I like that. Indeed, I've been given hope that all I need to do is keep writing and sooner or later someone--someone with real emotions and real passion for getting authors published--will notice that I'm serious and will be a good person to work with. At the moment I'm confident that I can wait awhile to start establishing my fame.
Granted, the book on my bike trip and slavery is timely. In seven years it may not be worth publishing. For that reason I will self-publish if I must as soon as possible. All my other writing, though, will not be quite as timely, so I will not rush into self-publishing as I thought I might have to; instead I will rely on the nice, real people in the publishing world to notice me. It will happen, if for no other reason than that I have a lot of writing ahead of me.
For other prospective writers and artists, or ambitious folk in general, I hope that you'll take my word for it: the people you are trying to attract are indeed real people with emotions and that, usually, genuinely wish you the best. It's not as cutthroat out there as I, or you, may have first thought. Maybe the business world balances more on the cutthroat side, but I wager that the majority of business folk still wish you well and hope to get the best out of you. Business concerns often trump personal concerns, sometimes unnecessarily, but that doesn't mean that there aren't good people out there. Keep the chin of your heart up.
I had all of this written before I heard back from an agent that may or may not be interested in my book. But even he proves my point. I can't be quite sure if he actually wants to look into representing me because he's clearly wanting to help me... as a good-guy-consultant or as an agent, I can't tell. Either way he's asked me to call him if I want to talk. About what, I again don't know, but either way I admit it's pretty cool. Whatever his intentions he, like the other agents who have responded to me, has made me feel as if I'm on the right track. Who knew the big bad world is actually a big fairly good world?