So there’s this unpublished writer. Let’s call him “Al.” (Stop rolling your eyes. It’s my blog. I can be as precious and quasi-clever as I want.)
Al recently completed his third novel.
His first, The Monkey on Her Back (which he never actually finished), wasn’t particularly amazing. Despite the clever title (the protagonist is a celebrated zoologist who loses her faith in evolution), the plot was predictable and the characters, plastic. The writing, however, wasn’t bad. Al had a natural gift.
Al didn’t know much about publishing when he decided he was meant to be a writer, so he was universally rejected when querying his unfinished novel to several well-known literary agents. Embarrassing as this experience was, it was just the slap in the face he needed. He decided to learn all he could about publishing before writing another word. After studying several editors’ and agents’ blogs and reading at least a dozen books on the craft and business of writing, Al knew exactly what he had to do: toss The Monkey on Her Back in the trash and start over.
He called his second novel Betrayal of Honor, but he wasn’t married to the title. He understood that publishing houses often changed book titles for marketing reasons, and he was okay with that. This time he followed protocol and sent a bunch of queries to agents who repped the sort of book he had written. His queries were succinct and smart and just funny enough to stand out from the crowd. He got three requests for partials and one request for a full, but nothing came of it. He queried a dozen more agents with even less success. Frustrated, Al considered taking a sabbatical from his dream (it had been downgraded to dream from calling) to pursue other interests.
He began bowling once a week. Then twice a week. He joined a league. He bought a bowling ball. Then bowling shoes. He was good. Damn good. He had a natural gift.
Three months later and eight straight strikes into what was rapidly becoming the best (and most stressful) game he’d ever bowled, Al had an idea for another novel. A really good idea. In the ninth frame, Al killed his perfect game with a gutter ball and didn’t care. He knew this new novel was a winner.
So he wrote it. And re-wrote it. And when he was finally done with the third revision, he was convinced this was better than bowling a perfect game.
Ignoring the rejection and frustration that preceded him, Al carefully selected a half dozen agents he knew would be blown away by Under the Killing Tree and sent off his queries.
He knew the odds. He was far from naive. He’d befriended dozens of writers whose trying-to-get-published stories were just like his. He knew how hard it was for an author to get an agent, let alone publish a novel. He’d seen the statistics. Hell, he’d been one. But none of that mattered. Al’s book was a standout. His hard work was about to pay off. While thousands of other unpublished authors waited by their mailboxes for inevitable rejections, Al would be weighing representation offers from a multitude of agents, followed soon thereafter by contract offers from a multitude of publishing houses.
He was certain of it.
To celebrate, Al treated himself to a bowl of chocolate chip ice cream. This was no indulgence, it was a well-earned reward.
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Al, three thousand, two hundred twenty seven other unpublished writers were just sitting down with their own bowls of chocolate chip ice cream.
But that wouldn’t have mattered to Al. He wasn’t like other writers. He had written Under the Killing Tree. And it was good.