Thursday, May 11, 2006

Great Expectations

Great Expectations are the bane of my existence. I'm an eternal optimist, a sucker for an encouraging word or phrase, especially when an agent utters that word or phrase.

"I'd be delighted to read your..."

"I was excited by your..."

"You've piqued my interest."

"You're obviously a talented writer."

"When you're famous, will you sign my boobs?" (Okay, I admit this wasn't from an agent, but I was damned sure encouraged by her words. Wouldn't you be?)

The problem with being so encouraged by an agent's words of enthusiasm is that I develop Great Expectations. Each time, I think, This is the one. Each time I'm sure, She (for some reason I have more success with agents who are women) is going to represent me - and my book. Each time, I prepare a huge mental feast in honor of our marriage - author to agent.

Each time, I'm disappointed.

I'm beginning to wonder if I'm the Miss Havisham of writing. Am I destined to be left at the altar, and spend the rest of my life watching the pages I've written decay while rats feast on the remains of the banquet I prepared in honor of the groom (my agent) that never came?

Last week, Michelle Tessler of the Tessler Literary Agency responded to my query by asking for my first three chapters. She's the agent who said she'd be delighted to read my story. Delighted. That just doesn't sound like form-letter language to me, so I was feeling good about myself when I sent her my partials last Thursday. Yesterday she emailed me and said she had read my submission the night before - do you have any idea how rare it is to have an agent read your submission on what was probably the day she received it? I usually expect to milk at least two months of Great Expectations out of each submission. As long as an agent still hasn't responded, I can keep telling myself, This is the one. I barely got a weekend out of Ms. Tessler. She really was excited by my query, and couldn't wait to read my first three chapters.

Unfortunately, although she rushed to the doors of the chapel, it was only to tell me that she wasn't as in love with my story as she hoped to be, and since first novels like mine were so hard to place... here I am, left at the altar again.

Anyone want some wedding cake?

The news isn't all bad. I think I almost have the woman who's sure I'll one day be famous convinced to let me autograph her boobs on spec. Wish me luck.

Mark Pettus,
Thursday, May 11, 2006

31 comments so far. Thank you, Anonymous Anonymous, Blogger DAVID THAYER, Blogger Kelly Parra, Blogger anne frasier, Blogger anne frasier, Blogger Dennie McDonald, Blogger Jeff, Blogger Mark Pettus, Blogger Bernita, Blogger Dennie McDonald, Blogger Mark Pettus, Blogger Bernita, Blogger Rene, Blogger Dennie McDonald, Anonymous Nienke, Anonymous Nienke, Blogger Mark Pettus, Blogger Adam Hurtubise, Blogger S. W. Vaughn, Blogger Mark Pettus, Blogger Beth Ciotta, Blogger Dana Y. T. Lin, Blogger Amie Stuart, Blogger S. W. Vaughn, Blogger Mayden's Voyage, Blogger M. G. Tarquini, Anonymous Andy, Anonymous Yang-Mai Ooi, Anonymous Anonymous, Anonymous Anonymous, Anonymous Anonymous,

Let me know what you think

Leave a comment


at 12:07 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

It can be a very hard and unrewarding business. Step back, reload and head out again when ready. Perseverance.

at 1:07 PM Blogger DAVID THAYER said...

Yeah, it's maddening isn't it? I liked your two month rule, it struck me as reasonable.

at 2:26 PM Blogger Kelly Parra said...

Sorry about that one, Mark. The excitement comes and goes and the disappointments are tough to take. You'll find the right agent who loves your book and your writing. Any word from the one agent we chatted about? ;)

at 2:33 PM Blogger anne frasier said...

aw, mark. sorry to hear that. your cowboy photo looks downright rejected today.

the emotional peaks and crashes are certainly a test of endurance and even mental stablity. how much more can i take before i lose my freakin' mind???

you can choose to not write and be like this: -------

or write: ^^^^^^^^

geez. should i delete this? i just got back from the dentist and i'm sure i think i'm a bit dingy.

at 2:34 PM Blogger anne frasier said...

i'm sure i think... crap.

at 5:23 PM Blogger Dennie McDonald said...

I told you not to tell anyone about that Sharpie business... (kidding kidding) is was either go for that joke or something to do w/ cake - and have you seen my butt lately - sheesh!

I haven't tried for an agent in about three years - now that I have sold a couple of books - I am still not convinced to try again - but maybe soon....

at 6:02 PM Blogger Jeff said...

I know saying something like, "you're a talented writer,Mark, and it's simply a matter of time before your manuscript is accepted" probably doesn't make you feel much better right now about the rejection, but it's what I honestly believe. :)

Is it a yellow cake with milk chocolate icing? yum!

at 9:12 PM Blogger Mark Pettus said...

Sand Storm - thanks for the encouragement, and thanks for stopping by.

David - maddening is a good word for it.

Kelly - Yes and no. Yes I heard from her, and her answer was no.

Anne - I'm sure I think you're a bit dingy as well. I want some of whatever your dentist gave you.

Dennie - I haven't seen your butt lately, but if you ever want it signed... I'm your guy.

Jeff - Thanks for the support. I hope you're right.

at 8:43 AM Blogger Bernita said...

I tend towards A Tale of Two Cities - best and worst of times - and always focus on the reasons why they won't like it.
At least you know your query letter shines. An important hurdle.

at 9:14 AM Blogger Dennie McDonald said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

at 12:01 PM Blogger Mark Pettus said...

Bernita - That sounds like a pessimistic approach. If I didn't think they'd like my writing, I don't think I could find the courage to send it out. I'm amazed by writers who say they don't like their own writing - how can they keep producing something they don't like?

Dennie - Thanks to the wonders of email, I know what you deleted, and... your secret is safe with me. ;)

at 1:13 PM Blogger Bernita said...

I didn't say I didn't like my writing.
I am just aware that there are a number of other reasons besides the writing which may make them decide not to take it on.

at 1:37 PM Blogger Rene said...

Cripes, Mark, I could have written that post. It really hurts when they request that full then reject it with a two sentence letter. "I don't love it enough" is the dumbest phrase I've ever heard, and damned if I haven't heard it (or read it) a lot these days.

at 2:54 PM Blogger Dennie McDonald said...

- LOL! -

at 5:04 PM Anonymous Nienke said...

Okay, my URL got cut off, here it is broken up:


at 5:40 PM Anonymous Nienke said...

It's almost like a lottery. Over and over you plan how you will spend the money you never win. Yet, we buy the tickets again and again. However, the difference is, rejections about our work are much more personal--or at least they feel that way. Good news, your chances of being published are much better than winning the lottery.

On another note, the boob thing just doesn't motivate me.
Good luck and have a great weekend!

at 5:56 PM Blogger Mark Pettus said...

Bernita - If I'm going to miscommunicate with anyone, it's my destiny that it be you.

I'm the optimist who is thinking of all the reasons they WILL like my work - while you say you focus on why they won't.

I didn't mean to tie you so closely with my comment about writers who dislike their own work - I was thinking specifically of quote from Nick Hornby I read last night in The Writer.

"Like a lot of writers, I can't really stand my own writing."

I dont' get it.

Rene - I think every writer could have written that post at one time or another. What a business this is we've chosen.

Nienke - I don't play the lottery, but I have at times gone to bars where I paid money to see boobs I couldn't touch.

I wonder if there's an allegorical story there somewhere about writing...

at 6:14 PM Blogger Adam Hurtubise said...

"The problem with being so encouraged by an agent's words of enthusiasm is that I develop Great Expectations. Each time, I think, This is the one."

And one of those times, Mark, you'll say, "This is the one," and you'll be right.

Keep at it.


at 9:49 PM Blogger S. W. Vaughn said...

Mark, I'm delighted to read your post. Please send me the first three pages of your blog so I can reject you. :-)

Man, the roller coaster never ends, does it? Of course, if we were to believe JA Konrath, we might never find "the one."

It's comments like that which (note how I avoided two that's) make me stuff my fingers in my ears and go la-la-la-la-I-can't-HEAR-yoooooooou!

Seriously, though, I am so sorry. That sucks to think that you've found someone, only to discover you -- well, haven't, after all. And we can't help but keep hoping...

The good news is: you're getting requests for partials, even if it's ultimately a no. This is a very good sign.

(Sheesh, this comment's getting longer than some of my blog posts!)

I have only one more thing to say, and you may hate me forever if you'd like.

WARNING: The remainder of this message contains unsolicited advice! Read at your own peril.

You are sending the first three chapters for the partial, correct? Here's what you should do: take a good hard objective look at your novel, and decide whether you really need those first three chapters -- or whether your story actually starts later (you may want a good honest reader to do this for you; I've been brutal with lots of my friends before like this). And if things get started later on, delete those chapters you don't need...

I know. Ouch. But I did it with my second novel and got picked up by the very next agent who requested a partial (of course, she later had a nervous breakdown and decided agenting wasn't for her, but that's another story. Yes, I do think I drove her insane).

And I still have nothing to say. :-)

at 10:09 PM Blogger Mark Pettus said...

S.W. - Great advice, unfortunately I've already taken it - somewhere back in the archives here I talked about the people who've read my book, and I called my manuscript the Guiness record holder for most revised. I quit getting critiques when bestselling authors started telling me to put in what other bestselling authors had told me to take out, and vice versa.

At this point, I know of 21 people who've read my book, including a half dozen published authors, and a couple of editors. The next time I revise, it will be at the request of someone who has agreed to represent me, or agreed to publish my book.

Speaking of JA - I just found out that my blog won a Genny Award.


at 10:17 PM Blogger Beth Ciotta said...

I feel your pain, Mark. I queried agents for several years, acquired many rejections. In fact, I sold seven books on my own before finally signing with an agent. Even that was a several month wooing process. But she was worth the wait. She 'got me'. Got my 'voice' and therefore she is a great champion for my work.

I know you've heard this before, but when, WHEN, an agent finally says, "Love ya. Gotta have ya." Be sure to do your research. Check them out. Try to talk with one or two of their clients. Make sure you feel that 'click'. A bad agent is worse than no agent at all.

Hang in there!

at 1:43 AM Blogger Dana Y. T. Lin said...

Mark, you only need ONE 'Yes!'. Keep at it! As Adam said, that ONE could be the next one.

(I guess I'm optimistic, too.)

at 8:34 AM Blogger Amie Stuart said...


I can't add anything other than Beth's right. There's nothing worse than a bad agent -- done that-- and you really do want someone who gets you, who knows where you want to go and who loves your voice!

at 9:52 AM Blogger S. W. Vaughn said...

Sweet! A Genny award! LOL Have you posted yours?

Think I'll win one too.

Well then, if you've already done that... you will find The One no matter what JA says. Keep the faith. And find her (it's gonna be a her; I just know it) fast, because I wanna read Transit Gloria. :-)

at 11:41 AM Blogger Mayden's Voyage said...

"Miss Havisham" of writing...LOL! It's 20 minutes to 9 dear, time to re-set the clocks! :) are doing, day-in-day-out, what many of us just dream about. You write for a living. I write because I am nothing short of a freak! :) (ok,not really, but it is obsessive at times!)
I took a class recently where the instructor told me that I wouldn't grow until I was stretched. Of course, to be stretched, I need to reaching for something, or have a trainer...interested?
Kidding, you have enough to do! :)

Anway, does it matter at the end of the day that some of us are learning by watching/reading you?
You are, in a sense, clearing a path, and some of us are not far behind you, or are miles and miles further back...but still we follow.
Take that old wedding dress off and burn it and put those chaps back on! LOL
I appreciate you and the time you take to put your experiences "out there" may not make you a Best Seller next week, but I hope it means something!
-Cora :)

at 11:30 PM Blogger M. G. Tarquini said...

Hi Mark.

I'm behind on blogging, so I'm just reading this, knee deep in the revision, query, send out the partials and fulls routine.

You know - it hasn't been a horrible roller coaster. I don't know why. I expect rejection, I guess and even the rejections have been oddly encouraging. But, I know what you're experiencing. You just have to keep going and keep trying. The next one might be it.

*fingers crossed*

at 4:27 AM Anonymous Andy said...

When you autograph them, make sure you use indelible ink. You want to make sure you stick around and could never be said to be a flash-in-the-boob. x

at 6:53 PM Anonymous Yang-Mai Ooi said...

Hi Mark

I found your post via Metaxu Cafe and it made me laugh - in that "laugh in the face of disaster" way. I don't know why we writers do it to ourselves - keep writing in spite of endless rejections: it must be an illness!

Anyway, I just thought you'd like to know that I've highlighted your post in my blog, Fusion View. The link is Here.

I will be coming by your blog regularly. I enjoy your writing and your take on the whole process / business of writing.

All the best for the success of your novel - soon!

Yang-May Ooi, Fusion View

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