Every week Chip MacGregor, of MacGregor Literary Agency, answers readers’ questions on his blog. Today he answered “How Do I Get an Agent?” I expected him to say something along the lines of: research authors you love and find out who their agent is. Read blogs and agency websites. Write a query and perfect your novel. Make sure to know each agent’s submission guidelines and the correct spelling of their name. Then send your materials out with your hopes and dreams and commence waiting.
But instead of explaining how to send out materials and to whom, Mr. MacGregor tackled the question when are you ready to get an agent. Some of his tips I heard before, of course, like — you need great ideas, great writing and a great platform. But one tip made me blink fast.
When not to get an agent? Mr. MacGregor responded: “When you’re not ready for rejection. This is a tough business. Do you have any idea how many times I hear the word “NO” in a week? If you can’t take some rejection, or if you can’t take criticism, or if you can’t take direction, go back to the dry-cleaning business. You obviously aren’t tough enough for the writing biz.”
If there is one thing I know for a fact, it’s that I’m not tough. I have a hard time with rejection and criticism. Certain words can leave me devastated and depressed for weeks. Should I then go back to the dry cleaning business, like Mr. MacGregor recommends? Writing is my life. It’s who I am. I’m pretty sure if you took me apart all you’d find inside are ideas and words and fluttering pieces of paper that say “Chapter 3 — in which Anna Mara learns never to trust old women with moles on their noses.”
I remember one beta reader who told me that all my characters sound the same (NO!!!). Or one reader who told me that my language was too difficult for thirteen year olds (NO!!!). Or a reader who told me that my previous draft was better and the new one bored him very much (NO!!!). I also remember one reader who told me this was the best story she ever read (thank you!). I remember the agent who told me I was a fine storyteller and another who told me she doesn’t do fairy tales but to send her anything else I might have (thank you and thank you again!).
And though it often takes me some time to get over each piece of feedback, I bounce back in the end. I love my book and my writing. Maybe I’m not tough and maybe rejection makes me want to cry, but, to quote T.S. Elliott: “Only those who risk going too far know how far they can go.” And in the words of Helen Keller, “Life is a daring adventure or nothing.”
And I am definitely choosing the adventure of writing.
Of course every famous author’s story begins with how many publishers declined to publish their story. Plus, I don’t really see you doing a good job with the steam cleaner…