Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Fraud

Yesterday I got an email from someone I didn't recognize. I came *this* close to deleting it, assuming it was spam.

I'm glad I opened it. It's from a literary agent. She thought the query I sent her for my novel is "interesting" and she'd be "very happy to take a look at [my] proposal."

My first reaction to this first positive response to the queries I sent out was “woooooooooooo hoooooooo”.

Now that I’ve had time to think of what such a request means, it’s more like “uh oh”.

Deep breaths.

I love to write but I hate to try to sell what I’ve written. Especially something I finished almost a year ago and have nearly forgotten about by now. Part of my dialectical behavior therapy training taught me that living in the moment helps keep anxiety away. According to the email trail at the bottom of her response, I sent a query to this literary agent last October. It took her four months to respond. Glad I’ve been living in the moment and therefore forgot I’d even queried her or I would have felt impatient by now.

I tell myself I’m living in the moment, but really I’m just procrastinating. Instead of working on a book proposal to send her, I finished reading Kurt Vonnegut's novel Cat's Cradle this morning. Outstanding. How dare I even attempt to call myself a writer when great people like Vonnegut have lead the way down this crooked path?

Those of you who have played Scattergories with me know I'm super competitive. I blame this on my siblings because it is easier than taking ownership of the problem. If I weren't the youngest sibling in a group of the funniest, smartest, kindest, most creative bunch of people on the planet, I might not feel the need to compare myself to others so much.

But I do. It bogs me down. It makes me want to give up. Why bother? I’ll never be as good as so and so.

When I feel this way, on the verge of going back to bed and pulling the covers over my head, I know it’s time to write.

Maybe not to sell. But to write.

And so, I turn to my blog, where I can ramble and not follow directions and say whatever I like because I’m basically giving it away for free. No one can criticize my words if they don’t have to pay to read them.

But when I quit my full time job last summer to spend more time trying to get my professional writing career off the ground, I don’t think my husband agreed to my using this extra time on this flightless bird of a blog, burying my head in the sand like an ostrich, avoiding the work it takes to sell my writing.

But Will’s an understanding husband and he wants me to be happy. Blogging makes me happy. So I blog…

Evidently the literary agent who asked me to send her a book proposal also blogs.

I like her already. She’s into stats:

"Because I think it’s interesting and fun, here are the stats: From June through December, 2011 I received a whopping 2,433 queries. Of those, I have requested more material for 136, or about .06%. Of those, I have requested a full manuscript for 29, or about 0.01%. Of those, I have made an offer-of-representation to 4, or roughly 0.002%. Of those, I sold half to publishers with the others still in waiting. Number of clients I signed through referral or scouted myself: 3. Number of books I sold for them: 3. Number of 2011 queries waiting to be read: 800, give or take. What does this mean? I have no idea, it’s just fun."

At first when I read this I thought it meant that, deep breath, I am one of the .06% of authors whose query interested her enough to ask for a book proposal.

Shit! Shit! Shit!

But when I look at it again, I realize since she wrote this blog in January and didn’t reply to my query until yesterday that my query was actually part of the 800 unread ones at that time.

But still. If she only asks for more material from about .06% of the queries she receives, I feel honored to be included in such a group. At the same time, I feel like a five year old again, sitting on the sofa watching my siblings crack jokes and tell stories, play music and sing, be brilliant and creative and BIG while I feel so small. I really just want to go crawl inside my closet right now and take a nap.

Being chosen as a member of a small, elite group means I have to take this seriously. Deep breath. "Seriously" makes me worry I'm not good enough. Deep breath. But I must remind myself it’s not so serious. Just because she asked for a book proposal doesn't mean she'll ask for the manuscript. And even if she does ask for the manuscript that doesn't mean she'll ask for revisions or other things I need to do to sell my novel. And even if she does ask for those things and goes on to try to sell my novel, that doesn't mean it will sell. And even if it does sell, that doesn't mean people will read it.

So, deep breath, quit worrying. Focus on the moment. In the whole scheme of things, even this serious thing will probably just amount to dust. If my novel sells, the buyer will most likely just be one quiet public library where it sits acquiring dust on a bookshelf, unread.

My hope is that some awkward girl who is feeling small one day bumps into the dusty bookshelf, knocks my book to the floor, picks it up where it has opened, and starts reading, finding comfort knowing she’s not the only one who feels like a fraud with nothing important to say.