Note from Aimee: The author of the following post had me weeping by the end of this poignant, perfectly timed piece. Another #PitchWars alum, the story is one that obviously strikes close to home for me personally but in today’s climate speaks loudly for us all and is a perspective I have yet to host here: a return to the trenches. That said, I do want to note (with the author’s permission) that the agency and agent discussed are not those being discussed at present.
Content/Trigger Warnings: Signing with an agent, agent ghosting, long-term querying (no stats specifically discussed)
The beginning was thrilling enough that I thought I might be a darling.
I got into Pitch Wars with the book that was supposed to be my second attempt at querying. Thanks to a whirlwind showcase, I had an offer of rep before I’d sent a single cold query. The agent was a perfect fit—personable and enthusiastic, with a history of sales at a reputable agency. I had no doubts when I signed. Crank up the Hilary Duff, baby, because this is what dreams are made of.
We worked through revisions, made the book shine, and had one close call with an editor. But ultimately, sub went how it goes for most authors: a slow death for a desperately loved story.
Fortunately, my agent and I had picked my next project early, and I’d already sent them the revised draft. I received no response for a couple months. Worry pricked the back of my mind. Were they as enthusiastic about the idea as they’d been before? We had an encouraging check-in, followed by a few more months of silence.
I realized I was decidedly Not The Darling when I received a form letter from the agency, letting me know I’d been dropped. I had moved earlier that year, and because they didn’t confirm my address, the letter took over a month to reach me. My agent hadn’t even signed it.
I don’t know what publishing has in store for me, but I do know, without a doubt, nothing will be more shocking or humiliating than emailing to ask if it had been a clerical error, or if that was really how the only professional in my corner had chosen to part ways.
It wasn’t an error. The agent had decided not to represent my genre anymore, and I never would have gotten an explanation if I hadn’t requested one.
Several agent-siblings and I were dumped back into the querying trenches with nothing to show for our years of professional partnership. Just one little line at the end of the query. I was represented, but we parted ways amicably. Because you had to say it was amicable, or people might think you were the problem.
Months turned to years as I tried to recover emotionally and creatively from what happened. I queried another book. And another. And another.
I used to think even if publishing wasn’t a meritocracy, there was an element of forward motion. That one day, if I took my writing seriously, I could look back at the starting line, and it would be just a pinpoint in the distance. I don’t believe that anymore.
Sometimes I wonder why I keep trying to get published, and I haven’t been able to come up with a good answer, really. Most of the time, I have no idea if I’ll ever get a book deal. The vast majority of people don’t.
But I think somewhere deep, deep down I’m cupping my hands around a flickering candle of hope that after all this, I could still be the exception. I could be the one who gets the deal, and everything else she’s ever dreamed of. A decades-in-the-making darling.