When I started the search for a publisher for Again and Again, a high-profile friend referred me to a big name agent (we’ll call him Mr. Big). “He wants women writers,” she told me. “Your novel is just what he’s looking for.”
Mr. Big worked the old-fashioned way: no electronic submissions. As directed by his website, I sent a single-page query via snail mail. Six weeks later I got a one-paragraph reply in my mailbox asking for the first 50 pages, which I shipped immediately. Another six weeks went by before I got the request for the entire manuscript, and at least another six before I got a call from this agent’s assistant. “I loved your novel,” he said, “and so did my colleague, also a man. We’re sure the big guy will love it, too. [Really, that’s what they called him.] I just want to make sure you haven’t sent it to anyone else.”
I assured him I had not. Four days later Mr. Big himself phoned. I felt like a teenager waiting for an invitation to the prom. “This will be a very short call,” he announced. “My assistants both loved your manuscript, and they never like anything. So I looked forward to reading it. And I did read a few chapters, but it’s not for me. It’s an issue book. The only reason I’m calling instead of sending you a note is that you’re such a talented writer.”
I tried to digest all this. Again and Again is a novel about friendship and marriage, about secrets and regrets and second chances, about principles and politics and so much more. It’s also about campus date rape –a theme on “House of Cards” and multiple TV shows, a topic of interest to many readers.
“I worked hard to make sure the book didn’t sound preachy,” I told him. “If it needs work, I’m glad to make edits.”
“Oh, that’s like remodeling a house,” Mr. Big said. “It never works.”
I wondered what universe he occupied in which everyone could afford to move on to bigger and better houses rather than fixing up the place they lived.
Mr. Big’s opening words on that call were clear. However talented I might be, I was not being asked to negotiate. But he did have an offer for me: “If you don’t find an agent in six months, come and see me and we’ll start from scratch,” he said. Then he exhorted me to read the book he’d authored on how to write a best-selling novel.
Hard to believe I’d waited five months for a pitch to buy someone else’s book.
I’d like to say the rejection didn’t bother me, that I brushed myself right off and thought of all the positive feedback I’d gotten from every person who’d actually read the manuscript. “I need copies right now for my daughter/son/friends’ daughter/son/book club,” they told me. Most described it as “riveting” or “a page turner” or “a game changer.” Several thanked me for helping them make sense of something that had happened in their own lives – something they hadn’t been able to name before, or something they’d felt they had to hide.
It took a little effort to get to that place. But one thing I did know from the start: I’m proud to write fiction that makes visible people whose stories have typically been obliterated or distorted. Their voices help spotlight problems in our culture and propel change.
Thanks to She Writes Press, Again and Again will be out in mid-August. It will offer suspense, humor, and psychological upheaval – and it will touch many lives.