After writing Kitty, I queried about 225 agents, got 6 offers and finally signed with an agent in Oct 2008. Well, after helping me get Kitty into fine shape, she changed her mind and dropped the novel without submitting it anywhere. So I requeried Josh Getzler who was at Writers House at the time and signed with him. Josh had to go to 31 editors before Ben Leroy at Tyrus Books took it.
Most of us who have written a book and jumped into querying know how it feels to long for a happy ending like Choi’s. To put your heart and soul into writing a book, to give up months of free time you could have spent playing with the kids or investing in real estate is an exhausting and somewhat crazy feat. A feat in which the chances of failure are larger than we wish to acknowledge.
The biggest challenge I face as a writer is self-doubt. It’s manageable when I write because I enjoy the act so much that it’s easy to put aside questions of worth. But once the fog of creation has lifted, there’s no place to hide when you’re trying to find an agent or publisher. It’s all about waiting and hoping and expecting a full inbox of replies after emailing so many people, after telling them in two paragraphs or less how much they’ll love your book if only they’ll read a few pages.
But then the next day, you find that your email inbox is empty, and you check your Outlook settings to make sure that all those queries actually left your outbox. I didn’t make it to 225 queries like Ms. Choi. I was probably in the ballpark around 125 before I decided to go back and make another revision (which I’m trying to tell myself isn’t another way of saying that I threw in the towel).
As a former acquisitions editor, I saw how large the slush pile could get and I licked my share of SASEs filled with rejection notes. There are always a few that get through, though, that actually make it into publication, and you want to shout from the rooftops that yes, indeed, it can be done! With patience, with hope, and a steady belief in yourself.
Interestingly, Ms. Choi also mentioned that an agent who had rejected her, contacted her again months later:
I do know of one agent who has changed his attitude towards his slush pile because of Kitty. He called me months after I already got an agent because he let Kitty sit in his slush pile forever. And now he goes through the pile more regularly. So I’m glad I made a difference in how an agent views his slush pile.
There’s a lesson there for those who manage the slush, too. Take it seriously, because most of us writers do.