I have spent the last two weeks wresting with a wonderful, but at the same time stressful problem. In sending out queries, (letters seeking representation for my novel), I received multiple offers of representation from literary agents. (Awesome to the point where I can hardly believe it!) But this put me in kind of a unique position as a writer. Generally (and believe me, I've been there) a writer sends out queries and receives rejections. And because a rejection is the response more times than not, writers are often critical of the query process and of agents in general. (Again, I've been there.) We like to point to lists of books with multiple rejections that went on to be bestsellers and/or award winners as evidence that the query system is flawed.
We send out our babies, our darlings, our blood sweat and tears, only to be rejected with a polite form e-mail and no explanation why except "not the right fit" or "don't feel strong enough about this project". We have visions of agents cackling over their computer and hitting "send" to rejection after rejection--heartlessly destroying our dreams of publication. My experience this week has taught me that this is not the case. (At least not always the case, Miss Snark comes to mind...)
While I was trying to make my choice, I spent a lot of time exchanging calls and e-mails with literary agents. Guess what I discovered? The agents on the other end of that send button are not cackling, not bent on destroying dreams, and not even snarky. (At least not always.) What I found was four wonderful people who love reading and writing and yes, even writers. They have a tough job, not only do they have to (on a daily basis) reject people's hopes and dreams, but they work for hours with no guarantee of getting paid anything for their time. (Okay, writers can relate to that part.)
In all honesty, I would have loved to work with any of the agents I talked to. I spent many days and sleepless nights agonizing over my choice. They are ALL very good at what they do. They are all personable and NICE (gasp). They all had good things to say about my writing and had wonderful ideas about how to improve it.
But I couldn't have all of them. (I wish I could.) I had to choose one. After much studying, agonizing, discussions, and prayers, I made my choice. When the time came for me to hit "send" to reject the offers of the other three, I was physically sick. Being able to reject an agent wasn’t quite the dream I thought it might be, even after all the rejections I had received. Hitting send felt like closing the door on three friendships and working relationships I know I would have enjoyed.
So after hitting send, I sat down and cried. (Yes, I would make a terrible literary agent.)I like all of the agents I talked to. I would recommend any of them to a friend looking for an agent. The authors that they work with had great things to say about them.
Ultimately, I’m happy with my choice. I won’t announce the name of my agent (WOW! it feels so cool to say that) until the contract is signed. Then I'll celebrate.
To my fellow writers struggling and hoping for that “yes”, keep working, keep improving your writing and keep querying! You can do it. I have faith in you. And thanks to my experience, I have faith in the people on the other side of the “send” button.