I started pursuing the updated website, manuscriptwishlist.com, last evening, because I’m cruel to my own mental health and like to look up potential agents and tease myself with dreaming they could possible represent me one day, even though my manuscripts aren’t ready for representation yet. Okay, that’s only the sadistic half as to why I was browsing that website. The productive and beneficial half was so I could start getting a ballpark of the agents that I should keep on my radar for the latter half of the year, which is my goal for querying again, after I spent the summer months editing like a fiend. I want to comprise a list of potential agents so I can start doing research about them, connect with them on Twitter and other necessary prep work that’s required before you even begin to polish your query. I found quite a few agents that I would be honored to work with, let alone learn from; agents who I think could really help improve my story. I also found plenty that I couldn’t send my query to, for various reasons. Wanna go inside my head for a bit again? Abbreviated, it probably went something like this:
Oh, she looks nice. Fantasy, New Adult, nice, nice. Passed the initial screening, reps what I’m looking for. Okay, time to read–oh. No vampires or werewolves. Right. Onto the next one. Well, isn’t he charming? And kind of funny. I bet we could–nope, not feeling the use of classic tropes, huh? Well, I still think you’re potentially funny. Alright, what about her? No? Chosen One is overdone, I know, I know, but Darryn’s different. Of course, you’ve probably heard that a thousand times, so I won’t waste your time with my pleas. What about–no. Wha–no. W–no.
Eventually, the list of agents who weren’t interested in my work was longer than the list of agents who potentially might like me. And my heart just kept sinking and sinking and sinking as that negative thinking crept its way into my brain. Yes, I’m aware that the Chosen One plotline is overdone. Yes, I know what the tropes are in the genre and yes, I use practically all of them in my trilogy. Yes, there are vampires and werewolves. Yet I use all of this purposefully to set my readers up with a familiar skeleton within a new world and new characters in my trilogy. I do this so that certain expectations are set by my audience because of what they’ve been groomed to expect.
Then, I destroy them.
The ending–which, to me, is practically the entirety of the third book–does not fall into the mold of the tropes used to set it up. Actually, I worry that things are a bit too drastically different and how readers will one day respond and critique the sheer vehemence I force my characters to endure. But that is what makes my story stand out, as well as a bit of the magic and definitely the world and the characters. Yet how do you make an agent understand that when you have only a query letter to plead your case? How do you get an agent to bite when half the time, they won’t even read any explanation you send them because you incorporate all the elements that automatically puts you in the trash bin? How do you convince an agent to just read a sample of your writing so they have to chance to see some of the positive strengths you and your story bring to the table? How do you make yourself and your story understood?
I can’t answer these questions. I haven’t figured out how to get an agent’s attention with Darryn’s story…yet. Luckily for me, I’m too stubborn and I believe in Darryn too much to give up, so I’ll keep working and researching and trying until I figure it out. Unfortunately for me, last night I quite forgot that stubbornness, and instead just felt impossibly small and, for a flair of melodrama, felt a bit hopeless, as well.
Yet as my mood continued to sour and the vileness that sometimes poisons my subconscious roamed free, unchecked, I got a spark of invigoration through a pleasantly surprising distraction: a notification from Twitter. But this wasn’t any ole notification, my friends. It was a notification of a retweet to the link of my last blog post, which was a failed attempt at reviewing Brent Weeks’ The Broken Eye. B crowd (reference to same post, if you’re suddenly confused), I hear your mumblings. I know you’re still sour about my review. Oh, cool, someone retweeted your review. Swell for you. Except it wasn’t just swell and it wasn’t just somebody.
It was amazing. It was Brent Weeks, the author of said book that I had been reviewing. He read my review. He read my review.
Cue fangirling, take two.
All thoughts of not being published and agents hating my work and no one ever understanding the weird thing I was trying to do with my books suddenly disappeared. One of my favorite authors and inspirations had just interacted with me. He read my blog and retweeted it, which, since he did this around midnight last night, has caused my review to be read over 100 times by people from over 20 different countries. I had people all across the globe commenting and liking my review, talking about how they were going to start reading him because of what I said, all because he “endorsed it” by retweeting my link and exposing it more fully than I ever could.
A lot of thinking has happened because of this.
First: I fangirled. I’m not even kidding. I texted my best friend and freaked out, messaged people on Twitter and freaked out. Even writing this blog, I’m getting little butterflies of excitement realizing that a New York Times Best-Selling Author and personal idol took time out of his evening to read my work and found it worthy (even if it was praising his work). I’m not even ashamed of this reaction and that brings up point two. This entire interaction served as a beautiful–and well needed–reminder of exactly why I want to be a published author: to connect with fans around the world, inspire them and encourage them, by telling stories that resonates and stays with them and by interacting with them as much as I can.
I’ve had five major author interactions in my lifetime (I know, I’m very lucky). The first was in 7th grade, when Rob Thurman emailed me back and broke the news to me that every author isn’t a millionaire after they publish one paperback novel (ah, to return to such a naive mindset). The second: I bought Drawing out the Dragons from James A. Owen and inside the front cover, he wrote “I believe in you,” and signed it (that has resonated with me so much). The third was when I went to a book signing with Jim Butcher, stood literally inches in front of him and almost collapsed when he barely looked at me as I told him I wanted more of his Codex Alera series. He was quite polite and nodded and smiled and I believed my life complete. Fourth: connecting with Jeff Saylards through an internship I did, which not only allowed me to find another great series (penned by him), but I also got to conduct an interview with him (posted on this blog) and now, we’re actually friends. Friends. The last has been interacting with Brent Weeks on Twitter, even if it is the briefest of conversations. Needless to say, all of these things have left their mark on me, both as an avid reader and as an aspiring author.
The biggest impact, I think, is the realization of the fine line an author walks between interacting with their fans and not interacting at all. As an aspiring author, it is my goal to interact with as many of my fans as I can as often as I can (explained in more detail below). However, that goal–and that expectation, if fans have it–is impossible. Authors are not the immortal gods I idolize them to be. They are storytellers who are human, with lives of their own. So if an author doesn’t have time to respond to a Tweet or a letter, or doesn’t interact with their fans, I’m not personally offended, because I get it. When you reach the level of someone like Brent Weeks, people are begging to talk to you all the time, while you have your own life to live, including spending time with family, potentially working another job and other obligations or hobbies or what have you (not to mention working fervently writing the next book in your series, especially when you left it off at a major cliffhanger that causes your readers to lose the ability to function *eyes Weeks*). There is no obligation for an author to interact with their fans aside from conventions or book tours they’re doing and there should be no anger at authors who don’t. I think that needs to be utterly clear.
However, when they are able to, it speaks volumes. And I, as a fan, will always be grateful for their time and for their taking notice of me, a young 23-year-old woman who happened to read their work and fall in love for a couple of hours.
You see, I want to have that affect on people. I want someone to ramble on their blog about how pissed they are on how I ended a book. Or how they can’t believe I would do that to my characters. Or how much my characters inspired them and helped them through whatever tough time they’re going through in real life. Or freak out about how I liked their Tweet or stayed after during a conference to answer a few more questions that we didn’t have time for during the main event. I want to be able to post my favorite fan art of my characters by readers and read fanfiction and interact with young souls and tell them I believe in them. Because I will. I already do. I want to be that encouraging presence and someone for them to look up to, even if the ending to my stories are dark and not loved by everyone. I want the chance to be that role-model, because I yearn to help others and inspire them like so many great souls–and not just authors–have done for me. I want to have the stress of trying to balance interacting with fans with everything else in my life. I want to have to schedule in time in order to talk with them.
Yet none of that will be a reality until I’m published.
Full-circle back to the beginning of this very lengthy post. Yes, some agents won’t even read me work before they reject it, based on opinions previously formed (and not formed ignorantly or wrongly). Yes, many don’t understand what I’m trying to do. Yes, I still need to go through and edit again. Yes, it is going to take a lot of hard work to get my stories told. But I’m not giving up, because I’ve been reminded of the “rewards” waiting for me if I succeed. There are future readers out there that I could impact, if only I work hard and keep chasing my dreams. They might, one day, need me. How humbling is that? And how could I ever dare to think of giving up on them, by giving up on myself? I can’t. I wont.
You nailed it, Mr. Weeks. It is a privilege, indeed.