Manuscripts that are written for only traditional publishing have a sell-by date. It doesn’t matter how long you spent writing the book. Once you’ve exhausted the lengthy yet finite list of literary agents and publishers to submit to, it’s game over if nobody bites. All that work and the book is shelved forever, never to be read again.
It’s a hard thing, letting go of a story. Nobody but the writer will ever really know what it was like to write the book. What it was like to come up with the idea – that moment when you light up and realize you’ve suddenly been grabbed by your next big idea. The hours that it took getting to know the characters and breathing life into them. The songs that you listened to that fit with your story and will always remind you of that book whenever you hear one of those songs for the rest of your life. The moments of the story that made you laugh, made you cry, made you feel.
It’s hard when the day comes and you’re forced to accept that the characters you loved and the story you slaved over are destined to exist only in your mind and heart. The final agent has rejected the story. There are no publishers left on the list anymore. It’s time to say goodbye to that book forever.
I’m preparing to go through that with my latest middle-grade novel. It’s nearly impossible to market a book to younger children online via self-publishing, so it’s traditional publishing or nothing for this one. There is one literary agent reviewing the story now, but I’ve been doing this writing thing long enough to know how this story is going to end. And it’s going to end soon. I was working on this baseball book last summer as my son played little league for the first time. It’s a baseball novel about a female coach managing a bunch of lovable misfit players, and I had a blast watching my son play and feeling inspired about my book. There were lots of great baseball songs I loved to listen to, as well as general rock songs that fit well with my book. The main character’s theme song (in my mind) is SHE’S SO MEAN by Matchbox Twenty. It’s been wonderful listening to those songs while I went on long walks, brainstorming about my book. It was especially fun blasting those songs at full volume in celebration of finally completing the novel. Now, hearing those songs is tinged with sadness. I’ve sent out 70 queries with one acceptance and 21 rejections. Many of those other agents will simply reject the novel with their silence.
It’s almost over for this novel. My son starts baseball again soon. As I watch him play, I’ll remember my novel, the characters, the story, the experience, knowing that few other people will ever know anything about it.
Very special thanks to my parents and sister who are always quick to read my books. My mother, in particular, breaks speed records when it comes to reading my novel the moment I send it to her. She pretty much gets the final draft, since I know she will tell me it’s wonderful no matter what and won’t tell me the truth about it (that’s okay. That’s her job as my mom, and I love her for it!).
My husband and kids are a different matter.
My wonderful husband is generally supportive, but hates to read (odd couple much??) and won’t even make an exception in my case. Seriously, this last book is for nine-year-olds. He can’t even handle that? I read my last middle-grade novel, RAIN ON THE WATER, out loud to my son and daughter. Though they claimed they wanted me to read this one to them, when the time came, they decided they’d rather play Minecraft…
Not gonna lie. I cried over that. A lot. My husband comforted me and told me “They’re just children”. I don’t care. It hurt. When I wrote this novel, I had my kids in mind. There are jokes in there that I knew they would get when I read the book aloud to them. Now I’ll never get that chance.
Times like this make me want to shake my husband and children by the shoulders and cry out “Don’t you get it? You might be the only people who will ever read this! All that work and now it’s all over!”
They just don’t get it and they never will. I have no choice but to accept that and move on.
I get tired of saying goodbye. QUEEN HENRY was the first story with characters who really grabbed me by the heart and absolutely refused to let go. You are not shelving us, they told me. Not this time. QUEEN HENRY was the one story that I just could not let go of.
That’s why was my debut published novel.
I’m pretty sure THE JOYVILLE SWEAT SOX will be my last middle-grade novel (unless, by some miracle, an agent decides to represent it). From now on, I’m going to focus on writing adult fiction.
It is my hope to never write another novel that I don’t plan to publish. Stories are meant to be shared, so thank goodness for self-publishing. I’ll do my best to promote my books and get them read as far and wide as possible, but if only a handful of people purchase and read them, at least my stories have reached out to others in some small way.
I don’t want to say goodbye any more.
– Linda Fausnet
There is a P.S. to this story : Since writing this article, my son decided to start reading THE JOYVILLE SWEAT SOX. He is supposed to read for 20 minutes a day for homework, so now he’s reading my book. He’s read the first chapter so far. He sat at the kitchen table reading it, and then looked up at me with surprise and said “this is funny!”
So I guess there is kind of happy ending to this after all…
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