May 31, 2010


Let me be honest. Since I started my quest for an agent 4 months ago, I’ve endured lots of rejection. Mostly, my query letters are ignored. If I do get a response, it’s usually canned — though one e-mail was rude and yesterday’s was opportunistic. So why do I go on? No, I’m not crazy; at least I don’t think so. I go on because I’m looking for that proverbial needle in a haystack: an agent who isn’t too busy to look at what I’ve written. Of my numerous e-mails, three agents have shown an interest. This ratio of query-to-response is similar to my odds of winning a 2010 Cadillac in a city-wide raffle. But I plod on, buoyed by a remark Arianna Huffington made in a magazine interview. It doesn’t matter how many times you get knocked down, she said. What matters is how many times you get up. I like her pluck and I’m old enough to know she’s right. I’ve been down more than one rabbit hole and survived.

Don’t mistake me. I love small presses. They are the best defense we have against commercial inbreeding that asks, “Will it sell?” before “Is it any good?” A small press will do as much or as little for its authors as large presses do for their mid- list writers. Small presses can’t afford to send their writers on a book tours.  Midlist writers won’t get that chance either. Whether you’re a big fish in a small pond or a midsized fish in a big pond, your treatment is about the same. There is one inequality, however: A midlist writer has a better chance of getting a serious review than a writer from a small press. Sometimes, that makes all the difference in a career.