A friend of mine threw a book at me the other day and said, “You write better than this, why aren’t you in print?”
Well, she’s a friend and that’s part of her job, right?
She threw another paperback at me. “This is another writer I know and I read her stuff because she’s a friend. I’d never tell her this, but you’re better.”
Ok, well, I’m helping her pack and move. She might be feeling obligated to boost my ego.
This went on for three hours. At first my reply was, “I have sex in my books. They won’t publish me.”
She threw one more book at me—one from the Anita Blake series. I was willing to shut up at that point, but she continued. I’ve not read a single book from that series and I know about the sex in it. The woman became a book-canon. Every time a book hit me, I heard her say, “Sex.”
Ducking behind boxes, I started checking the books and figuring out the publisher. Tossing them back at her, I countered, “Agent needed.”
Eventually the pulp assault stopped. “So,” she asked, “Why don’t you have an agent?”
I don’t know why I don’t have an agent. I haven’t tried to get one for one thing. I always figured that since I have no sales figures yet, I’d be crazy to approach an agent. Why would they care about me? Why would they be interested in me? Fact of the matter, in my mind, until I can point at sales figures and have some quantitative way of measuring myself, I’m not good enough for an agent. Not good enough to even try.
She grabbed my shoulders as I was trying to help her pack and she bore a hole through me with her eyes. “I read these books. I put them down and went about my day. I don’t ask them if they’ve written more because I need to know what happens.” She does that to me. Sometimes on an hourly basis. “You know me, Cup, I don’t care about the male physique. It does nothing for me and their hangy-downy parts smell like beets.” She hates beets. “But, I want to read your stories despite the sex.” Despite the sex? All this time I thought people read my stuff just for the sex. Then she paid me one of the biggest compliments I’d ever received. “I want to meet your characters. I want to hang out with them.” I write them that real? “I love Anand and Father Daniel’s tortured soul grabs me.” Whoa…she’s serious. “Even Scott, that sick bastard, I want to meet him.” She looked around the room and shook her head. “I don’t want to meet any of these.”
I remembered what one editor told me, “You’re better than you think you are.”
Another editor contacted me about one of the free stories I have on my website. He told me, “I wish I’d written that.”
Another writer and editor, who I absolutely adore and (kind of) idolize, told me, “You’re one of my favorite authors.” My titles aren’t even out yet. How can I be one of someone’s favorites? Much less one of the favorites for someone who is one of my favorites.
As writers, how do we separate ego stroking from genuine praise? How do we know when it’s time to start looking for an agent? These are questions I can’t answer.
I still don’t feel that I’m ready to run with the big dogs and their agents, but I don’t know why I feel this way. I think it has to due with sales figures, but some people get agents for their first books. This is an irrational concern.
At one point, I told myself I wasn’t good enough to get published. Now, I’m telling myself I’m not good enough to get an agent. I was wrong about getting published. Could I be wrong about getting an agent too?