I was on my way to a reading. Convent Station, NJ was on the way. I'd mail my first query letters from there. For newbies, a query letter begs an agent to, in high linguistic fashion, please love my book idea so much that you run to the biggest publishing house and prostrate yourself in front of their mahogany desk until they promise to print a million copies and line them up in the windows at Barnes & Noble. And while you're at it, make them promise a fireside chat with Oprah. Oh, movie rights and a Sarah Palin advance too.
So then, traditionally, an agent gets the author a book deal. I picked three. I'd read interviews with the agents. I'd combed their websites. I'd hashed and mashed my query letter to what I thought was perfection. One day for each paragraph. Three paragraphs, one page. No more. I'd printed on fancy paper. I arrived at the post office with three minutes to spare. Is this the way it would be, I thought. Four years in the making and I was rushing and had cramps as I wrote my return address on the Priority envelopes.
I plan to frame the receipt. Credit card numbers on a strip of paper meant I was crossing over. I was now a risk taker. The whole thing could fail. "What ever happened to that book you wrote," they'll say. Or I could, some day, be framing a page of the NYT.
My first choice agent was M. She'd sold a memoir for the most famous memoirist. My favorite memoirist. The query landed on her desk on a Monday morning. She emailed compliments to me the next day. She said she'd love to read my manuscript. Holy shit. One of the most well-known agents in the world wants to read the very thing that I sat at this very table working on for four years. I felt naked, too. As if I were allowing someone into my head, free to inspect all my private brain cells. Regardless, I had chills. I jumped up and down on the back porch.
I rode that feeling out of anxiety and depression for a week. Food tasted better. I played jazz. Even my old Volvo rode smoother for a week. But I couldn't take it anymore. I sent her an email. "Just want to keep you in the loop," I said. "I've sent off two more manuscripts." Seven minutes later she returned. "I was just getting ready to write to you about FRYING SPAM." She found my voice charming and the project appealing but didn't think it was "quite right" for her.
The other two queries? G returned a half sheet of paper that read something of the sort, "Due to the current market, we are not taking on memoir projects at this time." J ask for the first thirty pages. I never heard from him. Nothing.
Query round two?