Over. No dice. I did not find an agent for my book. Which is okay. I knew it was a long shot. I need to remind myself that this rejection is not a reflection of my work. It’s a reflection of the book’s marketability. I heard, over and over, that while this work is important, it’s too niche of a market. Still, I’m glad that I tried this route first.
What’s next? I will try approaching small publishers directly. I think I have a better shot at that. But, if that doesn’t pan out, I will self publish. In that case, I think the people who need the book will find it, and that’s really the most important thing to me. I wrote the book that I wanted when Corey was diagnosed with tricuspid atresia. But let’s face it, Corey has a rare defect, and (thankfully) there aren’t a lot of people walking in my shoes.
However, having said all of that, I still feel that CHD awareness is important. Extremely important. There are so many people who have no idea what it means to have a child with CHD. If you say, “My child has cancer,” everyone understands you immediately. If you say, “My child has a congenital heart defect,” many people look at you like you’ve got three heads.
So I thought about ways in which I might reach a wider audience. And I think I’ve found a solution. Fiction! I’m writing a novel about a woman with a heart child. I’m about 2/3 of the way finished, and I’m hoping that, if it’s good enough, it will reach that wider audience that I am striving for.
Wish me luck….
When I decided to search for a literary agent in lieu of directly contacting small publishers, I considered just playing the numbers game and blasting query letters out to everyone and their Aunt Sally. If you throw enough stuff at the wall, something will stick, right? Then I changed my mind. I’ve been doing a lot of that lately. Instead, I decided to refine my search for agents down to a group that (I thought) was more likely to be interested in my work. The agents that I’ve been in contact with so far have been really classy, and I appreciate that so much, because I know how wildly busy they are. The number of submissions received daily by agents is astounding, so I am grateful for any feedback they have to offer.
One agent told me that she was sorry she wasn’t the right fit for me, as she only represents children’s books. That was my mistake – I’m not sure how I got from “the books she represents remind me of Where the Wild Things Are” to “hey she’ll love a book about CHD!” She said she understands the importance of my work on a personal level, as her nephew has CHD. That was good to hear.
But I have some good news! An agency that I am very excited about asked me to allow them a three week period to evaluate my proposal and sample chapters exclusively. I happily granted that, and now it’s time to wait and hope that they see the importance of this book. And not because I’m so fabulous, but because Corey’s story of hope is one that needs to be heard.
In the meantime, I’ve settled on this as an author photo for the day when the book is finally published.
I’m going to take a break from talking about the publishing process/agent search and talk about a subject that’s wildly off topic. This post isn’t even about the heart child – it’s about his heart-healthy brother, Mason. But first, a quick update on the agent search: I’ve sent about 20 queries/submissions thus far, and received a few rejections. I’ll just have to keep on keeping on I suppose. More on that later.
Let’s talk about my son and his dolls. Ever since he met his first Disney Princess, it was love at first sight for Mason. He loves all things pink, frilly and girly. As his parents, we have done our best to allow him to be exactly who he is. For example, this year the one item he wanted most from Santa was an American Girl Doll. He now owns Caroline, and she goes everywhere with him. She sleeps next to his bed. She watches him build Legos. She’s pretty much everywhere that he is, except at the dinner table. I drew the line there, because I don’t want spaghetti sauce in the hair of this $100 doll.
Last year he was obsessed with princess dresses. He wanted his own. So Santa brought him 3 Disney Princess gowns. Those of you who know Mason know that he is a HUGE kid. Literally a full head taller than all the other first graders in his class. Finding Disney Princess gowns that fit a giant 6-year-old boy was a challenge. But I did it! And he stomped around the house in them for a couple of months. He has now outgrown that phase, but I’m so glad we let him enjoy it on his own terms.
I think about what might happen to my son if we chose to squash his love of dolls and princesses. Instead of growing out of his princess-dress phase, would he have gone on to rebel as a teenager? And what would that have looked like? Something mild like dying his hair pink? Or something more permanent, like piercing his nipples and tattooing his face? It’s hard enough to figure out who you are – there are plenty of people my age who haven’t figured it out yet – without having people in your face telling you that you are wrong or bad for not conforming to society’s gender-based standards.
And Mason is learning to self regulate. I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I am glad that he is capable of being realistic. On the other, I am sad that he has to justify his love of the color pink to anybody. At the ripe old age of 7, he already understands that some kids will make fun of him for loving girls and princesses. Not long ago, a kid on the bus sneered at him and called him “a stupid little girl.” That really broke my heart. But it also gave me a chance to tell him, one more time, that it’s okay for him to be just exactly who he is. Whatever life throws at him, he will always have his mother’s love and support, and like every other mother, I hope only that it is enough.
My book is written. My pitch is written. My proposal is written. I was all set to pitch small publishing houses, but then, after speaking with another author, I changed my mind. I may end up trying for Tiny Publishing House You’ve Never Heard Of, or self publishing, but first, I’m going to try and land an agent and end up with Random House. Why not go for the gold? If it doesn’t work out, at least I’ll know that I tried.
So how hard is it to land an agent? Here’s a good quote from the National Writers Union, “Finding a literary agent is like moving to a new town and having to find a contractor to remodel your house and a mechanic to fix your car all at once. It has a strong element of Russian roulette.”
Great. Where’s my gun?
The key to pursuing an agent is apparently patience. Everything I have read suggests that finding an agent is difficult. Extremely difficult. If you’re lucky enough to find an agent after six months and hundreds of query letters, working with the agent before your book is submitted to publishers will take another six months. Or a year, or two years. It may be a decade before my book sees the light of day if I stay the course.
A decade is too long. So I’m going to try and land an agent for the next few months, and if I can’t do it in that time frame, then I’m going to pitch the small publishers directly. It took most of the day yesterday to get seven query letters out, so I need to get back to the computer!
Wish me luck….
I’m still working through the publishing process. My pitch and proposal are written, and I intended to approach small publishers directly, but I have changed my mind and am now searching for an agent. During the course of this search, I discovered that Sylvester Stallone has a child with CHD, as he wrote a forward to a book about CHD. This brought me to a search for famous people with CHD. I discovered this fascinating list, compiled by another heart mom (also named Jennifer – we’re everywhere!), and I wanted to share it here. This is the list as well as the direct link to her blog (I have not changed the list at all):
“Famous People with a Congenital Heart Defect
- Shaun White – Olympic Snowboarder (Tetralogy of Fallot)
- Mark “Fight Shark” Miller – MMA Fighter/Kickboxer (Aortic Stenosis)
- Joe Strummer(21 August 1952 – 22 December 2002) – Clash front man, passed away due to undiagnosed CHD at 50.
- John Glascock(2 May 1951 – 17 November 1979) – base guitarist, Jethro Tull. Died at 28 from CHD complications.
- Max Page – Child Actor and Darth Vader in VW Superbowl Ad (Tetralogy of Fallot)
- Tedy Bruschi – Former Patriots linebacker and ESPN Commentator (Atrial Septal Defect)
- John Ritter(September 17, 1948 – September 11, 2003) – Actor, passed away due to undiagnosed Congenital Heart Defect
- Paul Cardall – Pianist, Complex CHD/Heart Transplant (Paul has a great CHD Blog at http://mytricuspidatresia.blogspot.com)
- Brian Littrell – Member of the Backstreet Boys (Ventricular Septal Defect)
- Jessie J – Singer (Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome)
- Bret Michaels – Lead Singer: Poison (Atrial Septal Defect)
- Carroll Shelby – automotive designer, racing driver and entrepreneur (Unspecified congenital heart valve disease)
- Steve Hutchinson – Pro Football Player (Tennessee Titans-Guard) (Unspecified Heart Defect)
- Damon Daniel Weber – actor (Deadwood) Father wrote a book about his passing from CHD post transplant called “Immortal Bird“. (Hypoplasia, possible HRHS)
- Corey Smoot – Musician (Flattus Maximus in GWAR). Passed away suddenly due to previously undiagnosed congenital heart defect. (Unspecified coronary heart defect)
- Robby Benson – Actor/Director and author of medical memoir “I’m not dead…Yet!” detailing his life with CHD. (Bicuspid Aortic Valve)
- Kirk Urso – Professional Soccer Player with the Columbus Crew. Passed away in 8/2012 from undiagnosed unspecified CHD.
- Kat Edorsson – Reality TV (Survivor). (Unspecified CHD, 2 OHS’s)
- Jimmy Osmond – Musician. (Atrial Septal Defect) (* three of his brothers, two of his nephews, and his daughter were also found to have ASD)
- John Fox – Denver Broncos Coach. (CHD – Nonspecific Aortic Valve)
- Whitney Duncan – American Country Music Artist, contestant on television show “Survivor”. (Atrial Septal Defect)
- Mark O’Shea – Country Music artist and one half of the award-winning married country duo “O’Shea“. The duo incorporated heart kids into their video for “Thank you, Angels” (Tetralogy of Fallot)
Famous Heart Parents with CHD Kids
Please note this is a list of people that are in the public eye for something other than Congenital Heart Defects.
This specific list is only for those people who are in the public eye for something other than CHD but who also happen to be a heart parent or a CHD Survivor.”
Let’s take a brief break from Corey’s CHD timeline to talk about getting my book published. I’m still reading the book on publishing, and I am nearly finished writing my proposal. The proposal will go out to some small publishers rather than an agent, and then I will start doing the “please like my book!” dance. Maybe I’ll take video of these dorky dance moves. In the meantime, here are the elements of the proposal:
Are you asleep yet? Me too. What I’m really struggling with is how to interject some levity into the proposal. Here, on the blog, it’s easy to be silly. I’m writing for people who get my idiocy. But here’s the rub – many authors approach a proposal like a term paper. They only concern themselves with the facts. Well, that’s not going to grab attention and sell a book. That’s going to get you into the slush pile.
So, in my proposal, how do I go from, “Well, my child has a life-threatening condition and here’s what it’s like to live with that!” to making anybody laugh? Am I just going to roll with a tone of deep seriousness? The book is written in first person. The proposal is therefore also written in the first person to allow my voice to come through. Fine, but only my dire voice is coming through, and that’s no good. Where is the space for a “top 10 list” in the proposal? Ack!
Suggestions are welcome…..