Thursday, January 16, 2014

Flogging the Novel

I’ve put myself out there for rejection again.

As mentioned elsewhere (my home page, a blog post or two), I’ve written a novel. It’s way different from what I usually do, but it sort of oozed onto the page over the course of a lot of years. I think it’s humorous, but of course I’m not in position to judge.

Literary agents are, and I recently picked up on an exercise I’ve followed intermittently, in which I pitch likely-sounding agents or agencies. Deciding on who’s “likely” for my material sends me, logically enough, to books and databases listing agents. But that’s where logic stumbles and the problem starts.

The problem is “genre.” Business/technical writers don’t think in terms of genre, or at least the ones I know don’t. But start researching literary agents and you’re immediately awash in the stuff. A listing of genres (I guess plural is OK(?)) an agent might admit he or she is receptive to might run to

                   Autobiography/Memoir, Commercial Fiction,
                              Graphic/Illustrated, Historical, Humor,
                     Journalism/Investigative Reporting, Literary Fiction,
                                                 Spiritual, War

Even weeding out the obvious mismatches, there are enough left that I'm no longer sure what I've written. Humor? Commercial Fiction? Literary Fiction? and what the hell is "Cross-genre"? Sounds vaguely disreputable, something I might easily have fallen into unknowingly. 

I haven't had any luck so far, but I've only submitted the book five or six times. From what I've read I understand you're not even in the game until your rejections hit the high double digits. (Recently I heard the figure 450, the author musing, "What if I'd given up at only 200?") The database I'm working with has 80-some agents' names, so  I'm in the right place.

Maybe it's apocryphal, but I cling to the story of the guy who discovers, belatedly but to his delight, that he's been writing prose all his life. Wouldn't it be great if it turned out I've been working in that nifty genre, Stuff People Like And Will Pay To Read?