One of the ironies of being a published writer is that editors don't want to even look at your book manuscripts unless they're submitted through your agent -- but agents don't want to take you on until you've been published.
Years ago, I decided to send queries on my three completed novels to publishers and editors at the same time, hoping that I would get the attention of one or the other. Over the years I've made steady progress: Going from form rejection slips to form letters with little notes or underlined areas, and on to personalized letters, then finally to requests to see my full manuscripts.
I'd given up on one publisher, after not hearing back for about a year. Then, one day, I got a phone call from the editor of that publishing house. He apologized to me, saying that there'd been a mix-up and they'd thought I'd been contacted. It seems that publisher had decided to buy my book, but before they could make the final arrangements the place went out of business!
But the editor wanted to stay in the industry, and had decided to become an agent. He wanted to take me on as one of his first clients.
Therein followed a great deal of squeeing and jumping up and down.
I got a few more bites, and requests to change some material in my manuscripts, and came heartbreakingly close to getting pubished a couple of times, but for one reason or another the publishers never quite got to the next step of sending me a contract. My agent continued to send my stuff out, and would from time to time update me and send me the rejections he received. Then, for about the last six months, I heard nothing from him. This isn't unheard of; it's common to not hear back from a publisher for months, and I had no reason to think my agent wasn't waiting to hear back, just as I was.
Then, a few days ago, I received an e-mail:
"Hi Mark, Hope things are going well for you. I have run out of options for publishers for your books, and don't think I can help with submissions anymore. Send your manuscripts out to small publishing houses that don't require agents for submissions. I'd be happy to help with contract negotiations and support you with any advice you may need. I still believe you write very well and your books are publishable, and think Radio Red's the most promising. Other agencies may have other contacts. You may want to give someone else a try if you haven't already. Thanks for the opportunity to work with you. Good luck, and keep sending your articles. Nolan"
What am I going to do now? Well, I'm going to go right back to trying to sell my own work: Studying markets, composing query letters, keeping records, stuffing envelopes, crossing my fingers -- all the things an agent does, that I hate to do. My plan at this point is to finish the fanfictions I've already promised and/or outlined, then to put all my free time and energy into selling my original fiction, while writing more original fiction to sell. I'll keep everyone updated, of course, and I'll still throw a fanfiction in every now and then because I have fans (yay!) and because it's good to remember writing can be just plain fun.
I'm not giving up. I'm never giving up.
But doggone it, I feel like I'm right back where I was three years ago.
But again, we're under a blizzard warning, so I'm bound to have a bad attitude.