The Gernart Company Moment, my addiction to submission: When I first created Clueberry, I wrote both a fiction book and a non fiction clueber9y book. First, I tried to get an agent to sell it as a non fiction type book. For a year, I got rejected. I got a few “send me the first 10 chapters.”
All rejections. Hundreds and hundreds of rejections followed.
Mostly, agents don’t respond. You literally read about the agent and research their published books for 2 hours (because that’s what they want, for you to know what they publish and not waste their time submitting work they don’t sell) and then you wait 2-3 months and they never reply.
It’s the process for a non-connected first time author.
Then, I worked on selling the fiction book. At this point, I got REALLY good at query letters. Like really good. Too good.
I know I got too good because The Gernert Company requested a full manuscript from my query in a slush pile. It was a stellar query letter. (Selling a creative work is its own art form).
But I had sent so many queries out and now I couldn’t recall…Who was this Gernert Company? John Grisham’s agent. Oh my god.
Then, a realization set in. I was so busy trying to great at “submitting” I lost touch with my book, and pitched a much better book in my query letter than the book that was on my computer.
I spent two weeks not sending my full manuscript, terrified. If he accepted my book, my life would change forever, but a predicament…now I needed to make the book as good as the pitch (knowing that was statistically highly unlikely to happen)
Finally I sent it. He rejected it. It wasn’t the book he thought it was.
The Gernart Agency moment taught me to be ready and whenever I am applying on behalf of Clueberry I say, “Imagine they said yes. Can you then overdeliver not underdeliver?”
What I learned 8 years ago, was you have to say yes to your pitch first.
6 months ago, someone sent me a fellowship that was so exciting and so big, I thought, “that would be too good, too top tier.” Then, I created my pitch video, anyway (as an exercise) and did the Gernart test on it. “If you get accepted, do your results and your work over-deliver?”
I submitted, because all these years later, I can say with confidence, YES.
One of the side gifts of being a creative person is the gift of being immune to rejection.
(And that sort of spreads to other aspects of life, like being unaffected by any form of rejection.)
Because after a while it’s not rejection anyway. It’s a lens through which to gain perspective on your own work or how it’s holding up to the pitch.
For me, this meant having to catch up with what I wanted it to be in 2011 when I pitched to Gernart, working and working over the years until the two endpoints of the ideal and “what was” came together across the mind map, two end points that inched slowly towards each other for 7 years.