Sometimes You Fail. And it Sucks.
I’ve blogged about failure a few times, and I’ve read dozens of other posts about it. As I wrote in this post, “Turns out, everyone and their brother has blogged about failure. And every successful person in history has a quote about it, too.”
But recently, an author wrote poignantly about being in the middle of her personal experience of failure, and it hit me hard.
The author is Alexis Grant, and her post “When You Have to Admit You’ve Failed,” is about the incredible frustration of having an agent shop her book for two years with no success. It occurred to me that I’ve never written about what it feels like, from the agent’s perspective, to “fail” an author.
I was the agent.
And while Alexis feels as if she’s failed, I feel as if I’ve failed her.
When I decided to represent Alexis’s book, it was because I absolutely, wholeheartedly believed in it. I’ve read it repeatedly and enjoyed it every time. It’s an incredible memoir of her solo backpacking trip through Africa, and the adventure of it completely captured me. I’ve been dreaming of my own (someday) African trek ever since.
I completely expected to sell the book to a publisher. I really, really wanted to, because I know people will love it and be inspired by it like I was.
I realize the disappointment Alexis feels is far greater than mine. This was her labor of love, her own personal story. But having committed to it, and invested myself in its success, I am devastated that I didn’t sell it. I feel bad for her. I don’t like having failed her.
I can’t even figure out why it didn’t sell, because I have a pretty good eye for good books, and I know hers is wonderful. Sometimes, it just doesn’t happen.
It’s heartbreaking, because the book deserves to be read by many, many people. But it’s not just emotional, it’s a business failure too. It’s many, many hours spent with no return. Like Alexis says in her post, “this whole process has been HELLA frustrating.”
Here is what I want you to know:
♦ Things that frustrate you in the pursuit of publishing probably frustrate your agent too.
♦ Agents don’t like the waiting game any more than you do.
♦ If the agent can’t sell your book, they may feel a sense of personal and professional failure similar to yours.
What am I going to do with the failure? I listed 5 good responses to failure in this post; my favorite in this case is, “reassess what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. Figure out how to do it better next time.”
Alexis has her own plans for bouncing back, and I have no doubt she will. But I will always be sad I couldn’t get her the book deal she wanted.