It’s no secret my goal is to find the right agent. There is also no hiding the fact I’m an impatient person. Working on the same goal for over four years can get tiring/frustrating/hopeless/desperate/overwhelming/discouraging. There are often days I wonder if it’s ever going to happen. Dori’s re-energizing slogan “just keep swimming” plays on repeat in my head. The volume has to be cranked up pretty high to get over the “you’ll never do it” white noise on a constant stream through my subconscious. Fortunately during my insecurity party, my 8-5 job reminded me why there have to be no’s to one day have a yes.
My day job is not usually something I talk about on the interwebs. I make this exception because last week I experienced what it felt like to sit on the other side of the query letter. Not literally, of course. My assignment was to hire eight new employees for my company. This put me in the position to decide on the right people with the right skills. A similar situation to agents when a query shows up in their slush.
Finding the right eight people starts with hundreds of applications. The first passed over are the ones with unrelated experience. They may have work experience, but not in the field we’re looking for. This reminds me of the writers who don’t query the right agent or follow the query guidelines. They are the easy no. Next applicants out of the running are the ones who can’t pass the testing. They represent authors whose writing in the first pages isn’t there yet. This group gets a form rejection from an agent or, in my situation, no interview.
The interview round brings the forty who show potential out of those couple hundred applicants. These represent the few writers who get a full or partial request. There’s so much hope on both sides. I entered each interview hoping to find the right match for my department. I didn’t have any predetermined ideas to say no. I certainly wasn’t trying to flex my ego muscles with being a gatekeeper. My company needs great employees to be successful and that’s what I wanted to find.
In that small crammed room, I realized how true it is when agents feel bad about “this isn’t for me” in a rejection. Applicants and writers have hopeful and high expectations. On some you can smell the desperation. They want it so bad, but you know it’s not going to happen. The love isn’t there. Sure, I want good things for them. I wished I could hire everyone. The reality is the position I’m hiring for isn’t the one that’s going to bring them happiness. And it’s soooo subjective. Just like a novel. When agents say they have to love it, I understand it now. I love my company too much not bring in the best people. I want the applicants to give me the right feels. For me to have as much excitement in their potential as they have for what the position could bring. Anything even slightly less isn’t doing anyone a favor.
While it can be heart-breaking to sit on the rejected side, as it is for those applicants who want to support their families, the person doing the rejection has pangs of sadness too. It’s hard being the person who crushes someone else’s dream. How can agents or interviewers do it? We do it for them. For the person who trusted us by sharing their book or their personal interview stories. We’re saving them the struggle and heartache that will inevitably happen when things don’t work out, ie the book doesn’t sell or the employee is fired. We say no because we care.
A terrific lesson for my impatient mind. An even better lesson for my gnawing doubt. Rejection may come because I’m not ready yet. Refining skills and working towards my 10,000 hours keeps me swimming even when it’s up stream. I also know there will be the day when I connect with the right agent at the right time and we both know it’s meant to be.