Hi, Persephone readers! I’m a first-time poster, long-time reader who’s here to tell you the story of how I wrote a thing, I got a literary agent for thing!, thing did not sell, there was much huffing glue with fantasy creatures, and then I self-pubbed thing and lived to tell the tale. The zombie fairy tale, to be precise.
Once upon a time, there was a weird little writer with an idea: zombie fairy tales. Our heroine, let’s call her Princess Falls On Her Face (that’s me) wrote and wrote and wrote. And then she drank. But then she wrote some more while only semi-drunk, so that’s good. When she was done, she’d written ten zombie fairy tales that were feminist, funny and odd, just like the parodies our princess loved from the likes of Mel Brooks and Monty Python.
Princess Falls On Her Face wrote a query letter and submitted these funny fairy tales hither and yon to literary agents. Lo, she received a bite! No, not a zombie bite, but interest from a damned good agent who’d handled quite a few hilarious books. “Yay!” said the princess to her cat. The cat did not comment, but Princess Falls On Her Face knew she was super impressed, naturally.
The agent rode across the kingdom distributing the zombie fairy tales to all interested parties. Princess Falls On Her Face was told that her writing was funny and unique, but that zombies were tired. Well duh, they’re tired—they’re dead! Alas, no amount of trumpeting and/or ogre threats would prevail, and the book did not sell. This happens to many, many great books, Princess Falls On Her Face told herself between bouts of sobbing in the bath.
This was a dark time for Princess Falls On Her Face. She spent some time with trolls under a bridge huffing glue and cooking passers-by into meat pies, but that’s a story for a different day.
What was a writing princess to do? Admit defeat and take to yelling zombie jokes on the street corner? Nay. Nay! In this day and age of Amazon and whatnot, Falls On Her Face put on her big-princess underwear and released the book herself. And then she sold a billion trillion copies and retired to the Duchy of Maui to swan about in a bikini with her two husbands, Prince Falls On His Face and Sebastian Stan.
Okay, that last sentence hasn’t happened yet, and not just because my husband doesn’t realize that Mr. Stan is going to live with us some day. But I have self-pubbed my book, Zombierella, and I’m amazingly proud of that.
As a writer, especially a new one who’s not named J.K. Rowling, I hear many, many more “no”s than I do that magic word “yes.” And it sucks. It sucks great gasping zombie breaths that reek of rot. But the only thing that can be done is to write some more. I very much debated about publishing this post, for admitting publicly that I, well, fell on my face is ego crushing.
Maybe you’re sitting there thinking yeah, I can’t wait to get out there and read this rejected piece of crap! But these sorts of stories usually help me to feel better about myself. When I read about all the publishing houses that rejected Harry Potter, or when I think about the fact that somebody actually cancelled the brilliance that is Arrested Development, I realize that rejection is a huge part of the artistic process. The getting up to fall on your face a different day is what separates the princesses from the court jesters.
So you got rejected. Now what? Perfect that book, that poem, that song ten more times. Make a bunch of savvy peers read/listen. Consider hiring a professional editor, if applicable. And then you can take joy in the fact that we live in the age of self-publishing, of YouTube. It takes work, it takes learning, and it takes mounds and mounds of donuts, but do-it-yourself art can be done-it. Just envision Issa Rae and BE THE KICK ASS!
FYI, that donut advice is something I had to learn for myself. But boy, am I glad I did. I think I’ll call myself Princess Perseverance from now on. Or maybe Princess Perky Rack. One of those—they’re both inspiring.
If you’d like to learn more about writing a great query letter, I cannot recommend Query Shark enough. Seriously, you must become chum before you can hunt. Another site that was very helpful to me was AgentQuery’s self-publishing series. They cover the nuts and bolts of getting up and going on Amazon. It took me a while to convert my manuscript, but it’s doable for anyone with some fortitude. And donuts. DO NOT FORGET THE DONUTS.
What did we learn from this fairy tale, friends? That we should all be like my character Little Red Rottinghood’s grandmother, who dates twenty-two-year-old surfer twins with six-pack abs. Basically, follow your dreams, and to hell with anything that gets in your way…least all the little word “no.”