On the pain and anguish of the unsold book

What happens when you and your agent have done all you can and no one is biting? When is it time to shut the book away in a drawer and start over? Even contemplating this gives me the sweats and screaming willies. I have done this with many poems over the years, and with one novel. Now, in fairness, I never tried to sell anything I’ve put away. They just weren’t good enough to really go for it. That said, it was still difficult to accept with some of it. Especially the 250 pages of novel. I’m over it now, but it was six months gone. That’s a lot of months.

My situation being that my agent had begun submitting my book nine months prior (not that I was keeping track), and it remained unsold. Admittedly, there had been close calls with two different editors, but, as everyone knows, almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. I was in the same place I’d been back in September. That is, unpublished. The waiting game was starting to char my soul; if you drew a finger across it and put that finger to your tongue, it would taste bitter. Joking with my husband (“Now that I’m nursing, I’ll send them a new author photo, cleavage and all!”) was one of the few coping mechanisms I had left in me.

Now that it’s almost September (“If anyone in publishing actually worked in the summer, I would’ve sold my book by now!”), the jokes aren’t as funny. The truth is, my novel isn’t selling, and it probably won’t. There, I’ve said it. Eventually, a writer must accept rejection, accept the death of her first true darling, and move on. Can I face that sobering reality? Can I put my first book into the drawer, and shut it?

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