Last week I got two rejections on Amara’s Prayer. This manuscript has been a major disappointment. It’s been just about five years since I defended the manuscript as my thesis project at the University of Oklahoma. I don’t recall how many drafts it went through prior to that point. Two writing professors and another with who specialized in anthropology and mythology made up my thesis committee. They put the book through the wringer, making sure the research was right, the leaps from fact to fiction were plausible, the writing was good, etc.
Then two agents tied it up, one after the other, for a long time with minimal results. Another, upon recommendation from one of his clients, agreed to submit it to a certain editor at a major house when one of her authors told me it would probably work for her. Said editor never responded. At all. Even to follow-up messages from this very reputable agent. That was about three years
Since then I have tried numerous agents, all with rejections or dead silence, and various publishers, large and small, that take unagented queries and submissions. The two most recent, and the one that came a few weeks ago, were all from small publishers. The problem in all three of these cases? Here’s a line from one of the rejection letters: You’re certainly a capable writer, but the religious overtones of your material aren’t quite right for us. Hmm. Here’s another: Despite your very well-written professional query, and an interesting plot.. words like angels, Christian duty, redemption, etc. are putting me off… See the trend?
I’m not gonna go Jerry Falwell on you and claim there’s an anti-Christian, liberal publishing establishment thing going on here. Now, I might point out that The Exorcist, The DaVinci Code, Rosemary’s Baby and countless other published books also have "religious overtones" and words like "redemption" in them and they didn’t do so poorly for their publishers.
I’ve considered the Christian/inspirational market, but … unrepentant adultery is a key element of the book. I understand there’s a new trend of "Christian erotica" publishing, and adultery is acceptable, but the adulterer has to feel remorse. So … here I am, sitting on what I still feel is probably the best book I’ve written, unable to sell it because traditional publishers don’t want the religion and religious publishers don’t want to acknowledge that sometimes married people look elsewhere for sex when one partner doesn’t want it. Oh, and then there’s my tampering with the whole creation story, the origin of angels and other deities, etc.
In other writing news, I’ve finished reading/editing the not-so-super-secret project I wrote with a certain popular young adult author. I don’t really feel like I held up my end of the editing process. I fixed one of the major issues her agent had, and at least made some improvements on others. The manuscript is only 1,000 words shorter now. I’d cut a little here, then add a little somewhere else. But then, length wasn’t one of the specific issues he mentioned.
My summer school readers of The Girls Nobody Wanted to Date has fallen off. The boys who were reading it have stopped, and I’m back to babysitting them after making sure they at least do the written assignment of the day (I swear they can’t carry on a conversation without every other word being either nigga or cuz!). Two of the girls are still reading it and one is enjoying it, anyway. The other doesn’t talk much. Our incoming book club president read the manuscript and says she loved it. My biggest fear was that the plot would become predictable, but she assures me she never guessed what was coming next. Maybe that’s a good sign. I don’t know.
And finally, I’ve begun working a second job. I’m an ESL (English as a Second Language) tester for Oklahoma City Community College. The next three weeks, as I wrap up summer school then attend an Advanced Placement workshop, are going to be pretty busy. The testing is easy and the money’s good. Testing will slack off when real school starts again in the fall, but it’ll be a steady part-time income.