Origin Story - Part 5
I’d rewritten Bearskin from the ground up, and now it was time to see if all that time and effort produced results. I sent the manuscript out on query to about 30 different agents, changing my query as I went along, trying to find those magic words that would result in an acknowledgment of Bearskin’s existence. I had sent the manuscript to around 40 agents for its original run – before the rewrite - which meant we were now getting up there when it came to numbering the rejections. This was a fact I didn’t want to think about too much, but how could I not? And while with every other manuscript I’ve ever submitted I’ve found at least a smidgen of interest - the kind of interest that at least encourages you to keep trying - not one agent on my new list wanted to look at the newly created Bearskin.
This lack of “requests” was the most frustrating part for me. I had worked so hard to improve the writing and story, but no one was seeing the novel at all. They were rejecting a query letter, and an idea for a story. And they had every right to send those rejections: that’s their job! But I didn’t feel like I could give up on the manuscript myself if no one had even read it. It was invisible. It didn’t exist. I wanted someone to look the book in the eye before they declared that it was dead.
The other problem was my feelings about Bearskin. From the beginning with Bearskin I had really felt that it would find its way to publication. I had read an article about fantasy author Brandon Sanderson here that related his path to publication. He had also felt strongly about his novel Elantris, but was told it would never be published. He moved on to other projects, but was eventually called by an editor who had been sitting on the manuscript for months. In the end, Elantris was the first of his novels to find a home on the bookshelf, just as he had always believed. When I read this article, it rang true for me in regards to Bearskin. I couldn’t get past the feeling that Bearskin needed to get off my computer and into the real world. I couldn’t bring myself to give up on it.
In the writing world, there are so many paths to “authorhood.” There are those amazing individuals who throw out perfection from the beginning and rack up the awards in ever-increasing numbers, there are those who know how to read the publication scene and time their manuscripts with ease, there are those who start on the bottom and solidly build their way to the top, there are those who win with one book and never show up for another. There are stories and stories and stories. They are everywhere, begging you to see the miracles that happened along the way. I’d always wanted my story to follow a pretty basic path. Write a few practice novels. Produce a keeper. Find an agent. Get a publisher. Repeat, and repeat. But this plan wasn’t working out for me, and I had to decide I was willing to go another way.
Sarah Maas published versions of Throne of Glass online to build her work. Christopher Paolini originally self-published Eragon. I had to admit to myself it was okay to think outside of the box. That it didn’t make my writing "lesser" to find its home a different way. And this was a difficult mountain for me to pass, sometimes it still is. It’s so easy to see the accepted path as the right path. To think if you had to jump the hurdles with a different sort of jump, that it doesn’t count the same. But the reality is that that is not always the case. The publishing world is so subjective. And finding that person who loves your work and sees it for what it is can be very difficult. We have to let ourselves find the way without judging those around us for doing the same, without judging ourselves for what needs to be done.
And so I decided. I would submit to independent publishers without an agent. I would try to find my beginning in the writing world. I would insist the book be read before I finally dropped the manuscript in its grave. I would give Bearskin that much.