Yeah, this next part is still hard to write. And again: Dream Agent did nothing wrong. Hurting my feels is not a crime. In my opinion they said exactly what I needed to hear, and I am glad I heard it.
That doesn't make it any less painful, but again, pain does not =bad. Or that the other person is wrong. This isn't intended to be a judgement call on anything, or anyone. It's just my story.
The other half of what I'd won was a thirty-minute phone call with Dream Agent. I realized very quickly that I'd have to schedule it for a day when I was not working, because there was no way in fuck I could function at work after having had that conversation. I didn't give a damn about the conversation itself. Nothing Dream Agent or I said to each other could fix this. It just meant revisiting the colossal failure this so-called "miracle" had turned into. I didn't understand it. How could God have let things get so far, get so close, and then have it fail? Why couldn't he have just let me lose the auction again? It had sucked last year but it hadn't broken me. THIS, however, had snapped me in two.
Of course, the phone call fell through twice, and wound up being on a day when, yes indeed, I was going to have to go to work that night. I could not explain this to Dream Agent because "I am emotionally devastated and don't think I can talk to you, work a few hours later and not get fired" isn't exactly the most professional thing to say. So I wound up having it on a day when I'd be handling other people's food and alcohol.
I did not get fired, but I also don't remember a goddamn thing I did that night. Or a whole lot about that phone call. I do remember almost getting fired two days later when I started sobbing in front of my boss while doing my paperwork and she thought it was because of something she had said (Well, she triggered it, but a kitten with a sad would have gotten me going by that point)
The phone call. I remember sitting there watching my phone and repeating to myself, you must not cry. You must not get emotional. YOU MUST NOT CRY GODDAMN IT. I remember staring at the clock across the room and watching the minute hand tick through my allotted thirty minutes. The one thing I DO remember is that they asked me at one point if I had any questions about what they'd told me, and other than one minor plot related point that I'd been told would murder the manuscript (actually, it was alright) I didn't, because, and I quote "You told me what I needed to hear."
It was ten minutes into the phone call. I don't remember one goddamn thing for the next twenty until we hung up the phones, except that I was absolutely positive if I took ten seconds to think up an actual, good question, I'd start sobbing again and that wouldn't be okay. And then the call was over, and I spent the next two hours curled up on our sofa just bawling because I knew it was over.
I couldn't do it again. Not when I knew now, positively, from a professional POV that my writing had no value whatsoever. This could no longer be avoided. The best of the very best had judged me and found me hideously wanting. They had been very polite about it. There was still no escaping it.
So. Was I ready to give up writing?
The answer was a resounding "Not just no, but HELL no," though it felt a little like it was being screamed by Easy Company during the Battle of the Bulge. I couldn't stop writing. But I couldn't justify writing if nobody was going to read it.
Okay, let's try on trade publishers. Let's go directly to the source. I started gathering information on them. Daw. Tor. Baen. Anyplace and everyplace that would accept fantasy submissions without an agent. I started looking at those submission guidelines. I started retailoring my work to meet their standards.
Then, out of curiosity, I started checking their real response times. Not what's posted on their websites, which was a survivable six months to a year. What authors were really having to wait for.
And it turns out to be one to two years.
And that is when the bottom fell out. Not during the rejection cycle. Not when The Dream Agent told me the best thing I could do was give up. Nope.
It was when I realized that not only had I gone through two years of utter hell, if I wanted to have a shot with a different project I'd have to go through the entire thing all over again.
It would take six to ten years for the manuscript to work its way through the publishers. It was effectively DOA. It would take another two years for me to have anything else to send in. For the same damned thing. The same cycle of rejection, tears, and suicidal misery. The same wondering if it's good enough this time. No? How about now? No? How about...now?
I couldn't do it. I could do rejection. I could do another April. What I could NOT do, however, was another ten years of it. Yes, there is always a chance of acceptance, but chance was all it was.
The math was simple. Attempting trade publishing had made me intensely suicidal. With that aspect factored into the equation, that probable ten years worth of work went from my having an ambition to my staring down the barrel of a gun.
There's a saying you hear a lot in chemical abuse recovery: The definition of insanity is repeating the same behavior over and over, expecting a different result.
I'd spent two years being absolutely fucking insane.
It was time to come up with a new plan, one that didn't involve repetition.
I signed up for Kindle Direct Publishing not two weeks after the phone call with The Agent.