08/05/2013 10:57 am ET | Updated Oct 05, 2013

My Writing Journey Toward Publishing Continues, Part 4

Recently, I picked up a journal I had begun keeping when I committed to this writing thing and came across this entry from years ago: I had a twinge of uneasiness tonight in regards to Place of Angels. What if I can't sell this one, either? Then what? Go for my third failure?

Well, while working on my second novel, one that I wasn't nearly as passionate about as I was my first, I continued to rub elbows with those who were on the inside of the publishing world. I worked with successful authors, editors and publicists and our paths would cross at events, book festivals and parties. However, the need to be professional meant that I shouldn't discuss my own ambitions and I avoided doing so for quite some time until I was having lunch with an editor from a small publishing house. Once we finished discussing the business at hand, he asked me about my life. Eventually, I mentioned my novel, Place of Angels. It may seem strange that I didn't mention Of Little Faith, especially since I was so passionate about it. However, when I look back, I believed that Place of Angels would be easier to promote for a number of reasons. Besides, I was also concerned that there would be family and friends who would be devastated about the revelations in Of Little Faith. I wasn't sure I was ready to open myself up to what inspired me to write such a critique of Bible thumpers.

So, turning beat red, I instead told this publisher about my second novel. Even though he published mostly nonfiction, he asked to see it. I obliged with trepidation, worried that he'd tell me to give up my ambition of being a writer. Yet, that was not the case. He called to tell me that he loved it, but that it would need a bigger publisher than his and asked if he could send it over to an agent he thought might be right for it. My heart stopped. Of course he could send it over to an agent, and it wasn't much later that I was sitting in this agent's office who wanted to represent me. She wondered, however, if perhaps I could come up with a different title since at that time there were so many books being published with the word "angel" in them. As it happens, the reason I selected that title was that it was the Indian name for the town in which I grew up: Churubusco, and where the fictional account took place. Still, I wasn't opposed to changing the title and soon Without Grace was born and my agent, with an impressive track record at a high profile agency, was going to start pitching it to publishers. It seemed working in the business of books was indeed the leverage I needed! I was on my way and figured it would only be a matter of time when I would get that book deal.

Oh, how wrong I was.

I was respectful of this agent's time, but after two months of not getting a report from her, I emailed for an update. She apologized, but said she'd been out of the office with a bad back. Then a few months later, after another query, she again apologized, but said she had been dealing with pneumonia. I understood from the beginning that I wouldn't be a top priority for her, but it appeared that she hadn't been pitching to any publishers. At this point, another agent through a contact in the business said she'd be happy to look at the novel for consideration. Since I had no signed contract with the first, I figured why not. Besides, this second agent was also with a high-profile agency. Well, to my delight she wanted to represent me, but first needed to know where the first agent sent the manuscript. I believed she hadn't sent it anywhere since I never got updates, but I sent an email to the first agent telling her I felt it was time for me to move on since I had a second agent willing to represent me, but needed to know where the manuscript was sent. That's when I got a list a mile long of where it was ostensibly sent. When I asked the agent why she never informed me of these rejections, her explanation was that she only wanted to come to me when the news was good. As it happens, after seeing the list, the second agent said she would not be able to risk sending it out because it would damage her reputation if the publishers had already considered it, even though there was no concrete proof that they had. In other words, there was little chance for Without Grace getting published. Still, the second agent asked if I had any other books written. That's when I decided to share Of Little Faith with her. However, after reading it, she sent me a brusque response about how she wasn't interested in representing me for that novel. Her email was close to being nasty. Something about the story insulted her, which meant my gut feeling about trying to get Without Grace published first had been right.

So, with two complete novels, I was back to being without an agent. I couldn't have been more discouraged.

Fortunately, the story doesn't end there. To be continued...