Because my novel is with several agents right now, I'm experiencing for the first time the ups and downs of the long, long wait from the time of submission until the time of response.
I've spent a long time learning how to write, and I can claim proficiency in my craft without a blush. I'm a novice, however, at the business of writing. I had no idea when I submitted these proposals and manuscripts that it usually takes a minimum of three months for an agent to respond, even after she has requested an author's manuscript.
I am learning to put these submissions out of my mind as much as possible, and get on with my next project. Despite my best efforts to be reasonable, I find myself occasionally feeling down about the long silence from agent-land. Silence makes me question myself, and though I value constructive self-criticism, it's pointless in this case.
Thus far, four people have read my manuscript: my two critique partners, my husband, and a friend of mine who is a regular reader of inspirational historicals. My critique partners and my husband received the novel piecemeal as I wrote it. Only my reader-friend Rachel has read it as its future reader will experience it, moving from cover to cover in a number of days rather than over twelve months.
Lately, I have loaned Rachel a number of new inspirational historicals by several well-known authors. Rachel provides me with a brief commentary on each novel she reads; her opinions are very helpful to me as I try to get a feel for how the work of my peers appeals to the public. She's a good critic, because she has high but not impossible standards for the quality of novels.
Last night, she said something that was very, very encouraging to me. She may not even realize how encouraging it was, though I suppose she will when she reads this blog post!
As we entered a dim restaurant and looked around for our other friends, we were talking about dogs. She changed the subject.
"You know," she said. "Since I've been reading those other novels, I've realized that your novel is different. It fills a different niche."
HOORAY! I have never told her anything like that about my novel, so she arrived at that conclusion on her own. Rachel could explain what she means by different, and I could explain what she means by it, but it doesn't really matter. We both know what she means. When the novel is published, other readers of inspirational historicals will find out what she means. I hope that the "different niche" that was evident to her will be as clear to the agents and editors who will be reading it over the coming months.