At least you’re not a bee!
I’ve been querying literary agents for my most recent novel since this past spring. If you’re not familiar with the process, it basically goes like this: using polite salutations and a brief summary of your novel, you write to agents who represent your genre. If you’re very very lucky, your query letter is exceedingly well-written, and the agent in question is caffeinated enough to think she can take on another project, she’ll write back asking to see more, which may lead you down the path to representation. Most of the time, though, the agents you query will send back letters that say “Dear author: We are not interested,” and you’ll spend the night whimpering into a pint of Snickers ice cream like a teenager who just got dumped before prom. Then you query another agent or five.
This process, frankly, sucks. When the rejections are piling up, it’s hard to remember that the agents you query really don’t intend “We are not interested” to come off as “We hope your manuscript burns up in an especially vicious office fire.” Over the weeks and months of the querying process (and it can be a very long process), the positive feedback of your beta readers seems to evaporate, your hopes of being published sink, and all you can see is a field of rejection letters stretching out before you.
I’m currently up to ten rejections on my most recent novel. The post-apocalyptic rejection visions started at around six. So I try to keep my spirits up in other ways. This is where the bees factor in.
One of my favorite ways of making myself feel better when I get rejected is to load up Super Mario Galaxy and travel to the Honeyhive Galaxy, where I can make Mario turn into a bee. I don’t know why playing Bee-Mario is therapeutic for me, but it is. Something about making that fat little intergalactic plumber bumble around the hive planet fuzzy and buzzing makes my heart soar with glee. (Go ahead and judge me. I don’t care – I’ll just go be a bee!)
Recently, I came home to a rejection email in my inbox, so I leaped right into cheer-up mode. “Come on,” I said to my roommate, Kiah. “Let’s go to the corner store. I need to get some ice cream so I can eat ice cream and be a bee in Super Mario Galaxy.”
Kiah grabbed her coat, and we headed out. On the way to the store, we talked about my cheer-up plan and why being a bee in Super Mario Galaxy works for me.
“Bees don’t get rejected by literary agents,” I said.
“Unless they try to write a novel!” she countered.
I told her to stop crushing my dreams of being a rejection-impervious bee.
“Have you read a novel by a bee?” she said. “You wanna hear what a bee novel sounds like?” And then she leaned over near my ear and went, ‘BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!’”
“Okay,” I conceded, because yeah, that’s pretty much exactly what a bee novel would sound like, “but a bee still couldn’t get rejected by an agent, because it couldn’t query them!”
“Sure they could! You wanna hear what a bee query letter sounds like?”
(This is why we’re roommates. It has nothing to do with our common interests or compatible lifestyles – it’s all about bee literature.)
Over the course of the ice cream run, we had a serious discussion about what exactly a bee query letter would sound like. After we got home – and after fifteen minutes of being Bee-Mario on the Wii – I drafted a facsimile of a bee’s query letter.
As you can see, if a bee were to write a query letter, it would not be likely to land an agent. Bees don’t do research well. While they’re gifted in hive-building abilities, they lack some basic knowledge of genre and standard word counts. They don’t appear to keep up with industry news, either, because Nathan Bransford announced his departure from agenting yesterday. Also, bees spill honey on everything.
During our talk, Kiah dropped a line of truth on me that I’ll not soon forget:
“You’re not a bee – that’s why you can write a novel!”
She’s right. I have this written on a note card and affixed to the bulletin board in my studio. I’m not a bee. I can write a novel, and it won’t just be buzzing. I can probably get a novel published eventually, too. I’d like to see a bee do that!
To any other writers currently in the querying process: I feel you. It sucks. Just remember, when you start to feel like no agent will ever want to represent your novel: at least you’re not a bee.