It never feels good to be rejected.
I just received a rejection letter in the mail from an agent I had queried about taking on my fantasy novel. Because of the explicit presence of God in my book, and my own religious convictions, I was submitting my manuscript to agents who dealt in Christian fantasy. It turns out, there aren’t that many. Since the majority of readers of Christian fiction are women, and middle-age women at that, the best sellers tend to be romances. Amish romances, to be specific. Or historical romances. With Amish characters. (Just kidding. Kind of). There is just not a large readership for Christian fantasy, excepting the classics: Lewis and Tolkien. A writer at a Christian writers conference I attended jokingly suggested that if we wanted to write fantasy or science fiction, we should consider including an Amish character.
An Amish vampire returns to Pennsylvania to unlock a dark secret…
Amish aliens land on earth, warning of an impending war…
A young woman accidentally picks up an enchanted book, transporting her to Amishlandia…
I have nothing against books with Amish characters, or the writers who write them. I am glad there is such a healthy market for Christian writers. However, I don’t write Amish fiction, and I don’t foresee myself doing so in the near (or distant) future. So, as there are so few agents or editors who handle Christian fantasy, there are not many options for a writer such as myself. **A disclaimer** My manuscript is currently being considered by an editor in the Christian market, so my options in this avenue have not closed. It is with the agents that I have had so little luck.
I have now exhausted my list of agents who will represent Christian fantasy. I have been rejected by every one of them. It wasn’t a big list, but as each deadline to hear back approached, and then was surpassed without interest in my novel, my hopes slowly, slowly sunk, until today when the last agent responded with a rejection.
So, here I am, a little heart-broken, a little frustrated, a little confused about what to do. I love my novels. I love the process of creating and writing. I love my characters (I cried when I killed one of them off) and the stories they inhabit. And I want others to read them and love them too. I believe the inspiration for these books comes from God, as does the call on my life to write. Without representation, it will be that much harder for me to negotiate and advocate for my books, though I dare say it can be done. So, at this point, I have a few options:
1) I can continue without an agent. Many editors and publishers will not consider unsolicited manuscripts; they get manuscripts through agents. This would limit my access to the market.
2) I can abandon the Christian market. I can edit my manuscript to make it more acceptable to a general (ie: non-Christian) audience and query general market agents for representation.
This latter option makes me a little sad, though the potential to reach a wider audience is there. What this essentially means is that I would go through my manuscript and eliminate the mention of God. I would erase His name from my book. Can I do that? The Christian morality that is the foundation of my novel would still be there; my characters would face the same dilemmas and have the same choices to make. But instead of actually writing ‘God’ in my novel, I would skirt around Him. I would find ways to hint at Him without naming Him.
Reaching the general market would make my books available to readers who might not otherwise read Christian fiction. It would expose them to Christian morals and values without putting that label on them. And this is what I want, what I hope for. Maybe this is what the Lord has wanted all along. But it seems like a betrayal of some sort, not to write the name of the One who gave me the stories in the first place.
I don’t have to decide right now. But as each of my options is eliminated, one by one, I will have to consider alternatives. It will require some serious wrestling. As in Jacob-style wrestling.