My fantasy manuscript has been out on submission for six months now. That's 182.5 days, or 4,380 hours. More than two seasons have passed since my labor of love went out into the world without me, and I have had no word of its fate.
I am going to quote my agent, who, in response to a reader's question on a website, says this enlightening thing:
"As for submissions to book publishers via a literary agent, on behalf of a client, I usually say to give that a few months or so since publishers are inundated with submissions from literary agents. Even with that said, I've sold books in as little as a couple of days and in rarer instances, sight unseen! In even rarer instances, it has taken upwards of nine months, but again, that's in the rarest of instances."
So, I guess this must mean that my experience will be one of the "rarer instances".
I have been frustrated by the long wait, but I can also choose to see my work as one of the "rarest of instances" -- a work that defies easy categorization, and, as such, perhaps it is not so easily sold. I choose the latter option. It gives me hope that the seemingly impossible may actually happen.
I can imagine all sorts of reasons for the lack of a book deal thus far. My setting, though definitely "pre-Industrial", is not the typical pseudo-Medieval European-esque world of most of the Fantasy being written. And thus, it may seem a bit "odd" to those who are seeking that. The book has little violence, and virtually no sex, and so it will turn off a large segment of the Fantasy hordes who seek that kind of thing out. What is your book like then? You may well wonder.
When I began writing my story, I "met" my characters, as Le Guin might say, and found that they lived in a world rather like ours, and yet, entirely different. Eyona is a world with familiar problems -- the Undaati are a fallen people, once a mighty civilization, they are now victims of slavery, and severe political, social and environmental threats hang over their lives. The Undaati are brown, a good deal darker skinned than the northern slave-taking Sanang. Yet, the world in the novel is full of great beauty and tenderness, and I hope the wonder of their world shines through the darkness.
The culture of the Undaati, if it could be mapped onto our world, might be understood as being something like a mix of north African nomadic peoples with villagers of northern India. The Megris culture shows affinities with Tibetans, and the Sanang are most like the feudal Chinese.
I myself am a "European-American" of German, Dutch, Scots, Irish, English and who knows what else extraction. I know I run a risk of alienating some people, of seeming to be appropriating the voices or experiences of people of color. I have no intention of causing offense -- the story wanted to be told, and it chose me. Many of my strongest and most memorable characters are female, yet I am male. So, perhaps I am a bit of an anomaly. That rarest "white man" who chooses to wade in where his voice may not be wanted or needed, nor understood, or worse, even believed to be sincere. But here I am.
In my world-building I have been influenced most by the great Ursula K. Le Guin, who, being an anthropologist of the literary imagination, often mixes the familiar and believable with the invented and revisioned. Her example has nourished me as a reader for over thirty-five years, and, now, as a writer as well. I often feel that the worlds she writes are places I have known before, that I have just forgotten them and am being reacquainted with them after a time. Some of her most evocative worlds are dreamscapes, such as those in the Earthsea books (especially The Other Wind). My work shares Le Guin's penchant for dreams and dream-like metaphor.
I have been waiting for my work to find validation since I finished the manuscript sometime around 2012 or 2013, so a few more months should be no problem. I just wish my Dad could have been here to witness my success. He was such a big part of why I turned out to be the man that I am.
So, here's to the next few months and may they find me in the "rarest of instances", with a book deal in hand after all.