MWF, 42, seeks companion for long journey fraught with peril. Must have experience battling the Underlords and be willing to hold hands while crossing the River of Ink. Age, race, gender not an issue. Break on through with me.
Once you’ve written a book, a fence that extends as high as the sky and as wide as the horizon suddenly materializes in front of you. If you walk up and down the length of the fence and squint hard, you can discern a tiny little doorway off to one side and low down, so you’d have to duck to get through it. No matter, because it’s locked.
Triple locked, in fact.
Standing behind the door, jingling a ring of keys and alternately scowling ferociously and laughing unkindly is the Gatekeeper. Sometimes it’s a little balding man with a supercilious mustache, sometimes it is a willowy woman with werewolf-of-london hair. It may be a young man with a surfer style and a fresh degree, or a woman whose favorite pin-striped skirt suit is older than you are.
Another word for Gatekeeper: Agent.
Through the mesh of the fence you see the bookmakers at work. There are the happy authors at their computers, creating stunning works of heartbreaking genius. Publishers behind big desks occasionally jump up and shout “Huzzah!” whilst clutching a new manuscript sure to be a best seller. A factory churns out mountains of new books—hardcover, softcover, trade paperbacks, and odd-sized novelties. And finally the bookstores hand them over to customers delighted to pay $27.99 for the latest must-read.
Through a slot in the fence, you hand the Gatekeeper your query letter. They snatch it from your hand and, still laughing or scowling, secrete it in an invisible attaché case. The next day you come back with another query letter, the same only different, and hand it to the next Gatekeeper. Eventually, you hope, one of them will call you.
BREAKING NEWS: Rejection #1 came in this morning. And the game begins.