Mark vs Cancer

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Grey Matters


No matter the subject matter, those are poor odds.

For a novice writer like me, 2% represents the odds of signing a deal with a book agent.

That's one in fifty. For every winner, there are 49 losers who have their very souls crushed by the bitter tombstones of reality in the form of a dreaded rejection letter. Kind of like American Idol, but without the national humiliation.

But a little cautious optimism is in order:

Stephanie Meyer was rejected by nine agents before she was accepted. She has now sold over 40 million Twilight books.

J.K. Rowling was rejected by the first twelve publishers she approached. She went on to sell over 400 million Harry Potter books.

Based on those numbers, if I am rejected by twenty-five agents, I could end up selling well over 1 billion books. One can only hope.

Yes, I have written a book.

It is called Grey Matters, and there are no wizards in it. There are no vampires. It is about a doctor, a nurse and a dream. I think it is quite good. But then again, I wrote it.

I have sent it to agents. Against dismal odds, I maintain a vigilant hope that someone, somewhere will like my brain-child enough to take it home and feed it some good vittles.

And so I wait . . .

Below is my submission letter, which is a writer's only avenue to snag an agent's attention in one page or less.

Let me know if you'd like to ink a book deal.

(Six figures, or I walk.)

Dear (Agent):

Thank you for considering this request to represent Grey Matters, my completed fictional novel.

Grey Matters is a contemporary medical romance/drama set in suburban Colorado in a large community hospital. Dr. Joe Rorke is an overworked medical resident; Kaitlyn Sullivan is a vibrant obstetrical nurse. Each is struggling with ethical dilemmas in their young careers when a mysterious mutual dream brings them together. Kaitlyn believes; Joe is skeptical. But the power of the dream overwhelms them, propelling them swiftly towards marriage and pregnancy.

Then for Kaitlyn, the dreams abruptly stop. For Joe, they continue, but transform into a series of ominous nightmares that portend grave danger for Kaitlyn and their unborn child. Joe's heroic instincts clash with his worst impulses of controlling behavior. His scientific mind battles against his subverted faith as he fights to protect his family against intangible doom.

Grey Matters is an insider's take on the complex world of modern health care. It delves into the gray areas that abound in medical ethics: what are the limits of modern medicine? Can saving a life conflict with "Do No Harm"? How do we judge quality of life for those unable to speak for themselves?

But first and foremost, Grey Matters is a love story, the tale of two modern medical martyrs whose dreary lives are set ablaze by a dream that is both irresistible and foreboding. Their romance poses questions about the gray areas we all face in relationships: how do we reconcile romance with reality, passion with pragmatism? Why do we project so much of ourselves onto those we love? When does holding onto love require that we let it go?

This commercial novel contains fifty chapters and approximately eighty-five thousand words. The story is based firmly in the real world of a modern hospital, yet intertwines elements of romance, suspense, fantasy and tragedy, exploring the relentless struggles between scientific empiricism and metaphysical belief. I am a practicing physician in Colorado. I have a particular interest in biomedical ethics, having served as chairman of our hospital ethics committee, as well as having been intimately involved in countless real world ethical dramas.

Prior to medical school, I graduated with a bachelor's degree in English in 1999. I have been writing essays, poetry and short stories for some time. I was published in a collegiate creative writing annual and have written medical articles for local newspapers. After my extensive schooling, I am finally at a place where I can pursue my creative impulses and share my stories. This is my first venture into novel length fiction.

Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon.


princess jen said...

Wow! I'm interested. Don't have the six figures of course, but if you end up getting published or even if you decide to self-publish, let me know! I wish I had a contact so I could help you out.

Kristen said...

I loved the book, and I keep thinking that when the agents read it there's no way they can pass it up.

Jenny said...

Hey Mark, Jen pointed me your way and I'm way excited that you've written a book! Though I don't have publishing contacts, I write a blog that's about books and it has a pretty sizable following. When it's published, I would love to review your book and do a Q&A with you and get you some book sales. It's not much, but I'm happy to send business your way if I can.

Good luck with the publishing world! Can't wait to read your book!

Em said...

You've written a book!?!?! When did you write a book?!?!

Rockin'! When you're big, remember the little peeps.

Can't wait to read it. We're intrigued!

Matthew said...

Wow I can't believe you've done it already! Where the heck do you find the time? I'd like to read it. As long as I don't have to pay for it... there is a recession on, after all ;-)

But a word of advice, from a creative music guy who once had delusions of grandeur: just because you think it's great doesn't mean anybody else will think it's worth publishing, or even worth reading. I know you’re shopping for an agent, but I also think you should find somebody in the field to edit you and suggest revisions. I say this without having read a single word of your novel yet.

I don't mean to rain on your parade, I know you have talent, and you sound realistic about your prospects already. The creative businesses like music and literature can be brutal and crush your dreams and hopes like a sadistic teenager torturing cockroaches. It is also cutthroat and many many people are looking to fleece each other. Beware!

I guess I’m saying that the primary reason to do anything creative is because you just have to, because it brings you pleasure, because you are proud of doing it. For my part in music, I have no desire to be famous, make money or even to be successful at it. I simply want to make music that interests me.

So even if you never get representation, even if this novel undergoes 800 revisions, even if it never goes anywhere, keep writing. Write a hundred more stories. Not only will you get better at it (that’s another thing about creativity – you can ALWAYS get better), you’ll discover just how far you can take your talent. That’s my two cents.

Matthew said...

Oh and BTW you need to let us know if you get any nibbles.

Jenny said...

On the same topic as Matthew, when I chatted with author Brandon Sanderson, he said that his first book published was the 8th book he had written. So even though book #1 is done, you might want to go ahead and start on the next one.