I’m Not a Unicorn

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Ottawa, December 2017

I’m about to send my last two queries of the year. It sounds very final and dramatic, but after all, 2018 is right around the corner.

I guess I’m not a unicorn—you know, this person, who claims, a coy smile on her lips, that they just answered when opportunity came knocking. “Oh, I was sitting in this independent, neighbourhood coffee shop, working on my novel, when a publisher glanced at my screen and made me an offer, ah ah!”

Fine. My fault. That would never happen to me. I don’t write in coffee shops—I drink coffee in coffee shops.

I don’t have much to report eight months after emailing my first query letter. No follow-up, rejection or news. I did receive two automatic “thanks, got it, now move on and DO NOT BOTHER US” replies. Every time I check my spam folder, just in case, I see the usual Viagra and Cialis offers—this doesn’t do wonders for my mental health (and it’s clearly not what I need, marketing fail).

I shouldn’t be surprised. I know a thing or two about artistic endeavours. My father is a full-time artist, my mom studied tapestry weaving (?!) at the École des Beaux-Arts—in case you were wondering, yes, that’s where they met—, my sister is trying to break into acting in Paris and my brother is currently torn between completing his science PhD and going for a career in visual arts like my dad, knowing full well he doesn’t want the same kind of life my parents have (i.e. the broke kind). To me, they are all talented and successful. To the world, they are either hobbyists who really should get a proper job or strange cigarette smoking individuals, tortured by inner demons and possibly high on drugs. They are occasionally in the spotlight during an exhibition or when they get a bigger gig but they aren’t museums famous or Hollywood famous.

So yeah, I know that despite hard work, chances of socially acceptable success are slim.

You’d be surprised how normal artists and performers are. You’d be surprised to see their art is a job, a true full-time job.

I also know that few people wake up one morning and decide to “become an artist” for money or fame. Artists don’t create because they want to but because they have to. Expressing something through art gives them a sense of fulfilment and happiness, much like having power, autonomy, and status appeals to executives.

I knew all this. I’m not feeling discouraged, I’m not disappointed—I just feel stuck. I was ready for rejection. If you get rejected, you can improve or decide to give up. But what can you do when you’re being ignored? Is the query letter boring? Are the first few pages of the manuscript awful? Am I reaching out to the right people? Are unsolicited queries even read at all? I feel like a fool. Is everyone going through a Chinese “hòumén” (“back door”) and making deals behind the scenes while I’m naively following submission guidelines? Is the “submission page” a decoy to get rid of idiots like me?

Some days, I feel like a door-to-door sales representative from a shady business pitching a product over and over again. Gosh. I am cold calling. How did I even think this could work? I can’t sell shit and I’m not competitive by nature!

Right, because I’m also this possibly unrealistic person who, five years ago, also thought starting a freelance business while taking care of a baby was going to be totally doable. Okay, maybe I’m a bit over optimistic sometimes. Thanks life for bringing me back to reality.

Yet, I’m still querying—yes, it’s a verb because it’s a full-time activity. What else can I do? Give up? It’s tempting but at this stage, I have nothing to lose and everything to gain. I already completed the work, after all. This isn’t a proposal with a possible outline. The manuscript, the characters and the story exist.

I can’t help thinking that if I keep on trying, maybe I’ll get lucky, maybe I’ll eventually reach the right person.

I’ll keep on querying until I run out of names. There is no plan B.


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. #FirstWorldProblems…..

    Ok, here’s an idea: What if you stop crying like a baby? I admire your husband for dealing with such annoying person like yourself.

    JK Rowling was literally broke, almost homeless and into welfare. And she didn’t write long and boring posts crying about getting a publisher. Grow up, kid. You are just crying like a baby. So inmature…..nobody gives a fuck about you or your story. We get it. Now stop writing these boring posts because nobody gives a fuck about them either!

    • Hello Bell Canada user with IP,

      Your comment may have had more traction if you would have given a name or email address. So maybe I’m whiny but I’m not a coward like you.

      I never understood why some people feel the need to be so nasty. I mean, it’s not like I forced you to read this post, did I?

      My husband is doing good, thanks for asking. Occasionally, I do annoy him but our arguments usually revolve around Mark and doing the dishes. Thank you as well for comparing me to JK Rowling. I’m no a Harry Potter fan but she is a great writer.

      By the way, it’s funny… you sound like Laura: http://correresmidestino.com/now-page-internet-drama/

      I don’t know if we ever met online or in real life, but I hope you can actually be a decent person to those you like.

      Peace and love!

  2. Wow I’m surprised by that first comment, you don’t usually attract trolls 😉
    And I understand your frustration, it’s hard being stuck in limbo waiting to possibly get an answer some day… Let’s hope you do in 2018!!! And no wonder so many artists are tortured souls 😛
    A lady from my book club’s cousin got her book picked by Penguin (!!!!) after attending a writing fair / salon thing in Toronto. So maybe that’s be the way to go? I know a couple of local authors here also got published by reaching out to smaller, relatively local, publishing houses and / or writing pieces for local magazines.
    Et c’est marrant parce que ma mere disait toujours qu’on venait d’une famille tres cartesienne. Et malgre ses problemes psychiatrique, sa conception du monde bien a elle etait super bien construite et tout etait d’une logique a tout epreuve! Auand a mon pere qui est architecte, si il est bon en dessin et a fait il me semble les beaux arts au debut de ses etudes, sa periode “artistique” n’a pas duree longtemps haha

    • I think I “know” this troll, unfortunately. She dumps a nasty comment every six months or so.

      Moving on… Thank you for your interesting feedback! I’m not that frustrated. I mean, life goes on, there is work and all so it’s not that I’m constantly thinking about it. I just enjoy documenting the process I guess, I find it interesting to share how it works. Frankly, I had no idea what I was getting into so I’m learning little by little.

  3. Hello here!

    I laughed… sorry… because of JKR… when A tries to tell me I can do ANYTHING I usually say something like «yeah, and when we are broke because of me trying I just have to spend my last five dollars writting in a coffee shop like JK»…
    I just hope that you will at least got one answer to answer the many questions that must go through your head… although… I really don’t know how it works here in Canada, but I understand here in Quebec they ask writter to have a reference of some sort???? And some writters have to PAY to be published??? Like some well known authors… well if find it weird…

    I wanted to say a word about the first comment. It reminded me of one «friend» a long time ago… I was telling him about my life (violence, rape, suicide were the key words) and he got angry at me because he said that he had met a WONDERFUL woman that went through the EXACT SAME THINGS and overcame it all gracefully so I should try to be more like her and be thankful and everything… That’s what crappy people do: want to make you feel like crap. I am so glad to see you were able to take the high road.

    • Oh, it’s absolutely fine to laugh! 🙂

      I’m mostly “documenting” the process because I’m learning about it along the way. I’m not really complaining or looking for a “quick fix”… just sharing. Kind of brainstorming as I write this series, I guess.

      I’m sorry to hear a “friend” reacted like this. Did you see it coming? I mean, it’s one thing to advise a good friend (which sometimes include saying things the person doesn’t want to hear) but this is just being nasty. I never understand when people feel the need to say “well, some people have it worst than you” or “come on, (whatever issue) is stupid!” Who are you to judge, really? Yeah, some people suck. Some people are nasty. I kind of feel sorry for them. Must be tough to be mean on purpose.

  4. Bonjour, je commente rarement mais là j’ai trouvé le premier commentaire dégoûtant. Si je comprends bien, cette personne doit avoir des problèmes d’ordre psychiatrique. Tu dois avoir raison, elle a écrit “firstworldproblem”. She needs to get a life.
    Moi je lis ton blog parce que justement j’adore la façon dont tu écris. J’espère que tu seras publiée un jour. Bonne continuation.

    • Merci Vad! J’apprécie les gentils mots 🙂 Puis tous les commentaires en général, même ceux qui ne vont pas dans mon sens… tant qu’ils sont constructifs. Bon, là c’était juste de la connerie gratuite.

  5. Glad you are persevering! I hope I will be able to buy a copy down the road. 🙂

    I find it so interesting that your family became freelancers and entrepreneurs– do you think you became inclined to follow that path because you saw from your parents that it was possible? I’d be interested to know at some point how your mom pursued tapestry weaving… Did she have clients, try to sell to stores…

    I admire entrepreneurs. I have to say that so far I like working for a company and having benefits taken care of and leaving the office at the end of the day, physically and mentally.

    • My mum didn’t pursue tapestry weaving. She studied sociology, then she worked with my dad for years while raising the three of us. She taught too (not arts, but French and math) and she did a Phd later in life on arts. She likes to point out that one artist is enough for one household 😆

      I guess my parents influenced me in the way that I never saw them doing the corporate game or dressing up for work. I’ve always seen them working hard but not in a traditional office environment.

  6. I have to say I did not even go further than the second line of the first comment. I hate trolls.

    I think Helen’s idea is a good one : aller dans des salons, des événements autour de livres pour te faire connaître. Tu pourrais aussi t’adresser peut être à des éditeurs côté américain?

    • Hélène a effectivement de bonnes idées! J’avoue que je ne vois pas encore comment je pourrais faire ça, concrètement (Ottawa n’est pas trop une ville du livre…), mais je vais creuser.

      Concernant le second point, c’est l’une de mes interrogations en ce moment : est-ce qu’une canadienne peut s’aventurer sur le marché américain, légalement? Je sais que pas mal de maisons d’édition canadiennes stipulent qu’il faut résider au Canada (comme pour un job, quoi). Je creuse aussi ça…

  7. Just catching up on my reading now – hope the querying is going well. Two things: are you trying agents as well as direct publishers? Sometimes one or the other will pop. Secondly, if you ever decide to go self-pub instead, let me know – it’s what I did with my book and I’ve been happy with it.

    • Thank you for you wise advise! Yes, I’m trying both, without much luck so far. But hey… who said it was going to be easy? 😉

      I’m not exploring the self-publishing option now for a few reasons but who knows… I may change my mind. What made you choose this option?

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