As I get Sacred Fire ready to send to agents, I've thought a lot about the first time I went through this process almost two years ago. The difference between then and now is like night and day.
The first time I queried Sacred Fire, I was about as green and inexperienced as a person could be. I didn't have anyone else read it because I liked it the way it was. Besides, I'm smart enough to know when a book is bad, so if there was something wrong with it, wouldn't I know? (I'm chuckling as I write this.)
Within a month, I sent my book to 120 agents. My reasoning was that if I sent it to everyone all at once, people who liked me would accept me all at once, and then I'd be able to chose between all my options.
It didn't occur to me that 120 agents would reject me all at once.
I've gone through three drastic rewrites since then, I think I've done about 20 or 30 drafts of my cursed query letter, and I've had so many beta readers, I don't even remember how many there were... was it seven? Or eight?
(Sometimes I'm proud of my tenacity, and other times I'm embarrassed that it's taking so long.)
This time, I've done my homework and I honestly believe the book and the query are as good as they can be.
It suddenly occurred to me what that entails: if my book is as good as it can be, I send it to a bunch of agents, and it still doesn't get accepted, that means it's time to quit.
Two years ago, I believed in second chances. This time, it's now or never.
Familiarizing myself with the market has also changed my attitude. Before I could shrug off rejections, but now I know enough about particular agents to get attached to them. That makes every rejection hurt.
I'm at a scary moment in my career. But all in all, I suppose the fear is good. It inspires me to work harder. If someone recommends a change in my book that's too much work, I can't shrug it off and say the book is good enough because "good enough" is too risky. It would be devastating if I had to move on to my next book knowing there was something else I could have done.
UPDATE: I just want to clarify because some people seemed to be confused; I'm not going to give up on writing altogether. I would just move on to my second book. If that doesn't make it, I'll write a third.
Most people have to give up on their first book. I still have that list of 120 agents and I'm only sending my query to five people at a time, so I still have a lot of work ahead of me before shelving Sacred Fire.