Death of an agent (Floating the duck, part I)

Floating duck

(Photo borrowed from “Duck of the Day“)

The submission process for Duck Boy began 16 years ago. I began to submit the story to publishers every spring. Spring seemed to be the season when some publishers take new material. I didn’t do very well. I got the photocopied responses. So I made my wife read the story. She’s actually a great critic, and she gave me a few pointers to consider, which I did. I also forced a few of my friends to read it. They gave me some tips. And I rewrote the story.

I sent the story out and got rejected again, standard photocopied-form rejection notes. These are the toughest rejections to take, I think. There’s nothing to learn from them. They basically say “You suck. Please go away.”

The next spring, when I sent it out, I got a photocopied rejection again. This time I had an editor’s note on the bottom that said something like “Best of luck publishing elsewhere.” This actual handwriting served as a huge encouragement to me, for some weird reason. Someone had cared enough to wish me well.

I then got the address of an agent and sent her the manuscript, thinking I had just hit easy street. And man she was a tough old bird: drank, smoked, and cussed like a sailor. She liked the story, though she hacked it to bits and made me rewrite it to her specifications, which I did. She had another round of changes for me, which I made. And then she died. True story. She smoked most of her life, which lead to a horrible round of cancer, which killed her near the end of 2003. End of my publishing plan, phase one. Time for plan B.

About Bill Bunn

Bill’s excited because his second YA novel, Kill Shot, is now available everywhere! Bill Bunn is the author of three books (soon to be four), several essays and articles. He published his first young adult novel, Duck Boy, in October 2012 ( His second book is a collection of grown-up essays and articles titled Hymns of Home, released April 1, 2013 ( In 2003, Moon Canoe, a children’s picture book was published. This book was bought and translated into French by Le Canotier, and released as Canoë Lune (2005). He is currently writing two pages a day to generate the rough draft of his next novel. Bill Bunn lives near Millarville, Alberta, Canada. He and his wife, Linda, take care of three teenagers, two dogs, two cats, and two hives of bees. Bill teaches English at Mount Royal University.
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