on Jane Friedman site:
In 2012 I published a Modern Love essay in The New York Times. The essay led to landing a literary agent for a memoir. For two years, I wrestled with the proposal, which never quite satisfied her standards. I developed a second proposal, which also failed to meet her approval. A third, same failure. There were some bizarre email exchanges and eventually, I ended the working relationship.
I failed. I’d had my chance. I had an agent, but couldn’t produce a book worthy of being published, or even shopped around. I thought this was the most discouraging thing that could happen in my writing career.
A year later, I summoned my courage and sent another round of agent queries for that third book proposal, narrative nonfiction based in Africa. I signed with a new agent! After a cursory round of edits, she sent out the proposal. An editor at a big five publisher was interested. We had an encouraging call but she came back a devastating “no.”
I was told readers didn’t care about Africa. I was told my proposal sounded more like a magazine piece than a book. I was told this wasn’t the time for global stories or biographies.