Things I’ve Learned

After listening for hours to acquaintances and friends gripe about the evils of agents I was almost convinced they were right.  But then my logical analytical side took over and I began to examine the truth in what they were saying.  The first thing I discovered is that like us, agents are people too.  They have needs like food, career, and futures to protect or to provide for.  That having been established firmly in my mind I began to consider things further.

We are writer’s, we (or at least some of us, they shall remain nameless) think that the only reason to write is to enlighten others, to make the world a better place, and to see their words in print, blah, blah, blah.  The pie in the sky I’m here to serve my fellow man speech.  But here is the bottom line.  If you’re submitting your manuscript to a reputable agent (I’m assuming you researched), you are (no matter your protests to the contrary) looking to make money from your effort.  If all you wanted is to have it printed or to save the world with your soul searching prose you could publish it any number of places for free on the web or resort to the dime a dozen rip off artists that would print it for you for some exorbitant fee (picture an arm, leg, and first born here people).  But you didn’t you are sending it to a trust worthy (No cost to you) agency, that doesn’t get paid till you do.  Here is the clincher folks, you probably researched them and chose their agency based on a client list you recognize and are familiar with, based your decision on their ability to sell manuscripts to publishers, this means you want money for your effort (evil as it is, it’s true).

Here is the big reveal, agents need money too, they won’t represent just any Joe Shmoe off the street that comes in and guarantees his scribblings will make them a million.  They want to read your stuff.  But only if it’s appealing to them, well written, professionally presented, and marketable in their area of expertise.  Given your work matches all those criteria they may ask for a manuscript.  If your writing is full of typos, misspellings (refer to my myspace blog), and other annoying marks of non-professionalism they will reject it.  They can’t live on your hopes and dreams alone, or theirs either for that matter.  They only get paid if your book is purchased for publication by a publisher they present it too.

While fiber is a necessary part of anyone’s diet your manuscript is not edible even with ketchup.  You need to be considerate of their time.  Don’t send it if they specifically request submissions of only children’s fiction and you have an adult R rated thriller.  Don’t think that being cutesy is the way to grab their eye.  They want someone who is succinct and professional with a well thought out synopsis and a writing style in their query that represents the individual and what they have written.

That having been said they are not some evil, devil with a pitch fork, who sits with a finger poised over the delete button waiting for the moment your unfortunate email should arrive on their screen.  They don’t have a trash can in their offices marked “Author’s dreams go here!” and they certainly don’t mean anything personal if your manuscript isn’t what they’re looking for.  Know your work.  Know its market, its message, its themes, and subject.  Chances are if you can’t find those things neither will your agent.    Be certain of your goals and outline them.  Don’t beef up your resume to appear more than you are, they check, trust me.

And while this is all sound advice you may have noted I don’t yet have an agent.  The point here being; it takes perseverance and finding just the right person to fit with what you want from your career and someone who understands your particular voice.  Take it easy there are thousands of us out here.  The encouraging news is even some of the greats were turned down over and over.  Keep your chin up, your dreams alive, and remember keep writing.

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Published in: on February 13, 2008 at 4:15 pm  Comments (1)  
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