Offline Sir Nessun Dorma

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« on: August 12, 2019, 04:18:22 PM »
I have been trying to break into the literary world for a little more than a year now, so far without success.  During that time I have had occasion to formulate a few thoughts concerning the major monkey wrench in that process—the literary agent.

Before submitting a query I very carefully check out their credentials on their website—when I can find them.  Quite a few simply hang out a shingle declaring themselves open for business.  But, to their credit, a great many are educated in their craft, with degrees in English Lit, journalism, and related subjects.  And, this is key: a fair percentage have had books of their own published—but not all!  A certain percentage have never participated in the process of creating a work of literary art, never sweated blood and tears trying to get the dialog exactly right, never had an original idea for a novel.  And those same individuals hold themselves out as critics of your work, deciding what fits the publishing world and what doesn’t.   It absolutely slays me that people who have never painted a canvas in their life regard themselves as art critics, or those who have never been behind a camera take on the burden of criticizing films.  Let me decide what movies I want to watch, which works of art inspire me.  In the same wise, let the public decide what they want to read, not someone who rewards your best efforts with a flippant “This doesn’t meet my needs,” or “This is a pass,” or, worst of all, doesn’t have the time or courtesy to reply at all.

I do not accept the sophism that agents simply do not have the time to respond to queries.  You (meaning the agent), knew what you were getting into when you took the job.  It doesn’t take any great effort to prepare a few generic rejections.  Hitting a key on your keyboard take less than a second!  At least the inquirer has the satisfaction that his query was actually seen and judged lacking.  That’s better than no reply at all—though just marginally.

Finally (I could go on and on, but will end here), there are those who insist each query be absolutely perfect, without blemish, as though a misplaced comma can be the basis for rejecting an entire manuscript (unread), even if it is a work of genius and could win the next Nobel Prize in Literature.  “Remember—polish your query, edit it, edit it again, and then re-polish it if you want a chance with our agency.”  What a crock.

Finally (I promise, this is the very last finally—I had to slip this in), though queries do not absolutely require personalization, it never hurts to kiss the agent's tukas in some small way to get extra consideration.  Queries are supposed to be masterpieces of tight writing and succinctness, so who has the room for an extra sentence or two.  If I had to write a book on the subject, it would be entitled I LOVE ME—THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A LITERARY AGENT.  Honestly…

So that’s it.  Agree or disagree, you have some food for thought.  Let me know your thoughts.

Offline RJP

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« Reply #1 on: August 12, 2019, 07:00:42 PM »
I feel you. I can't stand agents who are full of themselves when it's so much easier to become a literary agent than it is to become a published writer.

Although, I think it's fair to admit that all agents need to start from somewhere, right?

One thing I'll disagree with is when you said, "Let the public decide what they want to read, not someone who rewards your best efforts with a flippant "This doesn't meet our needs." No, no, no. The masses, the "public," cannot be responsible for choosing the art. Trust me, we NEED curation. Look at Amazon. That's what they thought when they designed Amazon: let's let the public decide. When I started my journey a year ago, I checked for bestselling science fiction on the Amazon charts. Want to know what I found? Werewolf threesomes, Vampire sex, shapeshifter sex, basically it was dominated by science fiction and fantasy smut. They call it "harem" and I didn't even know. That's what happens if you leave it to your average joe to pick. Look at Wattpad. They're having the same problem, so what do they do? They have to somewhat curate the content that they feature because their views are dominated by smut books. It's the same with all types of art. You need to have an ivory tower system. Let the public decide on what art is going to be in their local gallery, then what do you find? Say goodbye to anything abstract, say goodbye to impressionism. You'd have a gallery full of realistic sailboats. It's the same with games too when I was making them. Steam (a popular distribution network for PC games) used to curate their games. It was really hard to get a game on Steam and devs hated it. So Steam opened the floodgates and it has been a total sh**-show ever since. Instead of some indie devs making good money, it's all indie devs making terrible money.

So yeah, books need to be curated by "experts," even though they sometimes get it wrong.

Your comment about kissing the agent's butt is right on. That is one thing I can't stand. On one query success story I read, the guy mentioned something about his corgi because he knew the agent had a corgi. He says in the query something like, "should I have my corgi send the full manuscript to your corgi?" And the agent himself admits to this working on his personal blog. And I'm like, seriously??? Also, there's that popular query blog called Query Shark that's run by an agent. Anyways, one of the more recent queries starts with a big sob story and some butt kissing and what do you know, the agent loves it! There's absolutely nothing wrong with the query in any way even though the writer stated that it's not working. And that agent (sorry forget her name) she's really good at what she does and she fell for that reverse psychology hook, line, sinker.