Author Topic: Agents and their personal beliefs  (Read 778 times)

Offline Johnny 5

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Agents and their personal beliefs
« on: March 24, 2021, 03:08:53 PM »
Hi everyone,

I just joined this forum and this is my first topic.

I hope this does not start any fights or uproar, but I wanted to ask how agents' personal beliefs factor in with selecting clients and books. I get the impression that most agents, I would estimate 90% from my experience thus far, lean to the far left and clearly want this reflecting in the books they're seeking. Publishers seem to state this too on MSWL.

Now sure, people will say it's all about the writing. That's what really matters, right? But if agents get 1000's of queries a year (maybe a month) and they only take on say one to three clients a year, are 95% focussed on authors who fall into BIPOC, LGBQT+, etc., and lifting authors from these areas up, what does that mean for an author who does not fall into these demographics? Whose work does not focus on these areas or characters?

Has anyone had success in landing an agent and/or publisher in the modern literary world at large houses despite not checking the boxes above?



« Last Edit: November 07, 2021, 02:31:03 AM by jonny_555 »
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Offline Miss Plum

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Re: Agents and their personal beliefs
« Reply #1 on: March 24, 2021, 03:52:45 PM »
Quote
what does that mean for an author who does not fall into these demographics?
It can mean trouble. See this brief discussion on #ownvoices: https://querytracker.net/forum/index.php?topic=25046.0

There are complications as well if you write about things they don't like. I've seen some who say not to write about the military or police unless it's about abolishing them. etc.

Offline MKWrites_318

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Re: Agents and their personal beliefs
« Reply #2 on: March 24, 2021, 04:44:58 PM »
Straight people still get published. Cisgender people still get published. White people still get published. You get the idea. I think I said this in another reply to you (might have been someone else), but white cishet folks make up the majority in publishing actually. The idea that agents/editors are only going for marginalized people just isn't so. It isn't backed up by statistics. Agents say "I'm LGBTQ+ and BIPOC and immigrant (etc.) friendly" to let marginalized people know that they won't reject them outright (as some still do, even in the 21st Century). And even with those mentions of "Hey, I'm an agent who's on your side," marginalized folks have to be wary, because that might be a performative statement rather than one of true allyship. So don't worry about being discriminated against simply because you're white or cishet or whatever.

As far as your politics go, some agents who are very far left might be nervous about working with someone who is ultra conservative, the same way that you might not want to work with someone who is the polar opposite of you politically or philosophically speaking. Ultimately, you're in a partnership, and if you can't see eye-to-eye on some pretty big topics that probably bleed into your work, might bleed into their revisions of your work, might bleed into your author platform too then you probably won't be a good fit. That's not discriminatory on either side; that's just recognizing that you aren't compatible.

And, just an FYI, there are conservative agents. I've ruled querying some people out because they weren't liberal enough for me, personally, and I knew they would be uncomfortable with aspects of my writing, so I know they're out there.

Offline Viddiest

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Re: Agents and their personal beliefs
« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2021, 08:56:33 PM »
This is a really good question and I have thought about it a lot. I probably fall on the other side of the spectrum, though. I am very progressive and write very progressive fiction.

Although I tick a few of those boxes, BIPOC, Immigrant, etc, agents haven't exactly come knocking at my door. My experience is that this just means that they have good intentions and want to encourage people who've traditionally been marginalised. It still has to be to their taste and they need to "fall in love" with it.

I think there's lots of fiction that can leave politics out, but if you are including politics or your politics is seeping through in your story (as it does in mine), then it's probably wise to seek out agents with the same leaning as yours. It really depends of your manuscript and what you are saying.

My work would not be a good fit for agents who are right-leaning for instance, so I do look at their twitter feeds where they often express their views and seek out those who I see eye to eye with.

As long as works are not inflammatory or denigrating a group of people, I really don't think one's personal views would matter to agents. At least that's what I feel.

Offline richardclin

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Re: Agents and their personal beliefs
« Reply #4 on: March 25, 2021, 12:38:46 AM »

Hi Jonny,


I think MKWrites raises some highly pertinent points. When I look at Amazon and physical bookshelves, I don't get a sense there is a preponderance of books by BIPOC or LGBQT+ authors. So I do think many agents are trying to encourage people from traditionally marginalized groups to come into the light and voice their perspectives through the written word. I think most do so out of a genuine sense of social mission versus just trying to act like they are in step with the times, but whether they really have the wherewithal or will to make it easier for these authors to be trad published, I am not sure of.


For instance, although it is far too small of a sample size to have any statistical significance, I have queried around 40 agents, many of whom are Asian-descent or BIPOC or who say they actively seek BIPOC stories. My memoir is expressly centered on an interracial romantic comedy set against the backdrop of an immigrant family/cultural identity/social prejudice story. One would think most of my requests for MS would come from these agents. However, I've had no ethnic Asian agents even respond, and all six of my requests for MS have come from non-BiPOC women who did not expressly mention they seek BIPOC stories.


Not sure what we can deduce from all this, especially given the anecdotal nature of it all, but I guess I would surmise that most agents evaluate on a combination of a) will this book/author sell? and b) can I get passionate about this work. I don't think the economics of being an agent allow many to be less than 50-60% shaded towards a) in order to put food on the table. But I'm new to this oft bewildering literary realm so who knows how close my guess might be.


In any case, I would read your book, Jonny. Even though my politics run more CNN, I prefer reading AP or BBC news as I find them more globally-oriented and more neutral, and I do actively read Fox News app as well in an effort to gather myriad perspectives. After all, in the end, life is challenging for most everyone, and if we truly reach out to those "on the other side," most of the time we realize they live with the same hopes and fears, aspirations and anxieties, joy and pathos as we experience.


I would think (hope) that mature, professional agents would feel the same.


Sincerely,


Richard

Straight people still get published. Cisgender people still get published. White people still get published. You get the idea. I think I said this in another reply to you (might have been someone else), but white cishet folks make up the majority in publishing actually. The idea that agents/editors are only going for marginalized people just isn't so. It isn't backed up by statistics. Agents say "I'm LGBTQ+ and BIPOC and immigrant (etc.) friendly" to let marginalized people know that they won't reject them outright (as some still do, even in the 21st Century). And even with those mentions of "Hey, I'm an agent who's on your side," marginalized folks have to be wary, because that might be a performative statement rather than one of true allyship. So don't worry about being discriminated against simply because you're white or cishet or whatever.

As far as your politics go, some agents who are very far left might be nervous about working with someone who is ultra conservative, the same way that you might not want to work with someone who is the polar opposite of you politically or philosophically speaking. Ultimately, you're in a partnership, and if you can't see eye-to-eye on some pretty big topics that probably bleed into your work, might bleed into their revisions of your work, might bleed into your author platform too then you probably won't be a good fit. That's not discriminatory on either side; that's just recognizing that you aren't compatible.

And, just an FYI, there are conservative agents. I've ruled querying some people out because they weren't liberal enough for me, personally, and I knew they would be uncomfortable with aspects of my writing, so I know they're out there.
« Last Edit: March 25, 2021, 12:41:12 AM by richardclin »

Offline richardclin

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Re: Agents and their personal beliefs
« Reply #5 on: March 25, 2021, 04:56:51 AM »
Jonny, I am glad you feel the same way I do about the universality of human desires and concerns.


Best wishes to you on your fantasy endeavor. Feel free to send it to me via email or PM (through the QT system) if you would like my BIPOC perspective on it. :wink:   I can do the same for your thoughts if you have the time and inclination.


Have a splendid day and I look forward to our continued interaction.

Offline Johnny 5

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Re: Agents and their personal beliefs
« Reply #6 on: March 26, 2021, 06:58:53 AM »
Thanks Richard - really appreciate that! I will wait for the results on my latest agent hunt and then contact you and share. If I read your message right, yes you can send me any samples of your stuff too and I will read for you and share my opinion :)

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Offline richardclin

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Re: Agents and their personal beliefs
« Reply #7 on: March 26, 2021, 07:28:14 AM »
Thank you, Jonny, for your kind offer. I will PM you with some of my materials that I would love your thoughts on.


When you are ready please feel free to send me what you would like me to review.


Have a splendid day!