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Thread: Problems getting an agent and problem agents

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  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW Woollybear's Avatar
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    Problems getting an agent and problem agents

    Without being able to speak for anyone else, I suspect many of us on the outside of the publishing business are simply trying to understand this business a little better.

    I read this blog post and found it engrossing and disturbing. Also enlightening. Every paragraph is enlightening, for different reasons. The subtext is enlightening. The back and forth Foz had with others after posting the entry is likewise enlightening.

    Agents are the people we are sort of expected to bend our vision toward, because they 'offer so much' and they 'know the business.' They are connected. Also, when we aren't offered representation, common wisdom holds that we didn't ... work hard enough or maybe the manuscript simply wasn't good enough ('not ready')--implicit in all of this is a sort of idea that the agents ... know better than we do. They're the professionals. That's good--because many of us have no idea how any of it works past the writing.

    And we'd like to understand.

    When agents don't get back to us on queries or worse, don't get back to us on requests, we're expected to understand that they are 'busy people.' They read queries 'in their spare time' and they aren't paid to do so. They get thousands of queries each year for one signing. We need to understand. They're paid to represent their clients, not wade through slush.*

    The blog post (by Foz Meadows) paints a different picture of *all* of this, each of these things. It's her personal experience, and it is a far more intimate experience with the workings of the industry than a failed querier like myself will ever have. But you know what, every few months you see another story that really challenges some of any-or-all of the above. Maybe a writer-turned-agent agent quits altogether out of the blue, or another is tarred and feathered (for understandable if unkind) reasons, or another has bizarre practices up front (demanding a certain SM presence with a set number of followers and you can only query if you find the key word in the three-part you-tube video series...) or does a blanket sub to publishers without optimizing the submission first. Or... A six figure auction deal gets raked over the coals for some reason or other and ... releases are cancelled ... and... and... and.

    What a messy business to succeed in.

    I'd like to have a firm grasp of the people I query, especially since, yes, it should be a professional business relationship. Some queries I sent took multiple hours to research and compose. The record was four hours for a single letter, and I sent 140 queries. That's not a complaint, it's math; altogether my (very willing and un-regretted) choice to query agents equaled several full-time work weeks of my life.

    Personally, I learned through the process, which I value, and I move forward content and doing things differently now. All good, no regrets.

    I believe that many of us standing outside and knocking on the windows simply want to understand. At times like this it feels there's a sighting--of the dark underbelly of the beast. We start to wonder what else we wish we knew. I had a few (nothing-to-do-with-BLM-or-diversity) interactions with a couple agents at Red Sofa about two years ago. Both experiences left me feeling disoriented and devalued. I recognized at the time that I couldn't 'give them that power over me' and kept chugging along. I tell you though, seeing this blog post of events happening in 2017 put those 2018 experiences into a new context.

    That's all. I wrote this to get my thoughts out. Part of me is thinking if I hit Post on this, some agent will see it someday and decide I'm too much trouble. It would not be strategic for me to hit post. Maybe that's why, to date, I fail.

    Okie dokie, enough procrastinating.

    * We are 'the slush.' Perhaps it's time to reconsider that language.
    Last edited by Woollybear; 06-02-2020 at 10:49 PM.

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