Agents: Writers Wanted

Hey, writers, I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but there are agents seeking writers.

I didn’t know. My wife came across that this morning while surfing the net. “Here are two agents looking for writers.”

I said nothing.

“One’s looking for dystopian novels.”

Of course they are. Dystopian literature is faring well, isn’t it?

I’ve done the agent route. I used to subscribe to sources full of announcements about agents looking for new writers to represent. There’s typically a lot of unwritten fine print between the announcement and reality. It’s a lot like someone selling you acreage on the moon and then explaining what you really own.

I’d often check out these agents seeking new writers, and enter the discovery phase. They only represented Canadians, women, writers from South Africa, or Antarctica. They didn’t want these sort of novels. They did want these sort of novels, forcing me into evaluating my novels to see if they could be wedged into their holes. No epics, please. No dystopian novels. No dragons, swords, or fantasies, etc.

If I managed to convince myself that I fit within their narrowly defined needs, then I needed to address their specifically defined submission requirements. Some preferred a ten page outline with a ten page synopsis and the first fifty pages. A few wanted a paragraph or two in summary, and maybe a longer synopsis, and the first five, ten, twenty or fifty pages. Others did not ever want email or electronic submissions because they worry about computer viruses; send it to them by U.S.P.S. A few had their own application for submitting your novel online for their consideration.

Promised responses varied. Some agents stated they’d only contact you if they were interested. If you didn’t hear from them within six weeks, feel free to submit elsewhere. Some were iffy, specifying they would try to respond but they’re very busy, you know, sorry. More concrete specifications were sometimes given that they would attempt to respond in a window of time or by X number of days. Almost all were adamant, DO NOT CONTACT ME IF YOU HAVEN’T HEARD FROM ME. Likewise, most did not like simultaneous submissions, because, say you submitted to them, and they liked your submission, and decided to work with you, and then they find out that another agent also wanted you. You’ve wasted their time. That makes them very hurt and angry.

I read about the process from the agents’ points of view, too. Know thy enemy business. They cite the numbers of submissions received, the reading and time required of them to consider an author and their submission. It’s tough because they’re busy with existing clients and contracts. You understand.

Sure, that’s why I was contacting them, because publishing is a business. I submitted to the requirements and submitted to the agents, and tracked it all. Websites and apps exist that will track your submissions and the salient details associated with them, you know, so you can quantify the business process of submitting and being rejected. I just kept an Excel spreadsheet. It was as effective as anything putting my gloom into numbers.

I’m a bitter, cynical and impatient person. I struggle with these traits, and internalize my frustrations and disappointments. These submissions to agents were carbohydrates for all of these negatives and my fears and flimsy self-confidence. So, I quit doing that. Eventually, I declared, “Fuck it,” and self-published. Well, it’s not much more fun than the agent grinder. Publishing is a harsh business, just like any twenty-first century business.

So I’ve resigned myself. I write; I self-publish. Dreams and hopes really end about there.

Understand, I don’t hate agents. I’ve met some, and they’re very nice humans. They are all about businesses. I get that. That’s the world of today, and the conundrum that we ride.

 

 

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One thought on “Agents: Writers Wanted

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  1. Author Jane Lindskold once told my brother (in person, while they were having tea) that there’s no point in getting an agent these days. (“These days” was back in 2009, and the usefulness/importance of literary agents certainly hasn’t gone up since then.)

    Some people say, ‘Oh, but what if someone wants to offer you a movie deal? You need an agent then.” Probably, but there’s nothing that says you can’t GET an agent to help with the legalities of that. Contact an agent who represents authors in your genre and say, ‘I just got a letter from Akiva Goldsman, and he wants to buy the movie rights to my novel. Are you willing to represent me?’ and you’ll be their new favorite client in, like, three seconds. Unless/until such a thing happens, a literary agent doesn’t serve much purpose for most of us anyway.

    (“I’m a bitter, cynical and impatient person.” Better than being morbid, bitter, and drunk, I suppose. *Weaver, having thrown an obscure literary reference, departs the blog comments*)

    Liked by 2 people

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