Friday, April 3, 2009

Notes on a Rainy Friday

Some catch-up from the week. 

Janet Reid responded eloquently to the Wall Street Journal article about the Google Settlement. Maya Reynolds presented an interesting third opinion on the matter. 

BookEnds opened up a can of worms with AgentFail, which led to over 250 responses, most of them bashing agents. I agree with Nathan Bransford about all of this, but just wanted to mention a few things.

First, I'm always amazed by the amount of anger that writers have towards agents because I look at myself as an advocate for authors, and particularly for my own clients. However, I don't live in a bubble. I realize that we are the initial gatekeepers in this business, and by saying no (or not saying anything at all) we're preventing you from getting published. But we're not dog-like creatures eagerly anticipating the return of Gozer. We're filtering queries and trying to find talented and skilled writers whose work will be bought by a publisher and read by the public.  

I've expressed before my opinion on whether part of my job is responding to queries, so I won't rehash it here beyond saying that I try to respond to every query sent to me via my submission form (though I admit I am weeks behind due to both personal and professional reasons) even though I don't believe it is my duty to do so.

Finally, I've noticed that some commentators complained that agents respond too quickly to their emails. I've literally read hundreds of thousands of queries in my life. I've gotten good at telling immediately whether a query isn't right for me. I understand that you've been working on a project for six months, and it's brutal and frustrating to hear that I'm not interested two minutes later, but all I'm saying is that I'm not interested. It does not mean it isn't worthy. 

OK, hope you have a good weekend.

9 comments:

Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist! said...

I think it's funny that some writers spit out so much venom and anger at agents. It sounds like they need to get laid. LOL.

have a good weekend too, thanks.

Elissa M said...

Just wanted to say I love quick responses, even if they're rejections. How long does it take to read a query anyway?

The sooner I know your (or any agent's) answer, the sooner I can move on.

Deborah Blake said...

Jonathan,
I think is probably no surprise that writers are feeling frustrated and angry. They work hard to follow the rules (well, most of them do...the ones that actually bother to learn the rules) and still spend a lot of time sending their "babies" off into the ether, with no response and no way of knowing if the ms even made it to the agent in question. In truth, I am surprised that anyone is surprised.

That being said, my experiences over the last year+ of sending my work to agents--including you--have been mostly positive. Yes, a few folks never responded (even agents who didn't have a "no response in 2 weeks means no" policy). And yes, a few agents sent rejections within 5 minutes. (Not you. You requested a partial.) But most of the agents I dealt with were polite and professional, and some of them took the time to give me suggestions that might improve my chances next time.
As an author, I would say to the frustrated writers: "When you've worked a 60 hour week reading writing that is good, horrid and everything in between AND worked with your existing clients AND finished up mountains of paperwork AND spent hours keeping up with the industry...then you can complain about how any good agent should be able to take 5 minutes to send you a detailed reply."
Yes, there are flaws in the system, but on the whole, I think agents do an amazing job. (And since you aleady rejected me, that's not sucking up!)
BTW--My ms just won "Best of the Best" in the EMILY contest...so that "something" you saw in my partial must really be in there "-)

-Kelly Meding said...

Deborah Blake said: As an author, I would say to the frustrated writers: "When you've worked a 60 hour week reading writing that is good, horrid and everything in between AND worked with your existing clients AND finished up mountains of paperwork AND spent hours keeping up with the industry...then you can complain about how any good agent should be able to take 5 minutes to send you a detailed reply."

Ding, ding! Nail-on-head.

Even when I was in the thick of Query Hell, I never directed my frustration at the agents.

Agents really do do an amazing job (and yes, this is me sucking up). *g*

stephanie said...

In a response to a semi-related piece on entitlement on my blog, published author Rachel Green commented, "I see it in the writing field often where people complain that because they struggle they should be published. Erm, no." I think this translates to the first step in the process, querying agents, and perhaps much of the anger from agentfail was due to twarted entitlement. It isn't right, fair, or particularly understandable by anyone who wishes to actually do the job of agenting or wishes to actually earn the right of publication, but maybe it fits as a partial explanation.

For myself, rejection is something I expect until I have the right pitch and the right query hitting the right agent's desk/inbox. Do I get frustrated by rejections? Sure. Do I expect any given agent to offer me representation? I think not. That agents can do all they do in a day/week/month astounds me. Without them, everyone else in this industry would be made of fail.

Sharon A. Lavy said...

I just found your blog. Thanks.

Conjurae said...

I've likened the query process to speed-dating while blindfolded and naked; we bare much, with little guarantee we'll make it past the first round.

We spend months (years?) toning our body of work, only to get rejected and passed on...sometimes within minutes. It can be a demoralizing experience, but, it's as they say: It's the only game in town.

I've never speed-dated while naked, so my analogy is not first hand, but it works for me.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed agentfail cuz it gave me an insight of what to expect if/when I land an agent. But it's a Catch 22: How will I ever find an agent if they don't bother to respond to queries or read REQUESTED mss.?

I know agents are busy--aren't we all? But I have three fulls out now w/ agents so I must be doing something right...Still, it gets frustrating to wait forever for any kind of response, positive or negative, especially when all of these agents requested the fulls after reading sample pages. Don't they realize we're sending out simultaneous submissions? Can't they give us a CLUE?

Annarkie said...

I love it when agents respond quickly! What I hate is the dreaded form letter. I completely understand though, that agents are too busy to write everyone a personalized rejection. I think I'm just extra sensitive about it, because some aspects of my book are controversial and it would be nice to know if I was rejected on the basis of that or the style of my writing. Some agencies are great about what they are looking for and some are way too vague.