Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Literary Fortune


Many years ago I submitted a horror novel to about fifty agents. Ten requested the manuscript. Five loved the style but not the story. Five loved the story but not the style. I yearned to be a mad scientist who could combine one agent from each group into someone who would say, “Great style, great story!” I realized, however, that it was just a matter of taste. No hard feelings at all. At least they all responded.

We all have our own stories about submissions, and one needs a sense of humor. I laugh when I think back to a novel I wrote, very quirky. I sent it to several agents whose listings or websites said, “Send me a story that breaks the mold, a story that creates a new genre! Be creative! Find a narrative voice that's never been used!” The responses I received all said, “This is great writing, but it’s too different. Study the market.” Go figure.

Agents are human, and most have treated me well. They have a tough job, not to mention slush piles that would make anyone weep. I respect them, and most reputable agents are tireless advocates for their clients. But some could ratchet down their pontifications a bit in light of the following.

I get cheesed when reputable agents demand professionalism and then send rejection letters with multiple (and glaring) grammatical errors. I get equally cheesed when they fail to respond to requested manuscripts. There’s simply no excuse for this. One top-of-the-heap agent (I'm talking big) once told me she had indeed received my manuscript but was behind in her reading, had jury duty, needed root canal work, had the flu, yadda, yadda, yadda. She finally stopped responding altogether after a year and a half … and then wrote a book on how to snag the perfect agent. Seems like she found some time somewhere, huh?

I don’t like wasting postage.

Picture: Public Domain

3 comments:

Shameless said...

I hear your pain! I've got similar stories. But your right: we just have to laugh.

Shameless said...

"Your" was deliberate, by the way, in case anyone wonders! lol

Billy said...

Seamus, yeah, what can you do but laugh? Agents are only human, but they're wasting thousands of dollars of postage when they don't answer (even queries). Why don't they take their names out of the directories? Ah well, thank God for the ones who take the time ...