Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Querying All Agents, Not Assistants. Still In Battle Mode.

Thanks to all of you who made comments or sent emails about that infuriating critique. Your input - quite varied, in fact - is so appreciated.

My last comment was from Jane, who points out that some agents do use readers (usually ex-editors) because they, themselves, are too busy. Oh, and what's all this about being too busy, anyway? If I was so offhand about my work, I'd be fired. My clients hire me, and don't expect me to outsource, unless I specify that right from the start. In future, if and when I receive a request for a Full submission, I'm going to ask if they'll be reading it themselves, or I'll decline the invitation. And I mean that. If I am to be rejected, I want it to be done by the best in the business. A good, respectful, agent.

To recap, the agent in question asked for the book because the first three chapters 'intrigued' (an agent's rather over-used word for 'mildly interested') him, and then admitted, with the rejection, that he farmed it out because he didn't think he could appreciate this piece of women's fiction because of his male sensibilities. Yet he clearly said in his profile that he wanted - among other things - women's fiction. As most agents (from what I've seen) are women, how on earth would we ever get male-oriented fiction published, based on this attitude?

Last, by the unprofessional approach of his reader, this was NOT an ex-editor. Someone noted that this particular agent mentioned in his blog that he uses his assistant as a reader. I certainly didn't know that, although I know it's common. It's bad enough that assistants are often responsible for rejecting initial queries, but it's outrageous if they influence the fate of a full manuscript. When we go looking for the best agent, we sure as hell aren't going to be satisfied with the best assistant.

It all comes back to a lack of respect for the writer, I think. No matter how many things I read in defence of agents' attitudes and practices, my gut reaction to a lot of the tweets and blogs I see is that we are rather expendable. There are just so many of us, sweating away at our craft, anxiously checking our emails, wondering sometimes if it's all worth it. We are a dime-a-dozen.

Of course, not all agents are self-centred - there are some charming ones out there - but I believe a lot are. It shows up in their profiles at the beginning of the research. Some are highly informative and very specific about what they want exactly, clear with their submission guidelines, friendly and encouraging, assuring us that they read all queries. Others are a bit vague about their true genres, rather dictatorial in their guidelines, and then casually mention, "...if you don't hear from us, consider us not interested." This is rude. In business, no one should be so cavalier about personal correspondence. The writer's query is usually a carefully researched, patiently composed and thoughtful piece of writing, geared to that one agent. We deserve more than to have to sit around waiting to see WHO gets back to us. They should ALL get back to us, and an auto-response, which I don't find offensive, must take only one or two clicks of the keyboard.

Naturally, as I'm supremely obstinate, I'm still sending out queries for poor derided Hafan Deg. Stats today are: 12 Pending, 2 Partials, 6 Rejections. There'll undoubtedly be a lot more rejections before this battle is over.

I doubt anyone with any particular power will see this blog, but if they do I could end up on some 'Automatic Reject' list. I've heard that kind of thing happens, too. Ho Hum. It's already happening. I'm one of those dime-a-dozen unpublished writers, after all.

Goodness, on re-reading this, I do hope you don't think I'm feeling bitter. On the contrary, I found this all rather stimulating. In the end, let's face it, we could just self-publish. But we enjoy the engagement, the front lines, don't we? My spear's still at the ready...


CNU said...

Don't try self publishing. You'll be lampooned for it, even if you've got legitimate reasons (In my case the positioning of text to image on the spreads, a professional print job and binding.*)

(Sidebar sorry: I actually was brave enough to confront my attacker. I tried explaining the difference between a 'generalization' and a direct attack aimed at someone's credibility. How that difference could be construed as unprofessional and how I never attacked the person blogging or the person who's link it was, rather I was stating an opinion on the state of agents vs. what the list implied agents ought to be. )

The agent v. query/writer storm is still palpable both great and small. It's the talk of all these different blogs recently.

As long as we all maintain a small bit of professionalism and respect I think people can give out opinions- popular or unpopular - for the benefit of all. There needs to be a better dialogue and I think both the writers submitting material and the agents receiving it will be at least somewhat satisfied.

Yes I have to emphatically agree that farming out reading material is wrong.


Fran said...

Don't worry, CNU. The self-publishing reference was in jest. I've already blogged about my indifference to it. Thanks for your input!