28 October 2012

R-E-S-P-E-C-T - Find out What it Means to Me!

As a writer deep in the querying trenches, I've heard one tidbit of excellent advice over and over again.

Don't complain about the agents/editors/publishers who reject you in public forums!!

This is a total, "Well, duh, obviously!" bit of advice, because anyone who really stopped to think about it would realize that establishing yourself as someone who whines and complains when you don't get your way is not the best way to get your foot in the door to a successful publishing career. If I sent a query letter to Agent A and then posted scathing criticism about him when he rejected my manuscript, how good are my chances that Agent B (who might be good friends with Agent A for all I know) would want to work with me, even if she absolutely loved the manuscript? Yeah, not so much.

And what if Agent X is totally in love with your manuscript, but when he does a quick google search for your name, he finds your blog, where you've complained about Agents A-W? Not only does X know he wasn't your first, or even your second choice for representation (Would you start a query letter with "Dear Agent X, I'm querying you because everyone else already said no, and you're better than nothing"???), but now he has to wonder about how you'll handle rejection when it comes time to send your manuscript to publishers.

The advice about not complaining in public is so obvious that you would think it kind of goes without saying.

And yet, when you're stuck in the middle of this frustrating process, feeling alone and picked on and completely down-in-the-dumps, sometimes, you just want someone to reach out and tell you "You're amazing and Agent Q doesn't know what she's missing!" So, even though you know it's wrong, you're tempted to vent your frustrations on your blog ("only my close friends read it anyway, so I'm safe") or your twitter feed ("I only have 45 followers, so it's no big deal") or something. I get that. I've been tempted to complain from time to time myself. It's not okay. If you need someone to vent to, find a close friend and feel free to cry your eyes out over a cup of hot chocolate at the local diner, but a public forum is not the place for your personal pity party. Ever! No matter what!!

Enough said.

Except... the street runs both ways.

I follow a lot of agents and editors on twitter and their blogs, and I've realized something that might shock the socks right off of many of my aspiring author friends out there: Agents are people too!! Seriously, kids, I'm not making this up! Many (maybe even most) of them don't like sending out rejections any more than we like receiving them, but they simply can't accept every writer that sends a query letter. And would you really want them to? An agent with 2,000 clients wouldn't have time to effectively do his or her job. They have to be selective, and that's a good thing. But because they're people too, sometimes these agents get frustrated with the process too. After a busy week full of sending out clients' manuscripts to editors (and maybe getting more rejections than offers on the novels they thought would be snapped up in less than a heartbeat), sifting through hundreds of query letters, and getting angry responses from many (though certainly not most!!) of the authors they send rejections to... it's natural for an agent to get a little fed up.

It's natural to want someone to say "You were absolutely right, Agent V, a 400-page memoir about a man who discovered that his belly-button lint has super-secret plans to take over the world probably won't sell well in the picture book market. I don't blame you for turning that down." And so I totally get it when an agent takes to his twitter account to complain about the crazies that send him queries every day... or she writes a scathing blog post about the wannabe authors that expect to get published even though they don't know how to write a complete sentence. It's totally natural to want to vent. But I beg you: Don't do it!!

The thing is, everyone knows that in order to be truly successful in the writing biz, aspiring authors must send our queries to the right agents - the agents that enjoy the kind of books we write. And so we do our research. We check out the twitter feed, we read the blog posts, we check out every interview we can get our hands on. And professionalism means a lot when looking for the right agent.

It doesn't matter if 15 of Agent C's 22 clients are all on the New York Times' bestseller list, and she says she's looking for a book that exactly fits the manuscript I want to send her... If she regularly posts snarky comments about the idiots who query her, I won't send a query. Yeah, she might be the perfect agent to sell my book and make millions of dollars for me, but why would I want to take the chance that I might be the wannabe writer she ridicules next?

So my point is: We need to all remember that publishing is a business, and it pays to be professional. Furthermore, it's a business where REAL people with REAL feelings sit on both sides of the desk, and rude behavior is never okay.

Note: No real authors or agents were referred to in the writing of this blog post. I don't want to hurt any body's feelings or make you feel like I'm singling you out as an example for what not to do, so I tried to be as random as possible when concocting examples for this blog post. If you are, in fact, an aspiring author who has written a 400-page memoir about your struggles with megalomaniac belly button lint, I'm not saying that you'll never find an agent willing to champion your book. Just probably not one that specializes in picture books. And I realize that it's unlikely that any agents are actually reading my silly, little blog, but if you are (or know of) an agent who happens to have exactly 22 clients, 15 of which regularly spend time on the New York Times' bestseller list, please don't think I'm trying to imply in any way that you are anything but kind and helpful in your online interactions.

No comments:

Post a Comment