On Agents

Now, I'm not going to try to piss off any prospective agents who might otherwise want to represent me. LOL.

Anyway, as I'm gearing up for the dreaded query process, I realize something. Well, I've always known it, but the reality is more prevalent now that I'm starting to query. What is it? There's a serious disconnect between agents and writers sometimes.

I know this first-hand because when I'm not querying, I can CLEARLY see it from the agent's point of view. Agents are only humans. They have lives. They work. They want to represent the writers and works that excite them and, most important, make them money. As an actor, I have two talent agencies representing me, and I know how they work. They're not really my friends. They're my business partners, and they have other clients -- many probably make them more money than I ever will, but I'm still an asset for them. And they mine. They get me jobs, then I make money, and they make their commissions. It's that kind of machine that keeps the industry moving. Everyone plays their part, and hopefully plays it well.

Literary agents are no different. The problem is, anyone who can string two sentences together think they can write, and thus agents tend to get hundreds, if not thousands, queries every year asking for representation, and every one of these writers think they're the next JK Rowling or Stephen King. The sad reality is, it's a matter of math. If there are 10 agents, and each can only represent 10 writers, and there are 100 queries... you see how that works.

That's the part that writers don't usually understand. Once we writers get into the submission mode, we somehow forget that agents are busy. We suddenly think the agents are sitting at their desks doing nothing, and they're ready to accept our masterpieces. Or worse, they're mean, sadistic people who take pleasure in sending form rejections. They're out to get us, to crush us, to make us feel small and untalented and pathetic.

I admit whenever I got a rejection, my immediate response was usually resentment and self-pity. It's human nature. Nobody likes to be rejected, to be told "it's not for me." It's our survival instinct -- when we feel hurt, we either withdraw or want to fight back.

I've been in this "business" long enough to know it doesn't need to be this way. My emotions can still bite me in the ass once in a while, but I know better, and usually within a day I'd bounce back and ready to go again, because I know it's not personal. I simply need to find the right agent for my work.

I mean, if I were an agent, I would reject every epic fantasy, paranormal romance, and horror, because that's not the kind of stories I'm interested in. Nothing person. And it doesn't mean if you write fantasy, paranormal romance or horror, you're a bad writer. It doesn't mean your work isn't great. It's just "NOT FOR ME." Agents are just like me. They can only effect represent an author and the work if they are passionate about the story and the genre.

The frustrating part for a writer is not only the rejections, but also the "not knowing" -- not knowing if they're good enough; not knowing if they have the right hook; not knowing if there's something wrong (chances are, there's nothing wrong with their manuscripts); not knowing if the agents are even remotely interested in their work. Or if the agent represents something similar, are they looking for more of the same? That's why research is important, but it's also something difficult for many writers. WRITERS are artists, not business people. It's a daunting task, to find the right agent and to come up with the right pitch.  Often we have only a few minutes of the agent's time to pitch, and only a little more time to close the deal. Most of us are inapt in that department.

It doesn't mean agents are bad people. They're not out to crush us. They're not there to stand in our way. Most want to help writers, too, because writers make money for them. But agents are people, and people tend to be self-absorbed. Agents are in the business to make money, so their #1 priority is "Will this make money for me?"  Their first question is: "This sounds like a good book, but what's in it for me?"  If you can answer that question for the agent, then you're already ahead.


June Kramin said…
I also justify the way things are done.... it still just sucks. *Le sigh* Good luck when you get going, RaWo.
Ray Wong said…
I know... when you're on this side of the fence, it does suck. Hang in there. :)

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