Wednesday 21 August 2013

Hard truths about writing and selling books #2. Agents

Another thing you'll hear wherever you go is that agents are rude/cruel/stupid/arrogant gatekeepers standing between writers and publishers. Yup, a small minority of them are. However, most of them are just people like you and me, trying to make a living from something they once loved - books - and that thanks to an overdose of that something, now probably hate it. Some horrid, cold facts about agents and submissions to the dreaded slush pile:

i) You submission will be the 500th the agent has received in the last hour/day/week. Agents make no money from reading the slush pile, so, being rational economic beings, they tend to concentrate on the stuff that does make money, like selling their authors' books to publishers. When it comes to wading through the thousands of 'Dark and stormy nights' that flood through the letterbox every day, many of them outsource the job to an intern.

ii) If you are lucky, and I mean really lucky, the intern may spend 30 seconds reviewing your letter, synopsis and first 3 chapters that make up the standard submission package. So don't try and be clever, literary or go for the slow burn. If your book can't hook a bored twenty-something who's spent all day reading manuscripts written to try and hook him or her, then you go on the rejection pile. That's why, if the intern gets round to it or can work out which side of the stamp to lick, you'll get a boiler plate rejection slip, or more than likely, no reply at all.

iii) Agents do not have time to give detailed feedback on your book, nor should you expect them to. There’s a very good chance you wouldn’t like what they have to say about it anyway.

iv) All agents receive threats, nasty letters and e-mails from writers they've rejected. Nobody likes getting rejection slips, especially when they've spent months or even years crafting their masterpiece, only to be told, 'Sorry, not one for us,' but that's no reason to be rude or scary. Grow a thick skin and move on to your next submission. Unless you've used green ink or written your submission in the blood of your first-born, the agent has no way of knowing if you're a bunny-boiler or not, and this is another reason why they tend to avoid personal communication when it comes to rejections. Mother wants me to open a motel, by the way.

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