The Secrets of Agents, Man…

Take the title as a bit of a lie, because it is.

Brother, if I had some rune stone that told the secrets of agents, well, this would be a much more popular blog and I wouldn’t be wearing various cheeses as hats. For real.

No, what prompts this blog is the utter ridiculousness of query letters in the writing field. You see, unless you are someone with a ‘name’, or with a hell of a good pitch, it is as so much sand on a beach, your query. Oh, I am not saying it’s a waste of time, or that it doesn’t work but that so much of what you read and here is, well, bullshit.

If you’re like me, you have seen and heard over and over again – follow the tips you are given from editors and agents and it will make you a better writer. That may well be good advice, heck, in the least it makes sense to hear someone else’s opinion on your work but, well, it’s hard to really GET any damned advice. I have been writing since I was eighteen, and this is writing seriously, because I was writing well before that, if you want the truth, but seriously since I was a late teen. I have been submitting things to publishers since my very early twenties and I have RARELY, if ever gotten feedback from a publisher, editor, or agent. I HAVE gotten dozens and dozens and dozens of letters with not what we are looking for or good luck or don’t take this as a reflection on your writing or a bunch of other ‘It’s me, not you’ sorta rejections and not one of them taught me a damned thing. Not one.

Hell, what IS there to learn from that sort of feedback?

It’s as if I/we are doing my/our job/s and I/we are not getting the same consideration. I mean, hell, I can dig that these are busy people but, in kind, so the hell am I. It’s as if these people have jobs they don’t want. I mean, hell, if they are that busy, then they should be doing well, right, so why not hire more people? Ah, but there lies the rub – the industry may NOT being doing that well, and, like every other damned job now, one person may be doing the work of three but, shit, I/we still deserve the same effort and time we put into submitting to these people.

I don’t wanna hear about how many submissions they get, and how little time they have, and how many crummy letters and works they are sent. Fuck that. As it was my job in the retail world to deal with the occasional kook, so is it theirs to deal with the weirdos and less talented writers out there. It is what it is, a job, and that is theirs. What seems to happen though is that a lot of submission letters get dumped into the laps of interns and assistants who have no real investment in you just as you have none in them. They look for keywords, for something to pop out at them and if it doesn’t, oh, sorry, uh, no.

The best example I have of the lack of professionalism out there came to me in the mail today. I had recently sent out a batch of submissions to agents in the hopes that an agent might help get my novel published. The novel, something I love dearly, is an odd work that is as much comedy as it is horror and is as much religion as it is philosophy. I have lived with it for years now and STILL can’t explain what it is all the time. Shit, I remember being at the World Horror Con in NYC in ’05 and had to distill my novel down to the bare essentials for two pitch sessions with publishing houses. Naturally, neither place really heard much of what I had to say, too focused on telling ME what THEY did. Anyway, so I sent out this batch of letters recently in the blind hope that someone might take an interest in the novel. I believe in it so someone else will too. So today I get this self addressed and stamped letter in the mail – it isn’t sealed, and inside of the envelope is my query letter with the hastily scribbled words just not for us on it. That was it. That was their sage advice.

Wow, glad I spent the time and money on that one. The thing is, I wish that was the exception but it’s the norm. Laziness seems to fill this industry to overflowing and I can’t express without lighter fluid and puppets how frustrating all of this is. If you are not given the time and honest effort to see if you might have something to say, well, fuck, then what hope is there for any of us?

Do we want a world of in the vein of-s? Do we want a world where everyone is copying everyone else? That is what things are falling towards. Hell, it isn’t even about publication as much as it is someone taking the time to see what you have to say. I mean,  the works I am submitting may NOT fit what these people are looking for but WHY? What is it lacking? What don’t you see? If no one is willing to tell you that you have crap on your forehead then how it your fault that you’re a shit head?

All laughs aside, it’s a sad statement that so much is made of this industry, so much mystery surrounds it and yet so many lazy, small minded people run it. It’s embarassing that so much crap gets published knowing there are writers out there worth a chance but how will any of us get it if the world is one big slush pile of submissions?


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