Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Agent Tweets #6: A View with a Haystack

Welcome to my weekly series that highlights and responds to 
publication-centric comments from agents and editors, gleaned from Twitter. 
As alwaysI do not name agents and editors quoted in these posts. The quotes 
listed here are indicative of the spectrum, and just happen to be 
the most compellingly worded variations. 

I once read that nothing kills a love for reading like being an agent (or an editor). It's really understandable. Agents are perpetually surrounded by such a tsunami of would-be novels and the neruotic*, emailng writers who authored them that it is difficult to weed out what belongs on the slushpile, and what doesn't.

((*I mean this is a loving way. I'm one of the neurotic emailing writer-folk, too.))

But of course, as we've discussed before, there is the flip-side of the coin. Sometimes agents do, indeed, find that needle they're looking for. But sometimes it helps to keep both sides of the coin in perspective. We all want to be that "WOW" moment for our preferred agent; but we also must keep in mind what they're up against, by the very nature of their job:

The Frustration:
It is ridiculous how many emails I send in a day 
Writers: Agents are not beta readers. Do not send 1st drafts or query an unfinished ms. We want books you're confident in & ready to submit. 
And the morning began with a few stalker like queries and unpleasant replies to responses sent over the weekend. Queries can be tough on all
I don't know how much a "ridiculous" amount of query emails is, but I'm sure it's in the hundreds. Maybe even thousands. Every. Single. Day.

And if you read what some of these agents face from disgruntled rejected writers (more on that in a later Agent Tweets post), you'd hardly be surprised that any of them were terse, or didn't respond immediately to your gloriously-worded query letter. Heap on that a bunch of manuscripts that the queries say are ready, but are nowhere near the promised quality, plus the usual flood of typed communication that goes with a desk job anyway...

Well, I don't know about you, but it makes MY brain hurt just to think about it.

Then there's the golden side - including two tweets that we've looked at before:

The Encouragement:

Sooooo, I can think of at least 4 full mss I requested 2 or more months ago and I have to say....I am ready to read them now. #imimpatient 
I just described a ms thusly: It has a hook I have seen before but I just found it so effing delightful, I didn't care 
I've been reading a couple of ms in a genre that I have been emotionally up-to-here with (no, I won't say which one) & they were rather good//This is why we don't like to always talk about themes/genres that we are fatigued w/...b/c we can always be surprised by something awesome 
I love when my intern is all, "I started reading X full manuscript and got completely sucked in! Read it next!
So sometimes, agents DO find their needle - and when they do, there is genuine excitement for the work, and the creative mind that fashioned it.

At the same time, part of putting this part of the dynamic into perspective relies on the first of these four tweets. Even after a request for a full manuscript is made, an agent may be so swamped that it takes 2+ months to actually get around to reading it. Frustrating? Heck yes. But if that particular agent's enthusiasm is any indication (I didn't copy the whole Twitter commentary on those two ms, but they remained favorable), then exerting a Herculean share of patience does, in fact, pay off in the end.

Of course, the other warnings to take from this is to make sure your manuscript is finished and in its best possible form before submitting (see the first set of tweets) and above all to be polite when corresponding with a potential agent.

I don't think I can adequately describe the sort of "haystack dilemma" an agent or publishing agency must wade through, however. For that you must go to the professionals themselves. For further insight, I recommend you take a look at the article from which the above photograph was taken. HEALTH WARNING: Don't drink or eat anything during the reading of this article. You just might choke.

Thoughts? Insights? 
What do you think of Laube's list of slushpile anecdotes?

No comments:

Post a Comment