Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Grain of Sand in a Crowded Pool

In the current (July/August 2012) Poets & Writers is a good article on the daily life of an agent. Before we take each rejection too personally, it’s heartening and disheartening at the same time to learn we have a one in 11,000 chance of getting representation. Even if the agent loves your work, there is no guarantee he or she can sell it to an editor. While most agents are hungry for new clients, we have to consider reputable agents work on commission (15% of your earnings.) According to Scott Hoffman of Folio Literary Management, “if the book doesn’t sell, the agent doesn’t make a dime.”Agent Michelle Brower states, “every minute [she] spends thinking about a book that won’t sell is a minute she is, in effect, donating to an unpublished author she doesn’t know.”

So it’s not personal. Yet it is.

When Jeff Kleinman, of Folio, read a draft of the Art of Racing in the Rain, he felt a visceral reaction, On the train ride between a trip to Virginia and New York City “I remember I started crying in Pennsylvania…by the time I finished the book I was weeping,” and his hands had gone numb.”

Wouldn’t we all like to have a story like this? Where an agent or editor is emotionally moved by our work?

But even if the agent loves your work, he or she must go through the complex process of first preparing the manuscript for sale. Sometimes this requires major cuts, or revisions of scenes.

Once the mss is ready, next the agent must go through the process of “pitching” a book to an editor.

The odds are against us. I don’t know about you, but I “Don’t Stop believing” as the cast of Glee sings directly to me.

I don’t have an exercise this time. I just got back from a marathon session of scoring nearly 1500 AP essays, so my brain is empty. Instead, here is a book recommendation:
Walking on Alligators: a Book of Meditations for Writers by Susan Shaughnessy. Each page contains a quote, and some motivation to keep writing.

Happy Writing.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

What Happened Last Time

I have sent so many query letters you’d think I’d get better at this. My capacity for rejection has improved, along with the rejection letters themselves, but the querying process still gives me the heebie jeebies.

What I have enjoyed is researching the hundreds of agents out there. Many of them are people I’d like to meet. The best guide for finding out an agent’s interests, besides, his/her blog (especially if the blog or web page includes video,) is Jeff Herman’s Guide Book to Publishers , Editors and Literary Agents. I have developed warm feelings for many of these literary representatives, even folks who have rejected me. (Okay, not me personally, my manuscript. But are my works and my persona separate entities ?)Some share my interest in jewelry making, a few had sketchy educations like mine (I went to three different high schools in three different states) and many agents are former librarians and booksellers (otherwise known as confirmed firm book nerds).

I picture myself at a cocktail party or in a café bantering with one of my favorites in my ever growing spreadsheet of potential agents. When I get rejected from one of my beloveds, part of my disappointment is in knowing I will never engage in clever dialogue with this person. And of course the obvious blighted hope.

So how does one find that ever elusive agent? Heck if I know. I’m still looking. But the best agent for me is not necessarily the best one for you. It’s partly based on personality, but it is mainly about the work. Does he or she believe in your work?

For more on the best literary agent, read As Mark Malatesta’s blog.


I have to remember that finding an agent is like dating; not every man on the planet is a suitable mate, nor is every agent.

Here is a writing exercise. My friend Cindy overheard a tidbit of dialogue between a mother and her toddler son. The boy reached down and picked up some rocks in the flower bed outside a restaurant. The mother told him, "No, no, put those down. You remember what happened last time." The boy protested, but the mother repeated,"just rememeber what happened last time." Cindy followed the pair inside the restaurant to see if she could find out what happened, but nothing more was said about it.

Wouldn't YOU like to know what happened? Write the story of What Happened Last Time....

BONUS: See Midnight in Paris on DVD. It's a writer's movie.
Happy Writing. (and marketing your work.)