On Agent Responses
December 2, 2009
So agent Rachelle Gardner put a post up on her blog the other day about writers griping about agent response times. It’s definitely worth a read, especially the comments. You can find it the post here.
Here’s the thing.
I’m not going to talk about how busy agents are, or if they should be responding to every query, or if two months is way too long to hold on to someone’s full manuscript. Really, it’s kind of not important. And when I say kind of, I mean, you know, not at all, if we’re talking about importance as it relates to the end goal of getting published.
I mean, I don’t understand why we’re wasting our time worrying about some agent we probably have never met, who’s never promised us anything, who’s not responding to an email we sent. It’s like sending your profile out to someone on a dating site, and then being like, WHY IS THAT PERSON NOT RESPONDING? THAT PERSON IS THE REASON I WILL NEVER BE MARRIED, THEY COULD AT LEAST RESPOND!!!! ALL MEN ARE HORRIBLE AND NOW I WILL THROW MYSELF OFF THIS CLIFF!
Newsflash: Agents not responding to your email is not the reason you are not getting published.
Also? Honestly, you might need to get a thicker skin.
If you’re going to get upset about an agent not responding to your query letter, if that is going to ruin your day, your life, your week, then ohhhh boyyy are you not ready to deal with the realities of being a working writer.
How are you going to deal with it when you finally do get an agent, and you spend months revising with said agent only to have that agent leave the agency the day before your book is about to go out on submission? What are you going to do when you finally sell a book, spend months and months revising it, only then it doesn’t sell so well, and so your publisher doesn’t push the second book on your contract, and doesn’t pick up your option, leaving you in the same boat you were BEFORE you sold, only now with bad sales numbers? What if your editor leaves, and your new editor convinces you everything will be fine, but then she leaves too, and your book gets cancelled? What if you sell a new multi-book deal to your long time publisher, only to have it cancelled? What if you’re told by a publisher that an offer is forthcoming, only to wait months to have it fall through?
All of these things have happened to me or someone I know. And I haven’t even been around that long.
Look, this is a hard business. Hard, hard, hard.
And honestly, there are really only two things you can do to make it easier.
Number one, (this is something I’ve heard Jenny Crusie say, and it’s helped me a lot) is to SEPARATE THE WRITING FROM THE PUBLISHING. Writing is so personal to us. We spend months, sometimes years, countless hours away from our families and friends, early mornings and late nights writing and pouring our hearts and souls into our books. But once you make the decision to try to make money from your writing, once you start querying agents, you’re talking about publishing. Which is a business. A business that will break your heart five million trillion times for five million trillion different reasons.
If you’re not ready for this kind of heartbreak, don’t send your stuff out. Keep it on your hard drive, or sell it on lulu.com.
Number two, if you want to get the best chance of getting a response from agents, the best chance of getting your book published?
Write a great book. Write a great query. Keep sending stuff out. And keep working on the next thing while you’re doing it. Agents not responding is NOT the thing that is keeping you from getting published.
YOU are, by spending your time worrying about agents and not focusing on the thing you CAN control. Which is the writing.
Write, write, write, write, write. Keep writing. Get better. Make every book you write better than the last. That is the only thing you can control about the business. And that goes for when you’re published, unpublished, any time. Focus on the writing, and try to let go of the things you can’t control. (Like, um, agent response times.)
This doesn’t mean don’t vent. Publishing is FRUSTRATING. It will make you cry. A lot sometimes. But vent to your friends. Drink a hot chocolate and eat a cupcake. And then brush yourself off and KEEP WRITING.
I know what you’re thinking. Easy for YOU to say, don’t you have a bunch of books coming out next year? Don’t you love your agent? Well, yes and yes. BUT. Once, I was querying. Once, I was getting no responses. Even AFTER I was published and looking for a new agent, some agents didn’t respond to my query.
Once, I had an agent in NYC leave my requested full IN A HAIR SALON. You know how I know? Not because I ever heard from her again, but because the hair salon called me to tell me they had my manuscript. It had my contact info on the title page, and they assumed that I was the one who had left it. Upsetting? Yes. (Especially since she seemed really excited to read the full and also because when that 212 area code from the hair salon popped up, I got kind of excited.)
But that agent leaving my book there was not the reason that book didn’t get published. The reason that book didn’t get published is because it wasn’t ready.
I wrote another book. One that WAS ready.
Please, focus on what you can REALLY do to give yourself the best chance. And that is not blaming agents, or debating whether it’s wrong that they don’t respond to every query or if they should be at home answering emails instead of twittering about how they went out for pizza.
Keep writing. Keep sending your stuff out. Revise. Write a new, better book. Learn. Don’t give up.
Focus on what you can control, and do your best to let go of the rest…
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