Monday, November 30, 2009

Don't Take it Personally...

This morning, literary agent Rachelle Gardner posted a must-read article for those querying writers who are getting fed up with agent responses-- or lack thereof-- to their work. It basically boiled down to this:

"Vent about your frustrations, but please, please, please: Refrain from making every complaint a criticism of agents."
At the risk of branding myself a suck-up or worse, I believe Gardner when she explains just how busy the average literary agent is. Query letters alone must take up an inordinate amount of time for what amounts to a fairly thankless head-ache of a task-- something I think we can all agree on.

But if literary agents really didn't care, there wouldn't be so many of them blogging about their experiences, and about what makes them keep reading a query letter or a submission. Agent blogs are my lighthouse, the flame that guides me through the querying process. The operative word being "guide"-- I take their word as guidelines, not Gospel, and it has helped me to craft my queries to where I have about a 20% success rate. Can't argue with results. And I get most of my information about what's happening in the publishing industry from agent blogs, too.

Just in case you've missed a few, here's a short list of agents who blog, which is by no means exhaustive, but these are the ones I check the most regularly.

Kristen Nelson of Nelson Literary Agency
Nathan Bransford of Curtis Brown
Jessica Faust of BookEnds, LLC
Jennifer Jackson of Jennifer Jackson Literary Agency
Jenny Bent of The Bent Agency
Janet Reid of Fine Print Literary
Kate Shafer-Testerman of KT Literary
Jenny Rappaport
Jill Corcoran

There's also a Blog Roll here on the Agent Query website, which is another invaluable resource for learning about a particular agent's likes and dislikes. After all, if you send off your query and a writing sample, and things go well, you could be in a serious relationship with this person for some time. Isn't it worth getting to know them a little before hand?

But just remember-- if they choose not to begin that relationship with you, it's not personal.

So perhaps as a gift to them, we could be a little gentler on literary agents this holiday season. That means no querying NaNo novels in December, folks! ;) And even if you've had a bad experience with a particular agent, remember they're all individuals who deserve our respect.

Happy Holidays, Literary Agents!


Tamika: said...

Great post Tere! I agree that literary agents are an important glimpse into the publication world, an so thankful for all those like Rachelle that share their imput.

Thanks for including the links to agents, there are a few I hadn't heard of. I'm heading over to check them out.

Abby Annis said...

Good points, Tere! Thanks for the linkage. :)

Susan R. Mills said...

I couldn't agree with you more. Rejection hurts, but the agents are just doing their jobs. We definitely should not take it personally.

Lisa and Laura said...

Thank God for agents who blog because otherwise I think we'd still be sitting here with a really craptastic book and a shoddy query letter. What's that saying again? Don't kill the messenger. If you're getting rejections it's either because the agent isn't right for your work or your work isn't ready for the agent.

Hilary Wagner ~ Writer said...

Excellent post, Tere! I don't know how agents get anything done! I have mad respect for my own. She's a wife, mother, bookshop owner and crazy awesome agent! I told her I think she never sleeps!

xoxo -- Hilary