Nathan Bransford, a former (note former) literary agent in San Francisco expressed empathy at my “rejection” but also took umbrage at my “anger.” He intimated that I had misplaced it at the well-meaning but over worked good guys in the traditional publishing model. And he suggested that I don’t take it personally.
Okay. Where to start?
First of all, Nathan, I am old enough to be your mother. I worked at the top of one of the toughest industries on the planet for more than 25 years. I don’t suffer sanctimonious tripe or the fools that spout it easily. The literary landscape is littered with charlatans, poseurs, patronizing putzes, and frauds. Neither I nor my readers need advice on our emotions or where to posit them.
For reading comprehension purposes let me repeat that the agent, who by the way eats people like you for breakfast, did not reject me. She used me for eight months while pumping air into her life raft. Her actions were unconscionable and unprofessional. She earned that 75% drop in income. I’m actually amazed to see her still spout her drivel on Twitter.
For the record, I queried fewer than a dozen agents about my novel before I turned 50 and took my life into my own hands. Some of those ten agents and I became friends and have stayed friends. I have no issue with someone not wanting to represent (the very fun five star) Finding Clarity: A Mom, A Dwarf and a Posh Private School in the People's Republic of Berkeley. It’s their call and I respect it.
No what I’m talking about is…well, now you’ve gone and done it. You shook the tree and now my stories have simply got to tumble out like rotted coconuts that I'd long forgotten.
I’ll start with you.
Here’s what I remember about your days as a literary agent: you wrote a kick-ass blog. You sounded incredibly important and impressed a lot of people. In fact you wrote a lot every day. I could not for the life of me figure out how you managed to fight for your clients and give them 11%, excuse me, 110% every day when you were blogging up a storm and advising the rest of the world who then gave you more clicks and amplified your Google Analytics when you yourself were looking for a book deal. But being as young as you are, I figured you were far better than I could ever be at multi-tasking.
Still, wide-eyed sucker that I was, I dove in with the rest of your fans and read your FAQs on how to approach you for management. Your requirements and specifications were so, well, tight, that I was almost afraid to attempt to pen the correct query letter to you. But I screwed up my courage and wrote one. I followed your format to a T. You might not like my book, fair enough, but you’d likely read my query and not reject it like you said you would just because it wasn’t written to your precise, precious, and pretentious specifications.
But I know you don’t remember me. Do you know why? You don’t remember me because minutes - no exaggeration - fewer than four minutes after I sent my query, I received an email back rejecting my work. I can still see the time stamp on the internal info of those emails. There was quite literally zero chance that my synopsis and first chapter had been read by you. My query flew back to me like a mailer daemon, so swift that no person could have possibly interacted with it. No human eye would have been capable of perusing even the first graf, let alone the perfect structure and the voluminous material included within, written to satisfy your demands.
You didn’t reject me: your software rejected my incoming. (Or maybe you did, without reading a word, though what were the odds of you sitting at your desk at that moment?) And probably many, many more like mine. (That email is confidential, by the way, because I included material that I might use for a future book.)
Not long after the sting of your righteous rejection had faded, I read that you were getting out of the business. Your life raft was by then plumped up, or rather, you had a deal for your own book (odd coincidence.) You were leaving behind your clients who had impressed you with their queries, and who had a book you felt 10% about. No, I mean 110%, or something.
Honestly, if I had been one of your clients, I would really have wondered how the heck you found the time to fight for me and to blog so damn much. But I might also not have understood that you weren’t really culling through all those pesky queries, were you?
Look, let me say this again because you clearly didn’t understand the first time: Any legitimate agent who rejected me, my work, my book, however you want to phrase it, had every right to. I have maintained friendships with some of those who did. I respect their decisions and value their expertise. Who knows, my book might bite/suck/be bad. And you might all be brilliant business people for dodging the bullet known as Finding Clarity.
But enough with the “we care so much and are so busy” meme - or at least enough of that from the agents who care enough about their clients and are good enough at their jobs to still be in business.
Writers don’t always take it personally. We simply see through the charade of so many who hung out a shingle without the slightest idea how to be an actual business person. (Cue the bad review to appear in 3, 2, 1....)
I feel sort of feisty about that because it reminds me too much of another Bay Area agent who attended the San Francisco Writers Conference last year. She sat on the stage, big as life, bold as ever, her eyelids at half mast out of sheer boredom, telling a ball room packed with sycophantic writers what she was looking for in them and their book. Bored Agent then took her place in a smaller ballroom during the speed dating sessions. She allowed people to line up and nervously pitch to her, using the three minutes they had paid big money for to try and impress her enough to like them and possibly entertain their project.
But guess what? Another agent whom I like immensely, even though she rejected Finding Clarity, and who was extricating herself from the business (we still hug each other every time we meet) leaned in to me for the kill: “She’s no longer in business,” she whispered of the gal on the stage dictating her terms to the masses. “The office is closing next week. Her stuff is already moved out.” Wonder how that 111% effort worked out for her.
This is precisely why I admire Passive Guy and his blog so much. He's calling out the frauds, one at a time.
More agent stories to come! Thanks for prompting me Nathan! How can anyone be angry at that?