_ The ever-informative Passive Guy published a provocative article this morning, “Publishers Constantly Mistreat Their Suppliers” that made me recall my time querying agents. All in all, I only queried for a period of two years (2009-2010), longer than some, but not nearly as long as many other writers. Totally, my count was 74 agents queried; 10 who asked for full or partial manuscripts; and ultimately 0 that thought my works were worthy of their time (I never even received the dignity of a reply from 19 of them and one took 16 months to reply – my reaction, “Get over your friggin’ self!”).
Looking back on the entire process now, it leaves me shaking my head in utter amusement. What an insane situation … a writer writes a manuscript and then, in order to try and get it published, has to contact an agent to give themselves the best chance at getting a legacy publisher to even look at it. The big question I asked myself back then, even as I was preparing and sending out queries was: If an agent, by the very name, is the person who is supposed to represent me, then why is he/she acting as the gatekeeper to the publishing houses? Can anyone say ‘conflict of interest'?
You can tell that things needed to be changed by how inane the requirements of some of the agents were becoming, with respect to querying them. A small library of books was written on the subject (I own a few of them) – the form of the query … how to address it … how long it should be … what should and should NOT be included in them, etc., ad nauseum. Then there were the specific, individual guidelines of each prospective agent. Now that’s where the fun really started!
I won’t use agent names but I’m sure writers reading this will smile … some of my favorite requirements and guidelines from agents, with respect to querying:
+ “Write ‘QUERY’ in the subject line or I will DELETE your email!!" The exclamation points still make me feel like I was being scolded.
+ “I take between 12-20 weeks to respond to queries on average and sometimes longer …” Okay, by their own guidelines, queries are only short summaries. I’m personally on a pace to respond to over 27,000 emails this year alone (I reply to everyone that’s nice enough to write to me or invite me to link to them via social networking) and usually reply to everyone in under 72 hours, with most of my replies averaging within 24 hours. Since the usual response of an agent to a query is (by their own admission) >95% to just reject via a short scripted reply and for the rest, simply to request a full or partial manuscript … why exactly would it take anyone 20+ weeks?? Just sayin …
+ (I call this one “The Double Whammy) “I only accept exclusive queries, so if you query anyone else, don’t query me! + “I take between 12-20 weeks to reply to queries!” Riiiiiight, so, in other words, I have to query this agent first and then put my manuscript on ice for the next three to five MONTHS … only to possibly get a scripted rejection … maybe.
+ (And my favorite) “I DON’T ACCEPT UNSOLICITED QUERIES!” Wha … huh??? You have a friggin’ website DEDICATED to telling aspiring authors (read: paying clients) all about you, your agency, who you represent, the genres in which you’re interested, the books you’ve represented … WHY??? My point: If you only accept ‘SOLICITED’ queries … THEN WHAT’S WITH YOUR FRIGGIN’ WEBSITE WITH THE 20 PAGES THAT YOU MADE ME READ ONLY TO TELL ME YOU DON’T ACCEPT UNSOLICITED QUERIES?!
One particular agent only wrote that she didn’t accept unsolicited queries at the very last page of her website, AFTER specifying on the home page that writers are to “read ALL of the instructions and information in the order presented!” I wasted an hour …why I oughta!
Back then, I was also told by not a few agents that even though they were rejecting my manuscript, self-publishing it would be like my pinning the scarlet letter to my lapel. So, basically they were telling me, #1 – I’m your only shot at getting published … #2 – I’m not interested, better luck next time AND #3 oh yeah, and if you even try to publish the manuscript that I turned down, your career is effectively over.
To all those agents all I have to say is “… I don’t accept unsolicited advice!” c”,)
Some writers continue to wonder whether things are better now … I don’t. This past July, my debut novel (the one that received 54 rejections) _The Watchman of Ephraim_ became a #1 Amazon-Bestselling Geopolitical Thriller and remained #1 for 26 days. All praise to Him!
My continual and infinite thanks to the following authors that showed me the light of self-publishing:
Laura Resnick ... Dean Wesley Smith ... K.K. Rusch ... and my man, Joe Konrath!
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Dean Wesley Smith