Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Buried Agents

I've been reading a few agent's blogs, as well as following some on Twitter.

(If you want to get some real-time information and glimpses into the life of an agent, I highly recommend Twitter. There's less of a filter, and even though there's a character limit, there isn't a tweet limit.)

What I see happening almost every day is that people who have completed a manuscript, think their work is ready to publish. Or, at a minimum, ready for an agent to shop it. I don't get the idea that there are any large number of submissions where the agent feels the writer has taken time to re-write and edit their manuscripts. To work with a critique group or a private editor. To fine-tune and hone their craft.

To even complete the most rudimentary research as to who the agent is and what they're looking for.

I get the feeling that writers who have completed a manuscript, without even doing a cursory read-through, throw a net into the waters to see if they can snag an agent. Any agent.

Am I the only one bothered on many levels by this?

CR: 212 by Alafair Burke.

It's all better with friends.


  1. I didn't realize that people were sending their work out "as is" (so to speak) but I can attest to the fact that multiple revisions are necessary to have even a chance of success. I'm sure there are those who strike it lucky right out of the gate, but my own work has gone through as many as 13 drafts--and that's before my agent sends it out and we start getting feedback from editors, inspiring further revision.

    I think that a range of trusty readers, who are not afraid to be honest, and have differing sets of skills (some are writers themselves, some read absolutely everything in the writer's genre, some have this or that technical talent, etc.) is essential to getting a draft that is likely to please the sharp eyes of professionals in this business.

    And also something that's spoken about less...You want to know that you're getting responses--however flawed the work is or however many drafts it has yet to go through--that suggest there's "really something there."

    "I couldn't put it down," "I loved that character," "You made me laugh/cry/feel afraid to turn out a light/whatever." As intangible as such reactions sound, they mean you are onto something.

    And that means all the revising will be worth it.

    I think this was too long to tweet, Peg!

  2. I have to think a lot of the ineptitude has to be weeded out at the query stage, don't you? But I'm amazed what these agents are tweeting about. Pretty enlightening.

    I have to even attempt to count the number of drafts I've made of my first few chapters. And they still needed help with this edit. Which, by the way, I finished and am now incorporating them. *goofy grin*

    I've heard some interesting information regarding readers/critiquers. Several published authors are required by their publishers NOT to read any unpublished material. Something to do with lawsuits. That makes it hard for someone who would like to help, but also an easy way to decline.

  3. First of all, woo hoo, Peg! You are making fantastic and devoted progress.

    In terms of that legal clause, I have to believe there's some wiggle room there depending on the author's nature. Seems like if such a clause exists (and I also have heard authors plead it as an excuse) it would apply to most everyone, yet I have encountered some of the most generous-hearted (and best-selling authors) willing to give a looksee to help out a writer coming after them.

    For myself, I will say now that there is no legality strong enough to stop me from helping other deserving writers should I ever be in the position to do so. I won't read anything I don't genuinely like--just as I made those authors who've helped me promise not to do--but if the story captures me? Then it deserves to get out there and I would be grateful for the chance to play a role in that however small.

  4. I love the spirit of giving back, lifting up, and edifying. That's the world I want to be a part of.

    Since we can chose, I'd much rather be open with a giving spirit, than closed with a spirit that resides in fear.

    Might I get burned? Sure. But look at the joy I'll experience in between the ugliness.

    Thanks, Jenny, for the reminder that we can choose.