Friday, August 3, 2012

All The Reasons Why I Don't Have An Agent

Note from Ginger:
If you feel like you've seen part and parcel of this post, it's not your imagination.  I'm "revamping" some of my more worthy offerings since I'm getting ready for my last summer vacation. I've changed it up a tad, but the information is still most useful (and amusing in some spots):

Literary Agents

It's no wonder that we often feel like our manuscript has a black cloud hanging over it. If you spend a day reading agent blogs and websites, I guarantee you'll end up more confused than when you started.

Month's ago, Writer's Digest provided a list of "What Agents Hate." For the sake of brevity and maintaining your sanity, I'm going to quote only a handful:

On Prologues...
"Most agents hate prologues. Just make the first chapter relevant and well written." Andrea Brown (Andrea Brown Literary Agency)

"Prologues are usually a lazy way to give backstory chunks to the reader and can be handled with more finesse throughout the story. Damn the prologue, full speed ahead!" Laurie McClean (Larsen-Pomada Literary Agents)

Ginger's Comment: Okay...I guess that blows the theory that prologues help set up the story for the reader. Scratch Beside Myself for me...it starts out from the perspective of my serial killer, and White Heart, Lakota Spirit tells you how my white captive got to be one.  So much for listening to my critique peers who believe a well-written prologue can provide useful information to set up the story.  Dang!

On Descriptions...
"I dislike endless 'laundry list' character descriptions. For example: 'She had eyes the color of a summer sky and long blonde hair that fell in ringlets past her shoulders. Her petite nose was the perfect size for her heart-shaped face. Her azure dress--with the empire waist and long, tight sleeves--sported tiny pearl buttons down the bodice. Ivory lace peeked out of the hem in front, blah blah, blah.' Who cares! Work it into the story." Laurie McClean (same as above).

"Slow writing with a lot of description puts me off very quickly. I like a first chapter that moves quickly and draws me in so I'm immediately hooked." Andrea Hurst, Andrea Hurst Literary Management

"Avoid any description of the weather." Denise Marcil, Denise Marcil Literary Agency

Ginger's Comment: Now I'm really confused. I do agree that the descriptive example above is tiresome and far more than I need to know all in one breath, but editors insist that you let the readers get to know the characters. I suppose the secret is doing it in small increments that don't bore Ms. McClean. As far as Ms. Hurst...don't we all like a chapter that hooks us immediately? See Mr. Lazar's comments about 'cheesy versus convoluted' hooks below. Which would you prefer? And... I guess Ms. Marcil isn't interested in weather reports, although sometimes if your heroine is caught in a storm and her nipples are exposed through her wet tee-shirt, it's rather hard to explain it to the reader without a little explanation about the rain. I guess all those sun-tanned heroes are shot to hell, and there goes my short story entitled, Hurricane Warning. Gads, I just can't win.

On Action...
"A cheesy hook drives me nuts. They say 'Open with a hook to grab the reader. That's true, but there's a fine line between an intriguing hook and one that's just silly. An example of a silly hook would be opening with a line of overtly sexual dialogue. Or opening with a hook that's just too convoluted to be truly interesting." Daniel Lazar, Writer's House

Note from Ginger: I guess the dilemma for the writer is to figure out which one Mr. Lazar considers cheesy and which one is too convoluted. One person's cheese is another's salami...or something like that.

On Cliches...
"I don't want to read about anyone sleeping, dreaming, waking up or staring at anything." Ellen Pepus, Ellen Pepus Literary Agency

Note from Ginger: Wow, that rules out anything I've written. I'm quite certain that somewhere in each of my books, my hero or heroine has stared at something, and I'm pretty sure they weren't awake during the entire time either. No dreaming either? She's a tough one.

No adventures that turn out to be a dream, no death of the main character in chapter one (does anyone really do that?), no descriptions that make the hero/heroine too perfect, no inauthentic dialogue, no stories that open on the protagonist's mental reflection, no information dumps in the first few pages, no cliches, no predicable openings (would you like some cheese with that?), and never, never have your heroine awaken to find a strange man in her bedroom and find him attractive. *lol* I have to agree with Kristin Nelson (Nelson Literary Agency) on the last one. She says she'd be reaching for a weapon instead of admiring the view, and I'm with her. Handsome or not, stay out of my bedroom in the middle of the night. (Unless of course you're Tom Selleck and you've finally considered my offer.)

Oh my gosh, the hate list goes on and on. My question...what exactly makes these opinions valid? I could announce that I've become a literary agent, but that doesn't immediately make me an expert. I'd have to build a reputation by selling the work of authors to mainstream publishers and learn what they require. I haven't the time to research those named in the article, and other than Kristin Nelson, I've not heard of them. Unfortunately, I've seen her name on a few rejections of mine. For reasons even I don't understand, she's the agent I'd love to have. My chances of being in the Olympics seem just as likely as landing a deal with her. In fact, I've been watching the Olympics and have yet to see me.  *lol*

A fellow author responded to a cover caption on a particular writer's magaine... "28 agents who want your work." She sent an email to one of those listed and received a lightning response that he was not taking on new authors. You just can't believe what you read these days. I suppose the other twenty-seven are busy, too.

Okay, some may say I wrote this because I'm jealous because I don't have an agent. At the time I first posted this on my blog, I was, but not anymore.  The ebook industry has taken off like wildfire.  I'm with a publisher I adore, and I finally feel like a true PAID author. I wouldn't turn down an agent who was willing to take a chance on me, but I just don't see it happening. The number of authors submitting each day far exceeds the agents likely to take them on. Given the limited number of releases by mainstream companies, my chances are nil. Besides, I've had two agents so far...one left the profession because of family obligations and the other landed me a nightmare of a deal with an e-publisher that I could have gotten on my own. See why I'm skeptical?

I wanted a copy of one of my books in a real brick and mortar store more than anything.  It's still a dream, but one that came true if only for a minute.

 Okay, okay...so I carried it in underneath my coat, took a picture and left.  So sue me.  I got some weird looks, but I had my moment at Walmart.

And just in case you want to read any of my work and see which faux pas I've made, you can find everything on my Author's page at Amazon.  BTW, Sisters in Time is now called Time Tantrums...with a new cover and reworked.  I love my time-travel, and I hope you will too.

10 comments:

Diane Scott Lewis said...

Ginger (who I don't know at all) this is why I have no agent either. They all say they want something new and fresh, yet take on authors who write the same boring formula, and tell me my stuff is too, well, non-formula! You can't win with them. But with ebooks, more 'interesting' authors are being published.
I just read a book that was so silly and yes, stupid, but yet, it's published by a major publisher. Go figure.
Funny post!

Lorrie said...

Picky, picky, picky. When I see or read some of the popular writers and how they begin the first chapter, I wonder why these rules don't apply to them. I guess because they are popular? As Diane mentioned, I've read some very silly and stupid books from major publishers. I'm still scratching my head.

Heather Haven said...

This is just hilarious! And oh so true. Basically, they sound like they don't WANT to read anything!
I had an agent for three years who did bupkis for me. She was very sweet but unhelpful. It wasn't until I went out on my own I got a little action. Mainstream publishing is getting harder and harder to find because it almost doesn't exist any more. So the few that are around seem to only want known commodities, the people who have previously published with them. On another note, I know two people who got agents very recently but they have written 'literature', something that took them several, if not many, years to write. The great novel. They are amazingly talented writers, but their work doesn't fit into any genre that I know of. I wish all of us well.

Kathy Fischer-Brown said...

As usual, Ginger, an informative blog "spiced" with wit, humor (and a side order of salami and cheese :-)

liannesimon said...

Great post, Ginger. If you received 20,000 query letters a year and could only take on two new clients, you'd be looking for ANY excuse to reject. I concentrated on smaller publishers who would actually read my manuscript without an agent. And I couldn't be happier with my publisher.

lionmother said...

The dreaming part lets me out, because my novel begins with a dream!!! Funny thing is most people tell me they love the first chapter and it makes them want to read the rest of the book. So I don't listen to these agents. These are the same people and I'm going to lump in editors of the Big Five there, who rejected my book in the first place!! I would love to have an agent, because i have a second book and would love to try to have it at one of the Big Fives. That doesn't mean I don't want to stay with my publisher, because I love it there. It's just it's always been my dream to do that! So having an agent might give me an in there. Agents just sound like they have these lists, but I've seen from experience that both agents and editors are ready to chuck their hate lists when they find a book they love. So they are not reliable or credible sources. I think it's more like I have read way too many awful ms's and don't want to see one more unless of course you are a spectacular writer and can somehow make all their hates be neutralized.

Michelle Pickett said...

I LOVE your Wal-Mart photo! What a great idea. :) I think we all should do that. Seriously. As for an agent. I don't have one either and don't see myself getting one...mainly because I'm not seeking one out. It just isn't something I feel I have to have anymore for validation. I used to be jealous - okay, sometimes I still am a little - of friends that have agents, but I'm pretty happy with what I've been blessed with.

Great post,
Michelle
Concilium, available through MuseItUp Publishing

Victoria Lamb said...

I spent ten years 'between' agents, constantly getting knocked back, but can safely say I'm making ten times as much money now with one as without one. I know it's a pain and a point of great despair sometimes, but it's worth persevering, and really, just ignore the advice on those agents' websites and write your book how you think it ought to be done. After all, you only need to find ONE agent who likes your book and trusts what you're doing enough to take you on. The rest of the agenting world and what they like are immaterial to your quest.

Besides, agents are wonderful when they take you to lunch. I missed that so much when I was on my own. Not saying you need an agent, because you definitely don't and many writers manage perfectly well without one, or jump between being agented and going it alone as their career progresses. But they can be incredibly useful at times and worth the hassle of the search.

Cheryl said...

Yeah, I'm on the fence re agents, too. I've had two and both tried very hard to sell my (two different) books. But it didn't work out, and neither liked the next story I was writing. So...

Thank goodness for MuseItUp!

Gail Roughton said...

I wouldn't agent shop at this point in my career anymore than I'd sprout wings and fly! If I've already built/am building a readership base, why would I pay them 15% to profit from that? Besides, I like thinking about their faces when they realize the old faithfuls are all dead and they haven't cultivated any more!

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