Saturday, 17 January 2015

Agents and Editors...they are human beings you know!

Sometimes the way writers behave really embarrasses me and they give  the rest of us a bad name. I have to say they are often the inexperienced ones.  I am Facebook friends with the wonderful Carole Blake of Blake Friedmann. She will occasionally regale us with tales of recalcitrant aspiring authors who have not read the detailed submission guidelines on the agency's website or have not taken kindly to her rejection and something she wrote recently made me think I ought to write this post.

Before you all shout at me I do also know that some agents may  behave a little badly too with their rejections but today I am not talking about that. I will deal with that in another post.

Firstly those awful letters/emails. Some of which come across as almost threatening! And this is the point that I have to thank Carole for. Do not respond to any rejection email while drunk. It is not clever. You have no hope of ever being able to send anything else ever to that agency/editor again if you send a rude and abusive email to them. Never say anything in an email you wouldn't be willing to say face to face. Always be polite and considerate.

Nicola Morgan has written some excellent books offering guidance as well as Carole Blake's own book, From Pitch to Publication(Macmillan), which she is currently writing an a new version of. As well, of course, check the submission guidelines on any agency/publishers website and adhere to them. They are there for a reason.

But then there is also face to face and that can be really cringeworthy. I am talking about those people, and come on you have all seen them or heard them haven't you, who pin a potential agent or editor in the corner giving them no hope of escape while telling them every single detail of their book even if it is not finished or appropriate for their agency/publisher because the aspiring author hasn't checked who they are. Shouting at them 'Oh you must read it, you'd love it, I know you'll want to take me on. I'd be so easy to work with.Shall I give you my number, or I know shall I ring you tomorrow? Can I have your card.' This is all said without taking a breath and without the agent/editor being able to get a word in edge-ways.  I have seen it happen at conferences, other people's book launches and most unforgivable parties where the poor agent/editor has actually gone to have a social life with people who have nothing to do with books necessarily.

What I am trying to say in possibly a rather long winded way is respect these people. They are human beings. If you are going to an event where you are know they are going to be in attendance. Find out about them (Check out websites and the Writers' and Artists Yearbook if you don't know where to look) and just talk to them.  Have a normal conversation. There is a good chance when they find out you are a writer they will ask you about your work and then you have an opportunity to give your brief (note that word BRIEF) elevator pitch. If they are interested they will ask more. If not don't push it, don't keep harping on about it thinking you can convince them. Leave the subject alone and move the conversation on. Don't let them think you were only talking to them because they were agents/editors. How shallow and rude is that?

Most importantly be an interesting writerly person who leaves a good impression. And for all writers there is always going to be another mountain but we will always make it through...




15 comments:

  1. Excellent piece, eminently sensible. Problem is that many aspiring authors do go slightly insane, a predictable result if you have to maintain faith in your writing. A kindly agent, not too tired or taxed, remembers this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your kind comments. I really appreciate them.

      Delete
  2. Great post, Ness. And, yes, we've all seen it and all strive (hopefully) not to be that person!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Sue and I know for certain you are not that person!

      Delete
  3. A point well worth remembering. The ones I met at the Winchester Writers' Festival were all lovely, and quite different from the popular stereotype. And they were really passionate about good books, which I think writers can sometimes forget. Agents are the gatekeepers, but the majority of them do what they because of a love of literature.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree, all the agents I have met are wonderful people which is partly why I wrote this because the way some people treat them is just unbelievable. (Nobody I know has behaved like that I should add!)

      Delete
  4. Absolutely - it's even trickier when you get to know, and like, them. I find myself avoiding the topic of my own books just in case they think I only like them because they might help me in the future! I was actually relieved when one editor friend of mine left children's books to work with adult fiction - I knew we could just be friends then without the spectre of nepotism. A difficult line to tread sometimes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree totally. I never mention my own book just in case they think I am pitching! I would hate to think a friend thought I was pitching to them.

      Delete
  5. Totally agree. But - I've been at a few things where an agent has asked me if I'm represented. I would have thought that was inviting an onslaught! Or maybe they were just checking out whether I was safe to talk to and would have moved away quickly if I'd said 'no'.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wonder what would have happened if you had said no. Be interesting to see if they pitched their agency to you if they thought you weren't

      Delete
    2. That is actually how I got my first agent - so yes, she pitched her agency. Perhaps because I said, 'no and I don't want an agent - I'm doing fine.' Maybe it looked like a challenge!

      Delete
  6. Great piece and I've always felt that song, "The Climb," was written about being a writer :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree it just seems perfect doesn't it.

      Delete
    2. PS and thank you I am glad you liked the piece!

      Delete