Friday, January 16, 2015

Researching Agents

Old as I am, I’m not exceptionally naïve, and yet … every now and then, I find myself a wee stupefied when I inadvertently stumble upon laundry that’s not merely dirty, but borderline offal, and of course being flapped about in public (Teh Intarwebs) by those professing themselves laundresses. Such is the peril of researching agents.

When it comes to actual querying, I’ve become jaded enough that research is not as maximal as it once was. I verify they rep my genre, decide whether or not their website is intolerable, pay attention to submission guidelines, and read any interviews readily available. (The sad, but not to-the-point fact on these latter is that they tend to date to 2011 and earlier in the vast majority of cases; I truly need to ask some agents to let me interview them here.) If they’re not a gross mismatch, and especially if they appear to have some sense of humor, I personalize and query. The entire process can take less than fifteen minutes; but then, at the query stage, I suspect their side of the transaction often occurs far more speedily, though the time it takes for them to read my blood, sweat, and tearjerking introduction can be weeks and even months.

It’s when I get a request I’m going to re-read and more deeply research an agent, and my can that be edifying.

Not about the agent.

But about the kinds of special snowflakes who query them, and the extreme umbrage taken when Mr. or Ms. Agent shirks the obvious moral duty to fall into transports of wonder at the offering before them. It happens at the query stage and beyond, once requests have been too-long ignored, or follow-ups not responded to, and so on. And, yeah, maybe it actually is useful for me as another querier, to learn that someone with whom I may consider a business relationship might be a poor responder or the like.

But when an entire website is built around broadcasting theoretically-polite complaints about rejections which are not (right or wrong) actually outrageous, or when indeed SIX entire websites appear to have been generated to literally campaign against the usefulnes of another site often used as a queriers’ bible (and which is, in fact, littered with twits and bullies, but does contain bits of useful info) … It just gets weird. And distasteful.

I researched Janet Reid once, because I read her site (uh-DUH), and because I was curious the experience people have with her. This led me to one of the six shrill sites screaming about that parenthetical site alluded to above, and some extremely specific and veeeeeerrrrry angry particulars about her relationship there.

If I were researching her as a querying author with no previous experience of her (and, remember, Gossamer is her dollbaby and has become one of the known “mascots” on her blog/FaceBook etc. – he got his “the Editor Cat” sobriquet from her!), this coming as high as it does in the search results might put me off quering her in a trice. If I didn’t read enough to see the sparks flying off the ax being abused on the polishing stone.

As hard as it can be to face 5 rejections in 3 days (and, in case my regular readers have not guessed – finally got a full request today … so nine more to go!): damn. I don’t get the luxury of watching my entire reputation slagged on a regular basis by angry writers who may not have followed the rules, who have an inflated sense of the Sooper Sooper Specialness of their work, who really had their heart a bit too set on Mr. or Ms. Agent, or who are, frankly, batsplat crazy. I sincerely hope never to see six websites built by one angry rejectee, vigorously seeking recruits to the inexplicable cause of b*tching and moaning.

As difficult as it is to face editing and revision with no beta readers, and to allow myself to become paralyzed for a YEAR while facing the dragon with a butterknife: (so far) I’m not being publicly slagged for the temerity of Doing my Job.

The fact is, it’s a necessary truth that there are some slacker agents out there. Just as there are slackers everywhere else. However, I’ll learn more about them during the querying/full-requesting/prospective stage from ARTICLES they have written, interviews, their Publishers Marketplace and Agent Query and so on profiles, and fulsome blogs by clients discussing working with them than I ever can learn about them from whinging, no matter how pretend-politely it is couched.

Or how batsplat crazily it is spewed. Ahem.

From the complaints, all I *really* learn about is the complainers. It’s possible to get some ideas about the way an agent works, and form some questions, but until I have the privilege or trial of working with someone myself, even if only on a first-read (or second-read) basis, it’s not only premature to get het up about that one person they once kept waiting in 2008, but pointblank pointLESS.

It is, too, extremely quick to go “off” and become distasteful. It doesn’t feel helpful and informative, as would “this agent charges reading fees” or expects exclusive consideration before even requesting a full (I’ve seen agents – just within the past week – who “required” exclusive QUERIES, which is … sputter-inducingly ridiculous), or has left agenting, or has never made a sale despite claiming 10 years’ experience …

Reading the complaints of others, about an agent, especially where there is a group dynamic, or at least the clear desire/campaign to create one, gets me all QPF(*) in a big hurry, these days. It feels like research in the wrong order, like I’ve accidentally stumbled into that ever popular millennial quagmire: Doing It Wrong. It kind of feels mean, too – as mean as any given agent must seem to the many, many authors of such complaints, for giving them the HIDEOUSLY PAINFUL AND UNJUST cause to complain.


Cart, horse, submit.

(*QPF: quizzical puppy face)


Anonymous said...

First of all, congrats on the full! Whoop!

Secondly, I honestly don't understand how these writers who are flipping out and acting like two year olds with a toy taken, have somehow skipped over the part of the query process known as a rejection. It sort of reminds me of road rage. Uncalled for, generally useless, and revealing.

DLM said...

Thank you! :)

The site that set off this post was odd in this respect, it had ground rules on how to behave, language, etc. and was making a point of some kind of politeness. But in the end it was still entirely dedicated to complaint, no matter the tone. And even if you're not determined to burn a bridge, conflagrations are too easy, it seems to me.

Maybe I'm pollyanna, but any complaint - no matter how it's couched - that names names, quotes rejection letters, or is identifiably-specific just seems UNNECESSARY. Why focus?

If asked, I suspect those who participate there would say it's a service site, alerting us to bad practices. I may be odd in not really using those to speak of (again, it just seems so premature, at the query stage, to presume to eliminate agents on bases other than success or suitability).

In the end, rejection is hard enough without memorializing it on Teh Intarwebs forever. Good gravy - it's just more FUN to tell other writer pals online and in your life about the particulars of our little successes, than to devote more time and attention to any rejection than "aw, MAN. Poop."