Thursday, July 24, 2008

I'll Get Right Back To You - Or Not

Different literary agencies seem to have very different policies about dealing with submissions, at least from unknown guys like me with none of the all-important "connections."

I don't know Lawrence Block, I'm not related to Lisa Gardner, I didn't go to college with Barry Eisler (although I attended a panel discussion he did, and I'm pretty sure he would have been a fun guy to have as a roommate), so in the hierarchy of significance to literary agents I fall somewhere between the guy that shampoos the office carpets at the agency and the dude that parks their Hummers when they go to work.

One thing I've discovered is it's really important to do your homework before querying agents, because some like to open real, live mail, the kind that trees give their lives for every day, while others feel very strongly that email is the way to go. Likewise, some agencies specify right on their websites that they will only respond to queries that they are interested in, and the rest of us can pound sand. They don't phrase it quite that way, but you get the idea.

Some agencies I queried way back in March have never gotten back to me yet, which leads me to believe they might be a little ambivalent about my letter. Others were so anxious to brush me off that they waited all of two or three hours to tell me they weren't interested.

But I understand that agents get bombarded with queries every day and don't have a lot of time to spend sorting through them. On the other hand, if an agent requests material, don't you think it would only be right to give the author (that would be me) some sort of heads up as to what's going on after a couple of months?

Something really simple would be okay: "Dear Allan, we are busy busting our butts for our real clients, getting them on to the bestseller lists, so we haven't had time to review your outstanding submission yet. We'll get to it soon though, we promise. Just as soon as the carpet guy gets done shampooing our office floor. Thanks for your patience, A1 Literary Agency."

That would be okay, just a sentence or two to let me know they actually still want to read it. After all, they were the ones who asked for it, right? And I did send it out way back in March, right?

On the other hand, if I haven't heard anything, I can still tell myself that maybe they love it! So forget I said anything. It's all good.


norcalfella said...

It's a painful process filled with rejection, like most of the arts.

Imagine trying out on Broadway as a dancer having to physically lay your heart on the line only to get canned. I guess it might be easier in a sense because they tell you to your face.

Writing is a different grind of production leading to rejection. The world is far less personal today than it was 20 or even 5 years ago. Unfortunately all I can say is to keep plugging away.

Al Leverone said...

Hi Norcal, thanks so much for reading and for taking an interest. I've experienced plenty of rejection already and I've developed a pretty thick skin about it for the most part.

Most agents and agencies that have sent me a personalized rejection have been encouraging to one degree or another. My project isn't right for them, or it doesn't grab them, or they don't have the right contacts. But none of them have (yet, at least) told me I should give up writing and don't ever bother them again, so at least I have that going for me....