Wednesday, September 8, 2010

"Why the hell are you tweeting instead of reading my manuscript?"

"I told you, Glenn Close, standard response time is six to eight weeks."

Here's another for the "don't-be-crazy" query file: an author asks agent Jessica Faust why agents are on Twitter when their attention should be focused on the majesty of the thing he has created.

As a writer, it really helps not to seem like an awful person.  That's true with regard to editors or agents who might be considering working with you.  It's true with regard to readers who might be considering spending money and investing time to see what's in your head.

Submission, whether to agents or to editors, is emotionally taxing, and it will make you a little neurotic, even if you are a balanced person.  But try very hard not to be a jerk.  There are other things going on in these people's lives besides your manuscript. That's true even if you are a client. 

You need to understand what demands on an agent's time and attention are reasonable.  It is not reasonable to ask somebody to set aside everything in their life to pay attention to you immediately.  If you respect your agent and recognize that their time is valuable, they will like you better and work harder for you.  It's good to have confidence in your work, but expecting extraordinary special treatment, especially prior to signing with the agent, marks you as difficult and potentially crazy.

Also, keep in mind that prospective clients are an agent's lowest priority.  Waiting a month to six weeks for an answer on a full is considered fast turnaround; two months is industry standard.  Agents won't move you to the front-burner unless there is a time-sensitive issue like another offer on the table.

Also:  Yesterday, Nathan Bransford had a helpful post about how to deal with conflicting query advice, after several agents gave different answers about whether authors should query under pen names.

My advice on the subject:  The only rational response to conflicting query advice is to disregard all of it and do the opposite. Specifically, you should:

Query as your main character Pen name? Real name? Forget it. Query in character. Especially if your character is a sex offender, a serial killer or an angel. If you open your query with "I am an Angel of God, sent to Earth to serial-kill the women who won't date me," there's no friggin' way an agent won't ask for your pages. That's what they call a 'baller hook' in the biz.

Insult the agent If you can diminish their sense of self-worth, agents will become desperate to associate with you, so that they may shine with some of your reflected glory. If you tell an agent that you think he is an idiot but that he can prove you wrong by representing you, he will be filled with an unquenchable desire to prove he is not an idiot. That's just psychology, or something. 

Mass e-mail queries You're busy and your book is a hot commodity. Let everyone know it by sending your query to everyone in Writer's Marketplace in one e-mail with the salutation: "Dear Sir or Madam." That way, they know they have a lot of competition and they had better get around to requesting your full immediately.

Good luck to you, Noble Writer, and godspeed.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, let them throw all conventional wisdom out the window and try the approach of doing whatever they think will grab the agent/editor's attention. There's no way at all this could possibly backfire on them.

    Ha! Who am I kidding? Of course it'll backfire, and backfire badly.