I have found online writers’ communities, particularly AgentQuery Connect, to be absolutely indispensable in my (so far short) writing career. I know there’s no way I’d be where I am now without the wealth of information and experience available on that site. And it’s so cool that writers who have been in the game way longer, who have mind-boggling book deals or great success self-publishing, spend their precious free time offering free help to novices out of the goodness of their hearts.
So now that I’ve said all those glowing things about my community of choice, I have noticed as I’ve flitted around some other writers’ communities that the positive culture at AQC is not necessarily the rule. In addition some writers seem to keep blogs just to have a repository for their vitriol, typically directed at agents, editors, and what are ominously called “the Gatekeepers”. Not going to name names, and no links. They're easy enough to find.
No one understands more than me how humbling and sometimes demoralizing this process can be. There’s something so gut-wrenching about a form reject with your name spelled wrong…and it’s, like, a really common name. And the agent’s name is really unusual, and you checked it a million times to make sure you spelled her name right…. Ahem. Hypothetically, of course. But here’s the thing: agents are professionals, doing a job, and that is the way their job is done properly. People blogging proudly about responding with a stream of invectives to those forms from agents baffle me.
I so often see writers online ranting and raving about how foolish agents are, how they’re obsolete and who needs one in this day of self-publishing? But then the same day they’re posting about how they can’t wait to query Agent X. It’s enough to give me whiplash.
I understand feeling hurt, thinking “if they just gave me and my MS a chance”. But some things for writers to reflect on before spewing hate on the internet are:
- If you really do want to contract with an agent, think about the fact that what’s on the internet today is there forever. Yes, really. Thanks to caching and Google your words live on long after you delete them. And if they’re attached to your signature line with all your titles of all your lovely novels…what if Ms. Prospective Agent Googles your name or title and sees that? Do you think she’ll be itching to work with you then, however much she loves your work?
- Along those same lines, think about your line of work. Would you want to work with a customer/client/student who seethes with rage thinking of those who inhabit your chosen profession? I know sometimes you have to…but if you had the choice?
- Keep in mind that those agents may have passed on your MS for one of a nearly infinite number of possibilities, some of which have nothing to do with your genre or your writing. If an agent signs a historical based on French royalty on Tuesday, did my historical based on French royalty sent on Thursday have a realistic chance with that agent? She clearly likes the genre—it’s not you, it’s timing. It sucks, but it’s no one’s fault.
I racked up 150 rejections—some because my MS was still laughably amateurish, some because they could not care less about royalty, some because they read the first page and their attention drifted to their game of Draw Something (which, in all fairness, is an awesome game). But I can say with absolute confidence that not one of those 150+ agents passed on my manuscript because they don’t like good writing, or don’t recognize quality when they see it. They passed because, for one reason or another, it wasn’t the right project for them. That’s why you see that phrase in the form rejects, and the kind rejects, and on every post about what a bummer querying is. Because it’s sad. But it’s true. And that form reject doesn’t mean it’s over. It just means you’re on your way.