I am currently submitting my manuscript to every and any appropriate agent I can find. Because this process is incredibly frustrating, I’d like to vent a few pet hates that you too may have encountered/will encounter during your own writing adventures. Enjoy. Or don’t.
1. ‘At this time’.
This is a very typical corporate phrase that I hate so much it gives me energy. Because we live in a world wherein nobody has the right to offend anyone else (despite the fact free speech is bandied about left, right and centre), agents often seem to like to say ‘we cannot accept your work at this time‘. This was more from my last manuscript than the current one since I’ve only started dispatching my latest brainchild very recently, but this petty and vague terminology drove me mad. ‘At this time’? So you’ll accept it tomorrow? In another week? Have the balls to say ‘never’.
2. Submission guidelines.
It must be a pain in the arse having to read so many submissions from so many people, most of which will be utter rubbish, so I understand that agents want their submissions to be concise. But surely reading partial manuscripts for a living isn’t really that hard…not when you compare it with jobs done by doctors, nurses, soldiers, firemen or police officers. Therefore it is very annoying when submission guidelines are less than ideal. For example, when you have a complicated plot to explain, a double-lined spaced one page synopsis gives you sweet fuck all to work with to make your story seem tempting and your characters relatable. Similarly baffling are the agents who request the first five or ten pages; it gives them a good idea of your writing style, but not that much else.
What makes even less sense is when agencies don’t want any attached synopsis or sample chapters at all, and instead demand only a query email or letter. It is very difficult to do justice to your story in this case, especially as agents approach all submissions with a negative attitude from the outset (they don’t call it the ‘slush pile’ for nothing, after all).
On the other hand, there are agencies who request far too much. For example, there are some which demand a one-page synopsis for every chapter as well as a detailed account of the entire plot. In some ways this is a lot better, since with a blow-by-blow description of your book you can really sell it. On the other hand, since rejection is borderline inevitable, it is a lot of work for absolutely nothing.
3. Demanding exclusivity.
People on writers’ forums describe agents as being out of touch, and this is something that I think demonstrates that fact admirably. A few agents state that they don’t take kindly to writers carpet bombing submissions to every agent in the country, but since response times are 6-8 weeks, I’m not sure who they expect is going to wait that long to hear from a single agency that won’t even bother to reply if they haven’t got the gig. Beyond that, full manuscript requests are rare and offers of representation even scarcer, so I don’t know who they’re trying to kid when they think people are actually going to send off to them. Authors with no representation owe loyalty to no one, and I think it’s rather arrogant for these people to expect to be treated with such deference. I do what I imagine everyone else does, and send off to them anyone, pretending to do as they say but in truth writing to anybody and everybody who’ll accept submissions. Yeah. I’m a badass. Fuck the police.
So there you go. Three pet peeves that piss me off. I’ll probably post another one of these next week when I’ve thought of some other things.