Writing & Agents Part 3: Pet Peeves

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. 

About tcjogden69

Former soldier, current boxing trainer/student living in Tbilisi.
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9 Responses to Writing & Agents Part 3: Pet Peeves

  1. tmewalsh says:

    Pet peeve – not bothering to even write your name when sending you a rejection email – That’s just plain rude.

  2. TheGirl says:

    Exclusivity is a new one, but I did hear that you should be careful when you query a lot of agents or publishers, because people do talk. Sounds like someone should publish independently.

    • tcjogden69 says:

      Yes I’ve heard that they talk things over with each other, but I fail to see why that should affect anything. Go on any agency website and the first thing you’ll come across is the statement that they get ‘hundreds of submissions every week’. I highly doubt they discuss each and every one with each other, therefore the only reason they’d have for discussing my query would be that it stood out amongst both of their slush piles. And if they both like it, why would they then both reject it? I’d have thought that would inspire some healthy competition, and that never hurt anybody.

      I’ve published independently before and it’s a route I don’t want to go down again unless I absolutely have to. Amazon is so full of shit it’s incredibly hard to stand out; whatever the merits of self-publishing I still think that the traditional method will endure.

      I know that there are people who self-publish who do have good ideas but whenever I browse the titles there is little and less that actually stands out. In that sense, I think Amazon is a nightmare for the writing industry, since it means any old shite is now technically publishable and the good stuff is incredibly hard to gleam from the bad.

      On the other hand, when I see the stuff that agents represent, it doesn’t seem to be all that different. If you’ve read my other posts you’ll know that very little really catches my attention, and I really cannot understand how some of the self-published stuff on Amazon didn’t get representation and the things that did are nowhere near as good in concept or style.

      Another reason I don’t want to go down the self-published route is self-respect. 50 Shades of Grey is by far one of the worst books I’ve ever had the misfortune to read, and I doubt that any good agent would have touched it with a barge pole before it made money after droves of sexually frustrated mums bought it. I want to earn the respect of people who really know what they’re talking about; I mentioned on one of my other posts that an agent wrote to me who stated they’d have taken me on if their client list wasn’t full. I was glowing all day because of the kind things they said about my writing ability, and that’s the kind of recognition I want. Publishing independently left an empty feeling last time, and it would do so again.

      My latest book is a bit controversial, since it will be critical of Islam and in the politically correct society in which we live today, that’s something which just isn’t done. I had a rejection letter a few days ago from one agent who said that they thought it was ‘very interesting’ and ‘well written’ but not right for them ‘at this time’. I took that to mean they were afraid of touching something with a political message. I don’t mind rejection, as long as it’s for the right reasons, but if nobody takes it then yes, I’ll have to go independent again. Unfortunately. But I take comfort from the email I mentioned in my last paragraph; if one of them, a professional, liked my writing style, then it stands to reason that another will, too.

      • TheGirl says:

        Well that was a mouthful, but it sounds like you are looking for some sort of “validation” from a “professional” to make you an author. Publishing is publishing whether you have an agent or not, most writers would just be happy that hundreds or thousands of people are reading their work, not who published it.

      • tcjogden69 says:

        ‘Sounds like’? Of course it does, I said that myself. And a mouthful? No, that was a detailed response.

        I suppose you could call me old fashioned. But to my mind, most people on Amazon aren’t authors at all, for the very reason that hundreds and thousands of people aren’t reading their work: from what I’ve read and seen, it’s exactly because they don’t have the expertise of experienced people behind them that doesn’t make their work stand out, or because they don’t have the marketing funds that a major publishing house does.

        Although even if they do sell millions of copies, oftentimes there’s quality issues. Look at E. L. James. 50 Shades of Grey is by far the worst book I’ve ever had the misfortune to read; it was so badly written I can’t bring myself to call her an author, and I know I’m not alone…and, now that I think about it, neither is she.

      • TheGirl says:

        Well yeah, she may not have had the resources to have her manuscript edited, nor did she know about the publishing process. So you’re right, had she been through the traditional process, they would polished up and stuff, to make it more presentable.

        Nonetheless, the thing about big publishers and agents, is that they do not market for every author that comes through them. From what I understand from other authors and former editors, they’ll bring you in and publish it, and maybe post it on their website and such, but if sales aren’t in their desired range within a few weeks, the book goes to the back burner. The billboards and million dollar commercials really goes to the top 10% authors (Nicholas Sparks, Dan Brown, and such). Many traditional authors still need to build their own FB page, arrange their own book signings, book their own interviews…Maybe in the old school days publishers invested in their authors, but now it seems like they don’t. They just care about the bottom line. How can you give so much power to an entity that only cares about that?

      • tcjogden69 says:

        Frankly if I’m ever at that point wherein I’m being interviewed for my work I won’t give a damn if I had to arrange it or not haha. But yeah, on the whole new writers have to do a lot of the promotional legwork themselves, though if they have an agent and a publisher behind them they’ll still have to do significantly less than if they’d self-published. The other thing about self-publishing is that not everyone owns a Kindle; there are still plenty of folks who buy paper books, but because you have to pay for the production costs, vanity publishing really isn’t an attractive option.

        I can’t really blame publishers and agents for being hesitant when it comes to all this. It’s a very unpredictable industry; look at how many books heralded as being the next big thing just fall flat…and look at how many bestsellers were initially rejected by agents and publishing houses. It’s a risky business for everyone involved, really.

      • TheGirl says:

        Yeh it’s Risky Business!

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