In general, I try to avoid writing two consecutive posts about the same topic. I mean, I guess I got a little wound up when I first started talking about the whole running business and no one could get me to shut up about it for a days. But, hey, it’s my blog. And besides, it’s not like I went that crazy. I wasn’t flinging peanut butter across the kitchen because it wasn’t creamy enough, right?
Anyway, Tuesday’s post about what I’ve learned from querying so far actually got a little extra attention yesterday, mostly due to happy timing. I know, right? Me having good timing for once is like Wile. E. Coyote painting a tunnel on the side of rock wall and having the Road Running actually go “splat”. It. Just. Doesn’t. Happen.
Anyway, one of the agents I follow on twitter, the estimable literaticat, published a blog post elaborating on the idea that agents really do need to love your work. A bit of debate then cropped up over that contention when an author suggested that a good agent, largely being responsible for selling your work to a publisher, only need be good enough at sales to have eskimos lining up to purchase refrigerators.
I can only assume that means, yes, of course the kind with ice-makers.
Well, as an unpublished, currently unagented author, that idea makes about as much sense to me as saying a pig is only good for it’s bacon. I mean, come on, yes, of course we all love that crispy, smokey, bacony goodness – well, or at least you do as long as you’re not one o’ them dirty, ‘Merica-hatin’ communists. And yes, you can argue that bacon is the best part, but let’s not overlook tasty hams, luscious barbecued shoulder, not-quite fall-off-the-bone ribs…
Ahem. Sorry, I think I might have been drooling there. Anybody else hungry?
The point is, there’s a lot of goodness that comes with a porker, and along that same line, there’s a lot of benefit to having a great agent. Most of those benefits come well before and continue long after you’ve gotten a contract with a publisher. And, honestly, I think you’d be a fool to focus only on the contract.
Look, I certainly get that the paramount goal for most of us book-scribbling hacks is to get the thing published somewhere, somehow, even it if costs us a firstborn or two. Trust me, I want other people to read my book so badly I have dreams of breaking into people homes and stuffing stockings with hand-scribed copies of it this Christmas.
(Note to self: maybe ease off the late-night pizza and tequila?)
But as much as that’s the case, what I don’t want is someone working me like I’m a commodity. I don’t want an agent that sees every 100k words I’ve strung together as the newest, latest innovation in snake oil. I don’t want to be talked about in fast, non-committal, detail-free sentences like my work is a used car that may or may not fall apart in 200 miles…er…pages. I want an agent that knows my characters like friends, can breathe in the worlds constructed from my imagination, and loves it all so much that they can’t help themselves but want to share it with the whole world, like a fan-fold of baby pictures from an overly-enthusiastic new dad’s wallet.
Obviously, as writers, there’s a strong desire to make money from living in our imaginations and selling the products thereof. But if we’re reduced to selling our creations (and, to a point, ourselves) under the guidance of someone who only cares about making the sale and pushing the commodity, that doesn’t feel much different to me than working for a guy named “Boost” on a Hollywood Boulevard corner on a Friday night. And even if that worked out for Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, I’m pretty sure that doesn’t work out so well for me.
Trust me, I don’t look good in a sequined mini-skirt, wig or no wig.
As an author, do I want an agent? Yes, of course. So badly I’d be willing to give up beer lovin’ cartoons well, something important!
But wanting to be represented is very much not the same thing as just wanting to see my work peddled like the vague promises of a travelling tent-revival preacher.
That’s not say that most writers couldn’t probably do with having a few demons cast out, but that’s so another post.
In the meantime, I’m going to keep looking for love; hopefully avoiding all the wrong places.
And, hey, maybe I’m wrong. In which case, good luck with you and your snake oil guy. Luckily, I hear that back stock keeps pretty well in a dark, empty warehouse.
That’s my opinion, at least. Are you author, published or unagented? What do you think?