OK, so originally this post was going to be something about the oil spill.
I've been thinking about our beaches and growing up in south Louisiana, living on the Alabama Gulf Coast, having family in Mississippi, a brother in south Florida. We're all virtually joining hands in this crisis praying it can be resolved with as little damage as possible.
Then I got a form rejection on a query letter for Brand New Novel from an agent who, according to her stated interests, should've at least wanted to read a little more... It's OK, I wasn't that upset. (big lie)
I can say I was pleasantly surprised that after only a few test letters, I got a full MS request from an extremely nice and reputable agent I interacted with on Debut Novel. (whee!) She seems like a neat person to work with. I'll keep you posted as that unfolds.
So since it all comes back to the books, I was thinking about how the agent search is a lot like using Match dot com to find a date/potential mate. (Never used MDC, but I'm betting it is...)
I read somewhere a caution to writers to approach selecting an agent even more carefully than you would your husband/wife. That seems a little extreme, but I get it. This person is going to have a huge role in my career path, and as most agent-author relationships involve contracts, there's a similarity.
So here's how it works (and those of you who've used MDC, see what you think):
The search is 98 percent online now--almost everybody's wanting to be green, and it sure saves on postage, so I'm all for it. You set out, aspiring novelist, finished novel in hand (teeth brushed, coolest outfit), and you head over to Query Tracker to set up your dbase/do a search for agents seeking your genre.
QT has links to agency websites and agent email addresses--even a comments section from queriers as to how fast they respond or if they do.
I'm sure this is some Big Brother means of tracking the habits of aspiring novelists and plotting trends in the industry, but I Don't Care. The fellas who designed and maintain QT (which is free, btw) are Heroes.
The list is made (profiles matched), so you pick about seven you'd like to ask on a date (i.e., send a query).
I once read a long blog post about how a bad agent's worse than no agent at all--possiblly worse than never being published. (gasp!) I can't remember where that was or I'd give you a link.
So how do you know if this person you're about to ask out/possibly marry's crazy or not? What if you get an offer from the literary agent equivalent of Glen Close in Fatal Attraction?
Run over to Absolute Write Watercooler for the skinny. It's an online forum of writers who post about agent behaviors. Sometimes agents even drop in for interviews or to update threads about themselves. It's basically like your group of girlfriends, although I feel like the total guy in this scenario.
You can also Google the agent's name to see if he/she has a blog or has been interviewed recently by many of the helpful agent-interview blogs out there (e.g., Guide to Literary Agents, Literary Rambles, etc.)
For me, even after all this homework, it's been very hit or miss.
I've gotten several form rejections from agents who specifically state they're seeking what my novel is. I've gotten several partial requests from the same. And the I've gotten full requests (the home run) from agents both specifically seeking it and from some I've queried because I liked books they handled or their agency, regardless of whether they were specifically seeking what I'd written.
I've gotten the no call the day after treatment. I've gotten the surprise positive follow-up from the date you didn't think went so well...
And then I discovered Agents on Twitter. Can I just say, following AOT is a big mistake.
I know it helps us keep track of them 24/7, but when they start tweeting about queries, it's a lot like being the guy who overhears the group of girls discussing a bad date when you've just gone out with one of them.
They never tweet the name of offending querier, but you just KNOW they're talking about you.
Or then you have the agent who tweets that she just had the most amazing cookie at some NYC bakery while hanging with the Shark (Janet Reid), and you're thinking, "Why are you hanging out with the Shark eating cookies and not reading my partial???"
The best are the tweets from the agent who's so disappointed because she never gets the MS she really, really wants. Or the one who proposed to an author who'd already gotten married. But based simply on a query, not on reading the full...
Naturally, I hopped over to her profile to see if I should ask her out! I discovered she's seeking exactly what DN is! I tentatively send her a "Would you like to go out with me?" query and get back the insta-slap. The "Dear Author..." form reject.
LTM: (Puzzled frown, rubbing cheek) I guess she was still in mourning...
They should start using "John" instead of "Author" in those. Just to inject a little humor.
If all this sounds bitter, I've failed. It's totally not meant to. I'm actually extremely optimistic, and I've gotten super feedback on Brand New Novel.
The agent search is frustrating, but I still think it's way better than sending my MS off to the slushpile of four major publishing houses and hoping for the best. And I very much appreciate the fast-responding agents, positive or negative.
It's just the entire process brings to mind that Fountains of Wayne song "Someone to Love." (You knew there'd be a musical tie-in.)
I'm Seth. Agent Seeking Exactly What BNN Is, But Who Sends "Dear Author" Form Reject To My Query can play the role of Beth. Pay careful attention to the taxi interaction... Here's the link to the song.
Onward and upward, reader friends! Oh, and some Happy Mother's Day recipes (my contribution is #3).