In my quest for representation, I’ve been asking my writer friends what they like about their agents. One author wanted to make sure I wasn’t offended that she didn’t offer to speak to her agent about me. She said name-dropping wouldn’t help because the work needs to speak for itself. And I totally agree!
This here’s a true story about how not to ask friends for agent-related benefits.
I used to be in a large writing group that covered all genres of literature. Each month, a member of one of the small-groups read from a piece they were working on. It was Children’s Lit time and I was asked to read. I read my chapter and then informed the group that not only had the manuscript just won SCBWI’s Sue Alexander Award, but it also landed me a big-time agent (obviously, I’m not with her anymore). Unfortunately, this news was delivered to a group that felt Children’s Literature was an oxymoron. So I heard many variations of, “That’s so adorable,” even though what I just read was a suspenseful scene.
One guy came up to me afterwards, begging me to send his manuscript to my agent. “But she only reps children’s books,” I said. This guy was a doctor who wrote medical thrillers (to be precise, he was a gynecologist who wrote awful medical thrillers). And though he had never spoken to me before, suddenly I was his chance to get a foot in the door...of course, he wanted to use my foot. “That’s okay,” he said, regarding my agent’s lack of interest in adult books that suck. “I’m sure she’d give it to someone who does represent them.” I told him, “That’s not how it works. You do the research and you submit to the appropriate agent.”
He found out where I worked and kept coming in, asking me if I’d changed my mind. I hadn’t. And I kept asking him why he was so focused on my agent when there were hundreds of other agents who would love a well-written medical thriller (which, right there, excluded his manuscript). At the following month’s group meeting, he told me that he sent the manuscript to my agent anyway, telling her it came with my recommendation. Was I angry? Yeah, kinda! I wanted to say, “I know this isn’t your area of expertise, but exactly how far is your head stuck up your ---?”
I guess the moral of the story is: Don’t get on an author’s bad side…especially an author with a blog!
(And to keep ya up-to-date, I received e-mails from two agents this week requesting to see my YA manuscript...one being from the agent in the first paragraph!)