Friday, August 12, 2011

Calling out an agent & possibly burning bridges

I tend to take what the fine folks at BookEnds, LLC say on their blog very seriously and carefully thought out. That is, until today. This morning this post was on their blog. Here's the quote:
The problem with querying every book at once (either in the same query or three or four queries in a row) is that after reading and rejecting one I tend to feel I'm not the right agent for your work and automatically reject the others. If you query different books over time I will assume your writing has evolved and you've moved on from the books I've previously rejected.

Now, to an aspiring author, such as myself, this is kind of insulting and a big let down. So, one query was sucky. OK, that happens, we understand. But to deny all of an author's work because of one fumbled attempt is just plan dumb, and I just as much said so when I posted a reply:
Jessica, while that is a very human thing to do--reject out of hand--it's also, in my opinion, the wrong thing to do. Each story is unique in-and-of-itself, and to whole-cloth deny a person because one query might have been "lame" is the height of both arrogance and folly. Not to insult or sound rude, but that's how I feel. I would much rather you know how I think on these things than to remain silent. It is, in short, very wrong to do this, and I can only admonish you in the strongest possible tone. I hope this does not color any future relationship we might have.
I have no illusions that Jessica or any of the other folks will see what I said and have a change of heart; but I think it's highly important that they know when they say or do something that is, even in my admittedly minor and perhaps uneducated opinion, just plain wrong. Sure, one query could be weak or just plain bad. Hell, it even could be that the material just isn't a good fit for the agent/agency--that'll happen--it happens all the time! No harm, no foul.

But each story is different, unique, and each query with it is equally so. Whereas book #1's query could be bad, that doesn't mean that book #2's query is not going to be stellar. But rather than possibly read on, Jessica thinks it's fair to just call it as she saw it and deny them all. Not cool. Not cool at all.

Would she be offended if every author out there who submitted to her, and received a "no, but thanks" reply, then decided they'd never query her again? That's putting the shoe on the other foot, is it not? How hurt do you think she'd be if someone posted on an international message board that it was not good to waste time with her or her agency once a "no" had been received--and if potentially multiple thousands of authors took that word to heart?

Wouldn't she be, in short order, out of a job?

So I ask, why kill the hopes and dreams of authors with stuff like this? Even if it is honest and off-the-cuff, it's coming across as yet another mindless barrier to entry that new authors have to endure. It is, in a word, and please forgive me if I am too strong in this: bullshit.

I'm sorry, Jessica, but what you said is wrong, insensitive, and in ways insulting. And that's bad. Really bad.

Please note that I said "I hope this does not color any future relationship we might have." I have a feeling that it will. No matter what I say it is all a matter of perspective, and in this it is Jessica's perspective that will matter, not mine. I can't force her to change her mind any more than I can force her to alter her religious beliefs (if any.) All I can do is what I'm doing: calling out the mistakes as I see them. All that I ask for, when I submit a manuscript for potential approval, is honesty. That's all any aspiring author asks for. All we ask for is a chance--and honest, real chance--at acceptance. This is the only thing any new author is craving: opportunity. And to have the door prematurely shut on a person's face like this--even if it's not me--is a grand disservice to not only the reading public at-large, but to the industry as a whole.

Sorry, Jessica, but you're wrong, and I hope you understand why I feel that way now.

No hard feelings.


  1. You got balls man, I'll say that for you.

    I see both sides because I'm easily swayed and because I dream just like you.

    Usually I'm the one mouthing off about the unjust but sometimes, now, I bite my lip. I've learned that principle, though noble, may make you feel proud and at the same time, like shit. At my age I'm tired of feeling like shit.
    Is it selling out? No, it's finding another way in. And, it's never forgetting who holds the keys.

    You are a good writer. Don't hold too hard to your position; it blinds common sense, in other words you might be wrong and then again maybe you are not. Like I said I'm easily swayed.

  2. Wry Writer, thanks for your feedback. I find the input I receive to be of actual value more times than not. So, thanks! :)

    The way I look at it is this: Jessica said (and I'm paraphrasing here), "This query is not very good, therefore all of this person's queries are not very good."

    That, to me, is like saying "Fred Phelps is a jerk, therefore all Christians are jerks, too." Which is, of course, wrong as wrong can be.

    Each query--indeed each story--is unique to itself, and as such deserves the correct and honest independent appraisal that the author hopes for. Nothing more. To hamstring the situation further by making a gross generalization is a mistake. A big one.

    I can only hope that the person whom she's talking about, but is unidentified, goes on to sell multiple millions of copies of each of his/her books that she outright denied. Only then, when hit in the pocketbook, will I fear she'll truly understand.