A major milestone today, my friends: this is my 200th Author! Author! blog!
To those of you who did not follow me over from my old blogspot as the Pacific Northwest Writers’ Association Resident Writer, this announcement may seem puzzling, given the volume of back blogs stored here: I posted 206 times as Resident Writer, and those posts are archived here as well. My entire advice opus, as it were.
But these last 200 have been entirely on my own dime, in every sense, and without having to serve the institutional interests that inevitably limit what an organization’s designated columnist (which is really what I was; over my protests, the PNWA site did not allow readers to post comments) can say. So writing the blog since has been a heck of a lot more fun, and, I hope, even more useful to my readers.
As a 200th birthday present, will you do me a favor, please? Will you make a back-up of all of your writing documents NOW? I hadn’t nagged you about it in a couple of months, and I would hate for anyone to lose a manuscript through mechanical failure.
Thank you. I feel better now.
Yesterday, in broaching the subject of how blurry boundaries can lead writers astray in their relations with potential agents and editors, I introduced the case of Lauren, a trusting soul who believed that because an agent was nice to her, she did not need to continue pitching her book to other agents.
Lauren, you may have noticed, was awfully well-behaved about it all, and thus did not offend agent Loretta with her misconceptions. For the sake of argument, let’s meet another of Loretta’s pitch appointments, Lauren’s twin brother Lorenzo, to see how someone less knowledgeable about industry norms might have responded to the same situation:
Blurry boundary scenario 2: Lorenzo attends the same conference as his sister, and like Lauren, has a positive pitch meeting with agent Loretta. Pleased, he too stops pitching, boasting in the bar that is inevitably located no more than 100 yards from ground zero at any writers’ conference that he has found the agent of his dreams. From here on in, he has it made.
So, naturally, Lorenzo goes home, spends the usual panicked week or two frantically revising his novel, and sends it off to Loretta. Like Lauren, he too receives a beautifully sympathetic rejection letter a few weeks later, detailing what Loretta feels are the weaknesses of the manuscript.
Unlike Lauren, however, Lorenzo unwisely picked conference week in order to go off his anti-anxiety medication. His self-confidence suffers a serious meltdown, and in order to save his ego from sinking altogether, he is inspired to fight back. So he sits down and writes Loretta a lengthy e-mail, arguing with her about the merits of his manuscript.
Much to his surprise, she does not respond.
He sends it again, suitably embellished with reproaches for not having replied to his last, and attaching an article about how the publishing industry rejected some major bestseller 27 times before it was picked up.
Still no answer.
Perplexed and angry, Lorenzo alters his first 50 pages as Loretta advised, scrawls REQUESTED MATERIALS on the outside of the envelope, as he had the first time, and sends it off.
Within days, the manuscript is returned to him, accompanied by a curt note stating that it is the practice of Loretta’s agency not to accept unrequested submissions from previously unpublished authors. If Lorenzo would like to query…
Okay, what did Lorenzo do wrong? Where do we even start?
Let’s run through this chronologically, shall we? First, he made all of the same mistakes as Lauren did yesterday: he did not check Loretta’s track record, assumed that a conference conversation automatically meant a lasting connection, and did not keep pitching. Had he stopped there, he would have been a much happier camper.
But no, our Lorenzo pressed ahead: he decided to contest with Loretta’s decision, adopting the always people-pleasing strategy of questioning her literary judgment. In order to insult her knowledge of the book-buying public more thoroughly, his follow-up included an article implying that no one in the industry knew a book from the proverbial hole in the ground.
Bad move, L. Arguing with an agent’s decision, unless you are already signed with that agent, is always a bad idea. Even if you’re right. Perhaps even especially if you’re right, because agents’ egos tend to get bruised easily.
More to the point, arguing with rejection is not going to turn it into acceptance. Ever. At the agent-seeking stage, this strategy has literally never worked. All it does is impress the agent (or, more likely, her screeners) with the fact that the writer in question is not professional enough to handle rejection well.
And that, my friends, is not an impression at all likely to engender a sympathetic re-read.
I’m sure, however, that you’re all too savvy to follow in Lorenzo’s footsteps, aren’t you? You would never be so blunt, I’m sure, nor would you ever be so dishonest as to write REQUESTED MATERIALS on materials that had not, in fact, been requested. (Since Loretta had not asked Lorenzo to revise and resubmit, her request ended when she stuffed his initial 50 pages into his SASE.)
However, a writer does not necessarily need to go over the top right away to bug an agent with over-persistence. Tomorrow, I shall show you how.
Happy 200th post, everybody, and keep up the good work!