Literary Agents are People Too

No, really.

Way back before I found Agent Sara, while I was still submitting my first novel, I talked about rejection from a writer’s point of view. But there’s another side to the rejection story…

Let me introduce you to Brynn. She’ll get through a stack of submissions by lunch: rejecting one for one too many ellipses, another for having two POV in five pages. She has to. It’s not that she’s cruel or indifferent—she just needs to make a living. She’s buried in a pile of submissions and she wants to help you both—but she can only represent what she can sell.

Yes, it’s Sunday, but she spent the week mired in edits with a writer out of St. Louis—well she had such hopes. But again, it seems a case of them not getting it. Perhaps in this stack lies the next JK Rowling, the next Hemingway even.

She plucks out a query letter: “Dear Mr. Brine:”

Probably no Hemingway today.

She used to have dreams. Her own debut novel won two prestigious awards, but had the thinnest of sales. She was never able to sell the second. Hell, she’s seen the best novel of the century—represented it herself and pitched it to every publishing house she could find. It never sold. That writer works at Cyber Town, stocking shelves. He emailed last week: he hoping for full-time so he can qualify for health insurance.

And then there are the hundreds of submissions that send their perfect, polished query packages, but the stories go flat on fulls. The piles of disappointments, the volumes of misrepresentations. She’s learned to recognize the signs and each word is a clue that might veer her off the page.

It’s a high wire act, step-stop-balance. Gauge the wind. Each move requires certainty. The competition is fierce and reputations have been ruined on allegiance to the wrong manuscript. It takes experience, luck and timing.

Do people read anymore? Sometimes she wonders. Like a shape-shifting beast, the publishing industry seems to morph into something new every ninety days or so. One must be agile, quick and wise.

But even on working-Sundays, there’s hope. She pulls one from the stack. Another post-apocalyptic zombie-mermaid novel; the fifteenth today.

Aw crap.

2 Comments

  1. peterkirsch

    You know, I come here in hopes of finding some inspiration.
    This isn’t helping…
    Why are we writing again?

  2. No, no, there’s never been a better time to be a writer! Endless inspiration, endless opportunities. Seize the day!

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