Yesterday, agent Jessica Faust opened up the floor for writers to vent about their frustrations with agents. Many of the comments were interesting and brought up good points. However, it seemed as the day went on, there were a great deal more comments that were just plain bitter and vindictive.
I know it must be frustrating for many of these writers, especially if they’ve had less than pleasant experiences with agents. I know it has to be difficult to work months and years on a project only to be met with lack of response or rejection. And even though I haven’t gotten to that point yet, I’m sure I will be just as impatient and frustrated. However, I’m trying my best to prepare myself ahead of time for the inevitability of the waiting game, however frustrating it may be. That’s just part of the business, at least from what I’ve learned over the past few months.
I think many writers take such frustration out by playing the blame game. I would like to suggest that perhaps one of the main reasons their book hasn’t been repped by an agent yet is because it’s not ready and/or because of the strong competition for all of us unpublished, unrepped writers out there. There are hundreds of thousands of people wanting to be published and obviously not all will make it to that point (unless one takes the self-publishing route). You have to work harder and make your story stand out from the rest. And yes, you may end up encountering an agent or agency that’s less than professional–but that goes with the territory. Every aspect of human society, whether that’s business, religion or politics will have some people in it that make others look bad. Nothing in life is perfect, nor will it ever be. There will always be issues and we have to do our best to deal with them.
For some reason, agents, editors and publishers are expected to be superhuman and perfect irregardless of the fact that it’s just not possible.
If agentfail# has proven anything to me, it’s demonstrated that agents really do have to deal with a lot (the amount of irritated writers in the comments is definitely proof of that). Yes, they aren’t perfect. Yes, they will make mistakes. They are only human after all, despite what many writers want to think.
Venting frustrations are fine, (we all have to at some point) and giving suggestions about how to change flaws in a system are great, but it accomplishes nothing to be bitter about it.
Comments on: "Writer Frustrations" (4)
I’m really learning that the publishing industry things move at a snail’s pace. They talk about things in terms of years not weeks or even months. I was naive when I first started doing research. I thought you get a contract and then within a couple of months you’ll see your book in stores. How foolish was I?
This is a great post Dara. I’ve read quite a few bitter comments throughout my years of blog trotting. It’s sad, for sure. I hope you never feel bitter or angry about the publishing biz. 🙂 I hope your first book is a bestseller. LOL Who can get angry then?
Oh, right. All the others who didn’t best sell. Sigh.
You’re so right about the blame game. It gets tiring to read people point fingers.
Now I have to go check out that post because I think I missed it.
I’ve read both the QueryFail and AgentFail. As a published writer and a manuscript editor, I can say that both sides have many valid points. I wouldn’t dismiss the points of any of the writers as simply a matter of vindictiveness or bitterness. Publishing is a time-intensive business. When a writer works on a manuscript for years and agrees to give it to an agent who sits on it for months, it’s a business loss, a very real one. Or when that agent submits it to the wrong editor or wrong publisher, it’s not just a waste of time, it is again, a business loss, one that represents a loss in money. On the other hand when an agent has to slog through hundreds of poorly written query letters, it’s no wonder if he or she gets hardened or jaded. It’s no wonder if he or she get callous about the power they wield. It’s not right, but it is understandable. Most agents I’ve met are good people with good intentions. They take a lot of rejection also. Writers seem to forget that.
The real reason I wanted to write this post was to issue a bit of advice, advice that was given to me recently by an editor at a major publishing house. I had just told him a story about an agent I once had. I liked the agent very much, and thought he did a good job of selling my book. But later, once the book came out, and I learned something about the business of publishing, the harsh realities of what can happen to a book, I started to wonder. I talked to other authors and editors about my experience. All said the same thing: your agent didn’t do his job. One of the editors at the publishing house that handled my book even later told me to drop this guy as my agent. I eventually did. The other night, when talking to this editor who happened to be at the same publisher and wanted to know how I was doing, I told him what had happened with my book within his house. He shook his head at my tale of disaster. He asked me if I was still with the same agent. I said no, but that I was still in contact with the guy. We’d become friends and I liked him as a person. I’ll never forget the look the editor gave me. He then gave me some words of advice. “Friendship is one thing. Patience is one thing. But business is another.”
In retrospect, I see that I was so glad to find an agent, I was so glad to be sold, that I was willing to believe, to trust, to not question, and to be loyal, no matter. And it cost me. My advice to you: Be less forgiving or prepared to forgive when you do get an agent. While you comment that agents are “only human after all” smacks of naivete. There are valid reasons why writers get tired, even bitter. Given the powerful role that agents play, it’s best to put less emphasis on patience and trust than knowledge and a fair expectation of professional competence.
WriterBabe, I do agree with you for the most part. It is understandable to feel a little bitter at one point, but to let that completely take over you, like some of the comments seemed to show, means that perhaps one needs to step away from it for awhile.
From your situation, I see no evidence of bitterness or vindictiveness. You handled it in a professional manner, and if you did feel bitter, you didn’t let it affect your outlook on agents and publishing in general. But I suspect that if much the same happened to other writers, they would lash out and be less forgiving.
I do think some of the points made by the some of the writers on agentfail# were wrought with bitterness.While I understand their frustration, I do believe some of what was said was a little uncalled for.
Anyway, I am still a relative newbie, but I am hoping that I can prepare myself for such situations should they happen to me.