How NOT to Appeal to a Potential Agent (or Mate)

Posted on 26/07/2011 by


Paul thinks I should update you on my search for representation thing. I think this may be the first step on a descending spiral of madness and despair, but what do I know?

So. On Friday an agent (one of those at the very top of my shortlist of favourites) asked to see a partial (that’s a partial manuscript, in this case about fifty pages), which means she’s at least a bit interested. *suppressed glee noises* But once she’s read it she might still decide it’s not for her so… still in limbo.

Interestingly, at almost the same time I got a very sweet rejection email from one of the other agents on my shortlist. Which I thought was really nice. For one thing, most agents don’t actually reject you personally, rejection is simply a hollow silence, a void with no specific sense of closure…

Okay, I’ll stop being dramatic. I understand why they do it — apparently authors who get specifically rejected have a tendency to go a bit nuts, argue, be rude or unpleasant to the agent, or even send pages unasked for, in case the agent will then realise their horrible mistake. All of which seems… well, batshit crazy is the phrase that springs to mind.

I tend to think of the search for an agent (or a publisher) as very much like a search for a romantic partner. It’s a business relationship, of course, but you also need to find someone you can work with, someone who will be interested and excited by your work, who has a place in their lineup for the kind of thing you do, who has the time and energy to give your work the attention it deserves, and so on. Rejection isn’t about them hating you, it’s about all of those things just not being quite right. And sometimes, no matter how much research you do, the person you chose to approach just isn’t right for you.

There’s a reason you don’t usually marry the first person who asks you out. And there’s a reason it usually takes a while to find the right agent or publisher.

So I don’t really understand why so many people apparently lose it when an agent or publisher rejects their advances. Yes, you’re nervous, neurotic, heart on your sleeve approaching them but when you ask someone out on a date and they turn you down, do you yell and scream, tell them they’re making a mistake, beg them to reconsider, and burn them in effigy? Hell, I don’t know, maybe you do.

It just seems like that it’s unlikely to achieve your goals — with that agent or any other who heard the screaming. You want to work with these people, the very least you can do is be polite. They’re doing their job, you do yours — say ‘thank you for your time’ and move on.

But maybe that’s just me.