Thursday, November 5, 2009

Open Letter to Agents

If you readers don't mind, I'd like to take just this single post to address literary agents -- not because I hate them and would like to crush gingerbread men bearing their likenesses into a pulp of sandy crumbs and gumdrops, but because I have something important to say that I think gets overlooked.

Dear Agent,

I know you are overworked; I know you get thousands of query letters a month; and I know you reject 99.9% of them. I know you make your money off selling a writer's work, and I respect, understand and support your pickiness 100%. However, with much respect, I think you misunderstand us a little.

We are the authors who have the spine to write to you in the first place -- and in doing so, we *expect* rejection. It's inherent and inevitable, and yet you insist on sugar-coating your rejection letters as if pleasantries soften the blow.

We take our stories that we've worked on for months and we willingly package them to be flayed and torn apart. It's crazy -- insane! -- for us to be so excited, joyous and nervous about having our heart broken and our 'baby' tossed aside into a sea of rejects, but we're lying to you and ourselves if we can't admit to encouraging the rejection all the same.

However, that said, we do not care for niceties -- just give it to us straight. We do not need hollow rejection letters with encouraging sentiments telling us to 'assume' you're wrong. And, most of all, we do not want to read page-long generic form letters addressed to 'Author' explaining what you look for in a book with veiled references to how ours did not fit the bill.

That's just mean, and it's not in the least bit helpful, especially when, deep down, we already know you're not right. Don't assume we need your encouragement -- the encouragement of a person who did not see the value in our art. All it engenders is irritability, hurt and an underlying gratitude that you *didn't* find our story interesting enough to pick up, because I can't image anyone would want someone who doesn't love their story to represent it to a publisher.

But, this doesn't mean us writers don't like getting letters from you. On the contrary, it's what keeps us checking our inboxes every 15 minutes of every single day until we get a response.

What do I propose, then? A form letter is fine -- but skip the shallow well-wishes. If you're not going to be specific as to why *my* story isn't piquing your interest, then I would like nothing more or less than a 'Thank you, but your story is not right for me at this time. Good luck.'

So, dear Agent, I appreciate your effort to be helpful and informative in a generic sense, but when it borders on cruel, just skip it altogether, please.

Thank you, and good luck in your search for willing authors to represent.

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