Sunday, June 22, 2014

Kneel Before Me!

Like a number of writers, I like to read the Writer's Digest website.  They have a lot of great articles about how to improve yourself as a writer, as well as some of the business side.  They also send out a number of emails that direct you to stories that come up...including whenever a new literary agent appears.

I've long since ignored these, but the titles of some of the articles have recently begun to grate on me.  It took a while before I figured out why, but it eventually hit me.  Everything from "Do you have what it takes to impress an agent" to "Agent XXX will be doing a workshop this Saturday for writers" screams out "YOU ARE A PEON WHO WILL BE LUCKY IF I NOTICE YOU!!!!"

This tone permeates everything I've ever seen from literary agents in the modern world.  Nowhere is there mention of "here's how I can get you a great deal" or "I love representing new talent."  Instead, we are constantly subjected to that which resembles some mighty lord on high who we are lucky enough to have grace us with his or her presence.

I know this will sound wacky, but agents work for writers.  It is we who should be choosing who we want to represent us, not the other way around.  Too much of the way agents present themselves make them sound like shills for a dying publishing industry.  They too often talk about what they are seeking.  As a writer, it should be hard enough to find a legacy publisher who might be interested in your work, so it shouldn't be a double sales job.  Agents are for us as writers, not for the publisher who invites them to swanky Manhattan cocktail parties.

The problem is that so many writers are incredibly desperate for that one break that will rocket them to fame and fortune that they forget that publishers, and especially agents, need them more than they need the publisher or agent.  It's like the crack dealer who forgets that without addicts, no one buys the drugs.

This imperious tone in agents is nothing new.  I've railed for a long time about the way agents react to the folks they're supposed to be representing, as if they're doing us a favor.  Their job is to get us published, not pretend we're barely worth their time.  When more writers start to understand this, the attitude of those who are supposed to work for us might start to change.  Until then, they will continue the arrogant parade they're the grand marshals of, all because we let them.

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