Thursday, February 12, 2009

What I Hate About Searching For An Agent

This is the last post about searching for an agent (I think) and then I’ll get back to more interesting stuff.

Originally, I planned to post something about how much I hate searching for an agent. I was going to talk about all of the rules we are supposed to follow to keep from offending an agent. I was going to say something about how some agents treat their potential clients in an unprofessional manner, even calling them kids. I’ve decided instead to talk about metrics.

It sounds boring, doesn’t it? But authors seem to like metrics as much as engineers do. The difference is that engineers keep meaningful metrics. Authors track Amazon Sales Rank (a completely useless metric) and the number of rejection letters they receive (which is almost as useless).

At what point are we supposed to count a rejection? If I send out a query and a literary agent writes back, “I don’t represent fiction,” is that a rejection? I would say not, unless you sent him a memoir. In that case, it isn’t only a rejection, it is outright cruel. So what if an agent sends a note back saying, “I am unable to consider taking on additional clients at this time,” is that a rejection? Once again, no. What if the statement is, “it isn’t right for me?” This is the classic rejection statement, but without knowing why the agent sent this message, it is impossible to know if it is a true rejection. The agent might have written, “It isn’t right for me, but it looks like a good story. Could you send a copy of your manuscript so I can finish reading it?” Rejection? Nope.

The simple answer is that we shouldn’t count responses to query letters in our rejection tallies. Now we move on to proposals. It might be more meaningful to count rejections here, but since we’ve eliminated rejections based on query letters, we don’t have a full picture. If one agent requests a copy of the manuscript and one agent rejects it, that is a lot different from ten agents requesting a copy and one agent rejecting it.