Finding an Agent Part One:

That is right! Twice in as many days I was rejected by agents. For those readers who do not realize it, rejection by agents are part of going into writing. I might have worked in television and film for years and have that system down cold, but it does not prepare you for the culture of the book agent. Here is my two tolars on the issue.

For a year before looking for my first agent I ghosted around literary chat boards, listening to the complaints about agentry. Agents, if the boards were believed, were narrow minded readers who could not write themselves but who has in the dim past gained an education in literature that they could not otherwise market. Being universally misanthropes and unable to handle human society, they are shunted into literary agencies where each week they build huge walls between the hard working writer and a steady pay check. Owing to their difficulty in human communications, writers, whom everyone knows are classical models of humanity, must learn techniques to get their message in front of these people that are similar to methods of dealing with unruly horses.

This naturally shocked and intimidated me. In the television and film industry work usually came to me by word of mouth, and for years my efforts almost always result in a paycheck that has, at least since I was seventeen, kept me safely in the upper-middle class. One job was always followed by the next. One script leads to another one. A commercial leads to a television show, so onto a sports program, and then another commercial.

My disability, though severe, soon became a selling point. People hired me because my disability was actually a benefit. People made more money when I worked for them, and that added up. You were hired for each gig because in the previous gig you rocked, and reputation was far more important than resume.

In higher education was the first time I found my disability used against me. You could be a great student, a great teacher, a sure-fire researcher, but none of that mattered if the Dean did not like people with autism or epilepsy. Oddly enough, higher education is the last place in the country were good old-fashioned bigotry reigns as a standard method of management.

So what would working in the writing industry be like? Under a pen name, I have some targeted books that had each sold around 10,000 copies and provided a thousand dollars of revenue a year that showed no signs of falling off. These books were my attempts at self-publishing where I gave myself strict limits in how long I would spend writing and selling the product, instead working to maximize the precise target audience of the work. In the long run, though I could not spend much time on these books unless I could get seven or eight titles selling at a time. The best I could do was make sure I always published evergreen works and kept them affordable to entry level readers.

Instead of relying on chat groups whose quality of information turned out to be questionable, I then decided to talk to actual agents, brought to the table through my television contacts. It was here that I coined the association of marriage with agency. Sitting at a table with a few agents, I heard some pretty gritty nitty, and some reasonable explanations for why agents did what they did.

1. All agents want to publish the next best seller, but mature agents know their livelihood relies on a stable of ten to twenty earners that can bring in fifty-grand gross per book. A new author with a good book can expect a sales run of 10,000 copies in hardback with a cost to publish of $100,000. Priced at $30, the author takes in (@10%) $10,000 and your agent gets maybe $3,000 of that. The book company walks away with the rest, which is reasonable as they have to support the company. If your agent puts just one-hundred hours of love into you and your book, they are making $30 and hour. They will also need ten or more writing clients who send them a book per year to keep their agency happy and the wolf away from the door. So in their terms you have to be able to sell 10,000 books at a strong price point.

2. Many agents will not handle the work of people who are handicapped or those who write with characters that have handicaps. They will also not work with people who are addicts, incarcerated, have opinions one way or another about Donald Trump, or are likely to draw attention to Internet haters by being societally vulnerable to bullying. The issue is not that these people are bad, but that they take more time to develop and publish than an equally qualified "normal person." Agents do not send kids to college by failing to understand a business means making money, and many are very aware that the artists that takes them five-hundred hours to sell is far less valuable than one that takes them one-hundred hours to sell.

3. New authors are harder to sell than old one; they also take longer to develop. Strange authors with ideas that make theoretical sense but are harder to define easily are hard to sell. Writing in an area like magical realism that crossed into both western and fantasy - science fiction as my choice, and the work I made has been loved by test readers, but it does not make it easier for the average agent to sell. It is like having a big, unusual nose. I think people with unusual noses have immense presentational personality. Unusual noses though are the first thing that plastic surgery removes if it can. To love me, the agent must love my big, huge nose.

So finding an agent is about dancing with many people, but always trying to find that one special person who you want to escort to the cider barrel. Better to have a few more dances than to find out you need to get a nose job before you can spend time with them.

Template design by Arcsin