A tweet in the dark, author to agent
Blame it on the Middle Sister, my new favorite cheap red wine, or maybe I had my carpal tunnel brace on too tight, but I just couldn't stand it last night when I saw this tweet pop up from literary agent Janet Reid:
One of my least favorite things as an agent: reading a perfectly lovely book, and having NO idea of where to sell it. Dangnabit to helvetica
I don't know Janet, but her solid rep precedes her. She's smart, industry savvy, one of the brave ones. If she thinks this book is perfectly lovely, the author must be good, and if she has no idea where to sell the book, the author is seriously adrift.
I glanced toward my fireplace where I light a candle every night for my friend -- let's call her Jane A, for obvious reasons. Jane A's a terrific writer, but she's been stranded without an agent for almost three years. She keeps getting close-but-no-cigar responses from agents who are intrigued by her query and request opening chapters. Impressed by her opening chapters, they request the full ms. And they always think it's perfectly lovely. But they decline to rep her. It baffles me. Every night I light that candle begging, "God of Abraham, you gave water to Hagar in the desert, please send this woman a F=@#ing literary agent!"
Another tweet from Janet:
alright, off to break the bad news. I hate this. I'm dawdling.
I couldn't take it. None of my business, but I did what I could in less than 140 characters:
@Janet_Reid No! If it's a lovely book, find a way. Change the world. Reinvent the wheel. Please! Begging for that author. If not you, who?
@JoniRodgers someone else is a better fit for this. Someone who can see the market. Honest.
I don't doubt that this is true, but who is that elusive someone?
@Janet_Reid ((sigh)) Whoever that writer is...I feel her pain.
@JoniRodgers I do too.
I appreciated her saying that, though I don't believe she actually has an inkling, just as authors have no inkling what it is to be in the agent's proverbial moccasins. We'd love to think they have the power to change the world, reinvent the wheel, but the truth is -- well, like the song says, "It's hard out there for a pimp."
I'm happily agented right now, partnered with an advocate who has great instincts, a sturdy capitalist vision, and no fear when it comes to negotiating. I'm enormously grateful. Because I do feel that author's pain. I know the ping of adrenalin she felt this morning when she pulled up her inbox and saw an email from that smart, savvy agent -- the one she's been holding her breath for.
I also know the bottom-drops-out feeling that followed, probably not much more than 140 characters from the opening pat on the head. "While I found this book perfectly lovely, I have to say..." blah blah blah. In some ways it's worse than a flat form rejection, but hopefully, Ms. Reid will include some clue as to the identity of that elusive "someone" who might see the market. Or maybe she'll be haunted by the people in that book. Maybe she won't be able to resist...
I keep wanting it to be like -- oh, God forgive me, I'm going to trot out a Star Wars metaphor. The query zizzles up out of the computer like a hologram. "Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're our only hope!" Unfortunately, the person receiving it isn't Obi-Wan. It's Luke, and his initial response is, "That's meant for someone else. It's not my cause. There's nothing I can do." But there is something he can do. He just has to believe it. He has to take it on, be the someone who makes it his cause.
I keep lighting that candle, hoping sooner or later a heroic journey will ensue.