So, the agent querying process…it’s not fun. It’s full of both maniacally happy peaks and soul crushing valleys, often on the same day. I would rather do anything else. I would certainly much rather be writing. This is the main reason writers work so hard to get an agent. So they can focus on the work and leave the business deals to someone better equipped to handle them. The only thing worse than querying is being asked for the 10th time in a month, “You finished your novel? When will it be in stores?” I think this might be a new blog series: “Questions you are asking the writer in your life that secretly enrage her though you don’t even know it and you meant well.”But, I digress. The wonderful news is that I wrote a little humor piece to get me through querying, AND it was published in the incredibly wonderful Electric Literature. I hope it might make other writers smile. I’ll admit I wrote it after reading some especially rude instructions, directed toward writers, on a few agent websites. Not as cheeky as my faux guidelines, of course, but then my piece just takes it to the next, logical level.
And before you start saying, oh, but surely there are rude writers out there, I’ll agree, yes! There are plenty of them who don’t follow the instructions, who call agents explaining they are the next Hemingway, who probably show up at offices unannounced, with cookies and query in hand, who send flaming rebuttals to rejections. All no-no’s, and writers who are professional and want to stay in this business don’t do such things, and agents who are professionals don’t perform large-scale, public put-downs of writers because without them, uh, there’s no work to represent.
It’s gotten so crazily competitive I’ve seen writers literally begging, in the comments section of agent blogs no less, to be noticed. And I’ll admit, with my first, never-published novel, I went down that shame spiral myself, not to the point of begging, but certainly to the point of feeling very anxious and worried that my writing career was dependent on whatever happened after I hit send on my next query.
I came out of it by focusing on my work. It’s all you can do in the end. You can’t control markets. You can write the best stuff you can and try to improve a bit each day. In fact, I have an essay about my different writing approach to my two books forthcoming in Salon (Salon, y’all!). Focus on the work.
But of course, because I’m still me, I started worrying that potential agents would see this piece in Electric Lit and scratch a little note in their mental rolodex saying Warning: Problem Client. But when I expressed this fear to the EL editor, she reminded me that any agent who couldn’t laugh at this is not someone I want a potentially lifelong relationship with. Of course, she’s right.