Saturday, May 10, 2014

Storylines that are DOA?

I had the true joy of attending my first writers conference recently. I paid for my time at the pitch practice tables where I got to meet my first true-to-life literary agents.

The first agent seemed very closed door right from the get-go. We had 10 minutes with each agent and this one used 7 (and only 7) just to give me feedback about my query format. I was not expecting this agent to jump on my book, this was only a pitch practice, but the feedback comments on my subject were... rude. I'm not talkin' it just wasn't her type of book, but more like this agent thought I was trash for NOT writing the subjects they prefer. This agent is very vocal and opinionated online (not the agency's website) to their preferences to the point of stating "I wish the trend of fantasy and animal characters would just die."

This brings me to ask: are certain (fantasy) story lines dead? How would a writer know? And this is not just based on my own genre and findings.

Yikes! This agent sounds young, inexperienced and heady from the rarified air she's certain she's breathing in those lofty agent heights.

I have no idea if certain story lines are dead in any category. Neither does anyone else. What agents do know is what isn't selling, and what they're tired of reading.  That doesn't mean you have to pay any attention because if someone does a new twist on an old trope, and does it well, it's a whole new ball game.

And let me say this about agent pronouncements like this. We know a lot of stuff but we aren't infallible.  Some of us who've been around long enough to see trends come and go realize that what's not hot today is what we're all looking for tomorrow and it's really REALLY shortsighted to make sure a writer will never query you again cause you were rude to them at a writing conference.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

"...and it's really REALLY shortsighted to make sure a writer will never query you again cause you were rude to them..."

Yup...been there and to think the brutality of the agent's words almost made me quit writing until I remembered how many agents have been informative, supportive and just plain nice.

Like writers, only some are assholes.

Anonymous said...

Yeah. Wow, that agent sounds like a rude, unpleasant person. And it's too bad that writers' takeaway from meeting her is likely to be "Wow, I must suck" instead of "Wow, she's rude."

It's also too bad you had to pay to have someone be rude to you.

Plus everything Janet said.

There is something to be learned from this encounter, at least. If an agent has an online presence that sounds like a person you wouldn't want to work with... you wouldn't want to work with her.

Steve Forti said...

As long as "fiction novels" are still alive and well, all is good.

Joao-Pierre S. Ruth said...

I believe it is safe to say each agent has their own views on the publishing world, and at times some are extremely jaded.

Think of how many agents likely trashed books that went on to become phenomenal hits. Think of how rare it is for an agent to nail down a writer who becomes a househould name. Those missed opportunities might keep them up at night, make them question what they were thinking when they ripped into a particular writer.

Or not.

This is a sales-driven industry, so agents have to present themselves as tastemakers. That can lead to some folks who are, to be frank, downright cocksure. Because if they don't exude confidence in the books they push, what publisher will listen to them?

I have dealt with a handful of agents who loudly grumble at pitches if they do not match their exact tastes. I have even had agents twist my words around into a negative misrepresentations of my work.

And in some cases, an agent might be anxious to see something they are excited about become the next big thing. That might lead to a bit of jealous trash-talk about other genres that get far more attention.

Sometimes you cross paths with an agent who is entirely the wrong audience to approach...and that's okay. We are all trying to figure this out...

Ardenwolfe said...

Consider it a blessing in disguise. You didn't want to work with an agent like that. Always better to have no agent than a bad one.

Lance said...

Before reading this blog, my image of agents was in line with this person's experience. Since then, I've met a few agents, and they were polite and engaging -- just like regular people.

Mark G said...

"I wish the trend of fantasy and animal characters would just die."

Die a slow and horrible death withering away alone, far from humanity, consumed with fear and regret

Elissa M said...

I like fantasy and animal characters, thank you very much. I always have.


It has to be a good story first.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I guess I'm lucky, I haven't had any of these comments personally directed at me.

Of course, I've seen comments like this for which I could certainly fall into the category, like an agent who was "tired of rock stars" after my critique entry had a rock star MC, and an open submission period which encouraged people to take all of the time available, and then tweeted "Oh, nothing like waiting 'til the last minute" with regards to last-day entries.

It's just one of those things. I've taken the agent off of my list to sub to, and I'm still waiting for results on said open sub. This is the first time I've referred to either, and probably the last.