Today I love: Literary Agents.

Posted on October 26, 2009


Yes, all of them. Except the scammers. The scammers should be tarred and feathered and sued.

But the rest of them? They rock.

I went to the South Carolina Writer’s Workshop this past weekend with my fabulous friend Stephanie (who just signed with the inimitible and awesomesauce Barbara Poelle of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency). While there, I chatted and/or attended sessions with:

Janet Reid, Fineprint Literary
Joanna Stampfel-Volpe, Nancy Coffey Literary Management
Suzie Townsend, Fineprint Literary
Barbara Poelle, Irene Goodman Literary Agency
Holly Root, Waxman Agency
Jim McCarthy, Dystel & Goderich Literary Agency
Scott Eagan, Greyhaus Literary Agency
Jeff Kleinman, Folio Literary Management
Jenny Bent, The Bent Agency
Matthew Mahoney, Ralph M. Vincenza, Ltd.

And they were fabulous. Informative. Hilarious. Encouraging. Realistic.

No, those last two adjectives are not oxymoronic. In every session I attended (and in many informal conversations I slithered into listened attentively to), the agents were extremely polite, respectful, and professional. Janet Reid affirmed again on her blog today that if you write, you are a writer. Period.

Does that mean everyone in attendence has written material of publishable quality?

Confucious say: No. And the agents were pretty clear about this. And I think that’s a good thing.

If you’re a literary agent, I imagine it’s one thing to write on your blog about the types of things that don’t work, are derivative, etc. I can’t imagine it’s as easy to explain to a writer to his face that you can’t sell the 300,000-word book he’s written about a girl who discovers she is actually a wizard, vampire, werebird and finds a magical wardrobe, amulet, toilet plunger that is really a portal to Hogwarts, Forks Cincinnati where she will have to battle MordyVold, carnivorous vampires a zombified Elvis.

But they do it. Literary agents go to conferences knowing that they’ll be stalked approached by writers who read their blogs assiduously and bribe offer them chocolate and diet coke as tokens of appreciation for their sage advice. They know they’ll be pitched novels in the bathroom, that eager writers will hand them copies of their self-published books accompanied by unrealistic expectations. They go to these conferences knowing they’ll have to present for hours (sometimes without a break) and hear pitches and give critiques in between.

And they do all this without getting paid much to attend. They do it because they love books. They do it because they love writers.

So if you’ve written that 300k word book about Mary Stella Duck Botter and The Necromancer’s Plunger and you don’t get the kinds of responses you’ve been hoping for from agents? Don’t hate on them in the comments sections of their blogs. Don’t hate on them, period. Learn from them. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and write a better book the second time around. Their feedback is gold, so treat it as such.

What do you love today?

Posted in: writing