A Gent's Outlook

A Literary Agent Divulges the TRUTH about Publishing

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Happy Hooker

I’ve been called a literary whore, but I want to be a literary hooker. A whore, technically, in any profession, gives something away for free, which is what writers want me to do. I, however, prefer to get paid for services rendered.

I like whores and hookers, so I hope this doesn’t offend them. I may have even been married to one of the latter—I still don’t know where the extra money for the Paris trip came from. However, I am not the one using the terms in a bad way. I have nothing but respect for people who know who they are and what they have to offer others. It seems that nowadays literary agents have replaced criminals of almost any stripe as the most reviled people on the planet. At least according to just about any writer. On a regular basis, I hear about how awful we agents are, but then in the next breath, writers ask if they can send me something because I am so successful.

Agents are evil, but how can I get one?

Many writers want agents for the same reason that some guys want a wife—to do the dirty work and clean up after them. That is not my job, folks. I am highly successful at what I do best (which is not being married, if you haven’t figured that out by now). I cultivate talent and place it in the hands of people who can do something with it. Recognizing writing talent is my forte, so for those of you who want an agent to clean your dirty literary underwear, that wouldn’t be me (for details, see Why the Writer/Agent Relationship Works Better Without Underwear) or really any other agent who has been in the business for any length of time at all.

But back to the issue at hand: Professionals get paid for what they do, and, being a professional, I expect to get paid, too. This crap about finding an agent who works for nothing just for the privilege of sharing your work with the world + 15% is just that—crap. Somehow writers think they have replaced readers on top of the literary heap—it just ain’t so.

My point is this: Every week I get some writer who I rejected asking for feedback on his work. With just a little direction, he is SURE he can turn his sow’s ear into the silk purse I am looking for. Two problems with that. First, he wants me to share advice for free, and I just don’t. Why would I? Ask anyone in any other profession to give you free advice, and they will tell you where to stick it after grimacing. I don’t care what the touchy-feelies and the watchdogs say; normal people in a normal profession get paid for performing a task, and agents are no different. Second, if you don’t already know how to make your sow’s ear into a silk purse, then you shouldn’t be looking for an agent. You are clogging the publishing pipeline with stuff that just isn’t ready, and I won’t contribute to it.

Do you know what you are asking me to do when you ask me to mentor you? Would you spend weeks, months, or years teaching someone how to make jewelry, taking the risk that she would never figure it out, hang out her own shingle, or move on to another gemologist who can get her work seen by a larger jewelry store (because, sorry, she HAS to think of her career)? That’s quite a big chance to take, isn’t it?

So, call me a whore if you must, but I am just a literary hooker, and a happy hooker at that.

2 Comments:

  • At 8:43 PM, Blogger W. S. Cross said…

    Well, I'm not bitter about going through over 756 agents so far, though I do find it interesting that they and the publishers wonder why people don't seem to buy books anymore. In my own case, I have built traffic to a site for the novel Beyond You & Methat has just passed the 30,000th "hit" mark after less than 5 months. Further, it clicks an additional 10,000 visitors in progressively less time, so will likely hit 50,000 before Labor Day. And I seem to have a loyal following of folks who like what they read and are even writing emails to one agent

    Yet one agent emailed me today to say, in essence, "I loathe Anais Nin, and since your work resembles her, I have no interest in what you write."

    Gee, when were agents appointed as cultural arbiters? I thought their job was to find authors who can sell books? Silly me.

    Pardon my sarcasm, but perhaps authors hate agents because they seem so focused on recycling the same MFA grads, celebrities and remainder-destined titles? We keep hearing how the Internet is the wave of the future, but I don't see much evidence of that mentality in the agents I've had contact with.

    And next to Gerard Jones, I probably have had contact with more agents, pound for pound, than any human on the planet.

     
  • At 6:04 PM, Blogger Pantherchick said…

    There's a disproportionate number of references to underwear, sex, hookers and whores in your posts. Either you are using this as a cheap technique (it works!) to get readers, or you really do need to get laid.

     

Post a Comment

<< Home