Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Acquiring a Literary Agent – Communicating?

... But then, one week later, an email appeared from Lantz:


“Our submissions department now thinks that we might be able to sell Cherish. However, don't think we are going to be able to do it overnight. The fact that you have gone the extra mile and come up with a list of prospective publishers helped a lot.

“Below is a second group of questions. These are focused on marketing. Please go back and pull the publishers the librarian came up with and insert them the questions below.

“At the end of this email, I have enclosed a copy in PDF with our standard agreement for your signature. If you have any questions, please let me know."

I read it. Then I read it again. A flood of thoughts rushed through my mind.

“Who IS this guy? It can’t be the same Lantz.”

“Is he playing with me?”

“Is he serious?”

“If not, then...??”

“Do I really WANT this guy representing me?”

I waited a few days and sent him this:

“I must have misunderstood your two emails of Oct. 23. The statements from your submissions department had an air of finality. The writer didn't like Cherish the first time and still does not like it. To paraphrase: it is boring with a cheesy opening and has some fundamental writing flaws throughout (overuse of character names, unnecessary detail of action).

“How can a manuscript be transformed in one week from a loser to something you can sell?

“Wait! That is not a defensive reaction. I can take criticism. I responded that same day in what I thought was a positive fashion indicating that I can fix many of those flaws. I asked a question about the formatting and spell check remarks.

“I assumed our agent-author relationship was beyond reconciliation, but I planned to move forward. ‘That said, I can tell I've reached a dead end with SouthernLitAgent's submission department. I doubt that any amount of editing and changes would turn around his/her feelings toward this project. And that's OK. I'd rather have this honest feedback than some platitudes!’

“You chose not to respond to my questions or to correct my ‘dead end’ comment but critiqued the writing style of my response, ending with, ‘Good luck.’ I took that to mean, ‘Good luck, and goodbye.’ I had not planned to contact you again. Your email of yesterday was a complete surprise.

“Lantz, in the last seven days something must have happened. Can you tell me what that was?”

I told him several other things, including the fact that I had engaged the services of a very picky editor to review the book, help me clean it up in terms of loose writing, grammar, style, sophistication, and more. I told him I supposed we could work together, but I had serious reservations about our ability to communicate with clarity.

Here’s his response:

“As to what happened. We are always weighing pros and cons. The Submissions department said it was not as good as it should be and could be better etc., etc., etc. I on the other hand had met you and am convinced that you understand that marketing is a major part of the process. I don't look for great authors who don't understand that they are the main reason that will make the project sell. The fact that you went the extra step and did some research on who it might be sold to honestly made me say that I want to try to pitch it even though it has some flaws that need to be cleaned out. Maybe with the new editor some of those will be purged and both you and I will be happy, and I can show the Submissions Department that I was right after all.”

Well... OK. I guess. We’ve had some very cordial correspondence since then. A bit of a roller coaster ride, but that’s my story of acquiring a literary agent.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yeah, but. This guy seems kind of mean.
What is he in it for and who's interests is he promoting? Also, I'm not liking the idea of other authors asked to critique your work. Something about that seems "cheesy." Be careful how much time you commit to spend working with him. Maybe you need him to open the door for you, but don't spend too long at the use-a-thon.