Friday, April 28, 2006

More Agent Frustration

Don’t worry; this is only a mild rant. Actually it’s more of a sigh of “Oh, well. More conflicting information,” than a frustrated outburst.

What’s my problem THIS time, you ask?

In late 2004 I signed with a literary agent for representation. One of his requirements before he would present my manuscript to publishers was that I maintain a blog. It had to have daily posts that were well-written, and I was to build readership as quickly as possible. He wanted to see at least several months’ worth of it before he would start pitching my book.

His explanation, based (he said) on several personal experiences with publishers, was that if a publisher liked an author’s work, he (or she—I’ll use “he”) would want to read the author’s blog to determine several things. Is this author a “compulsive writer?” Can this author write about diverse topics and maintain a reader’s interest. Does this author understand the importance of having a web presence so when people Google his name they’ll find lots of information? Does this author know that readers like for authors to come across as “real, regular people,” and not as celebrity snobs?

(That gives you the general idea.)

So I, dutiful newbie that I am to the publishing world, set up “Romantic Ramblings” and posted all kinds of things. I wrote in very informal “down home” style, and I wrote in sophisticated language with $2 words. I posted something just about every day. I read other blogs and commented, which generated return visits from other bloggers and an active blogroll. I have grown to really enjoy putting some kind of post up here on most days, and browsing other blogs and commenting.

I’ve learned a lot and made new friends.

And, since a REAL LITERARY AGENT told me it was important to have a blog, I’ve put my blog URL on all correspondence, author’s business cards, etc.

... SIGH ...

Well, as you regulars know I’ve been querying agents for new representation. One source of information about agents who list themselves as “actively seeking clients” (which is a joke in some cases, but that’s another rant), is a web site called very recently put out an article on the Top Five Reasons for being an Immediate Reject (when querying an agent). Guess what reason number 5 is.

Give up? Okay, I’ll share it with you:

Immediate Reject #5: Listing your blog or author website on your query.

Writers' blogs are so ubiquitous nowadays that it's kinda eerie. Like the internet is turning into a literary-voyeuristic-twilightzone-reality-internet-freak-fest. And there seems to be this strange idea percolating out there in cyberland that navel-gazing blogs and self-stitched author websites are synonymous with having a "web presence.”

First of all, web presence is sorely overrated. What "web presence" means to you—a few hundred daily visitors—means spit to Random House, and agents know this. Second of all, it’s a fact that it takes the average web user less than 5 seconds to judge the merit of a website. It's also a fact that web users are very unforgiving, including writers. We often judge an agent's legitimacy by the professional "look" (or lack thereof) conveyed through her website. So what's stopping agents from judging us in the same way? Why would agents be any less forgiving when they visit our authors' blogs or websites to judge the writer behind the writing?

Guess what? They’re not. So if you want agents to judge the merits of your writing, not the merits of you as a writer as conveyed by your website or blog, then don't give them extra reasons for an immediate reject.

WELL, o-KAY then. I guess all those published authors who maintain a web site of their own (and some write blogs!) established their web presence after they signed with an agent and had a publishing contract, huh?

**Pounds head on desk**

Well, at least now I know (or at least have a good excuse) WHY I’ve received consistent replies from agents that my book is “not right for their lists.” It’s my BLOG, of course. DUH!

(Or the fact that I list its URL on every query.)

... SIGH ...


Anonymous said...

That strikes me as terrible advice.

B.S., IMO.

I'm writing to Miss Snark RIGHT NOW.


Karyn Lyndon said...

The article says you shouldn't list it on your doesn't mean you shouldn't have one. I kinda see their point...any Tom, Dick or Harry can have a blog...

Does this mean all this time we've been faithful readers you've had ulterior motives? I feel so used!!!

Are you shutting your blog down now and regretting all the wasted time? What will we all do without listening to you ramble romantically on a daily basis???

Anonymous said...

Now THAT explains everything. I just KNEW there must be a valid reason as to why you have not been published! *grin*.

Ah well, at least you listened to someone and started the blog as we would never have had the good fortune to have "met" you otherwise. So, I for one, am pleased you have a blog.

Anonymous said...

well, hell! who would have known? i certainly would have bought into the idea that any exposure for yourself is beneficial, and if people showed interest in reading your blog, they might be interested in reading your book. now that you explain it that way, however, i also "kinda see their point..."
can you go back and query those same agents again with a different approach, or will they recognize you? question for miss snark, i guess, as kirsten suggested. btw, what does "B.S., IMO." mean?

Anonymous said...

Remember that is just one agent's thought. I've read so many articles by agents that contradict one another, I think the best bet - as always - is to put your best foot forward in the most professional manner that is true to yourself. I can't believe someone would hold it for or against you that you blog. . . The writing should matter, foremost, right?

Duke_of_Earle said...

I've GOTTA respond to these comments:
1) Kirsten -- Yeah, my first reaction was also "BS," plus I thought of writing to Miss Snark as well. Probably won't, though. Doesn't really matter what she/he says. (I personally think Miss Snark is a man, but I'm probably wrong.)
2) Karyn -- Well, YOU might have been "used," but the others weren't. (Kidding!!) But no, I have no intention of stopping! As I said, I've made new friends, learned a lot, and I enjoy this "communication" with my regulars (and even some of the passers-by).
3) Michelle -- You are a case in point. You and "Valkyrie" are the only two South Africans I EVER communicate with or "know." What a wonderful thing this blogging has been!
4) Christina -- Nah, what's done is done. And really, if the fact that I put my blog URL on the bottom of my query letter along with my email address turned off an agent or two, they probably wouldn't have liked my novel anyway.
5) Hamel -- I couldn't agree more. I try to write a professional query letter that nevertheless has some personality. That's what most of the "guides" and agent instructions say to do.

All: I don't really give much credence to that "Reason Number 5." Yeah, if a newbie author had a really cheesy web site that had, say, paisley wallpaper... and he wrote murder mysteries or thrillers, it might turn off an agent. But if a blog or web page is tasteful and, as Hamel says, "professional" in appearance and tone, the fact of listing it in a query should NOT be an "immediate rejection" reason. If it is, then that agent is just looking for any excuse to reject, and shouldn't be accepting "unsolicited queries" in the first place.

(So THERE,!)

Hale McKay said...

It's the classic "Damned if you do ..damned if you don't/Catch 22" syndrome.
...So will make submissions without mentioning the blog in the future? Or mention it to some and not to others?
...I'm glad to see you are going to continue your site. Even though I have fallen behind on keeping up with my blogroll, yours is one I enjoy for its mix of life, humor, education, techno-info, etc.

Buffy said...

Very informative post.


Anonymous said...

everyone has their opinion.

Mine is that you write your blog because you enjoy it. And I enjoy reading it. If you stopped writing a blog because of this information, I, for one, would be pissed!

Don't stop the blog.

Don't stop selling your book.

Don't quit your day job (just a little attempt at some humor) lol

And most of all, Don't give up.

Anonymous said...

I am more addicted to the blog than I am writing now!
I think blogs are great for building a fan base, putting out feelers on novel storylines, and experimenting with writing styles. As for including it on a query, I probably wouldn't, but that's me. I go for the 8x10 glossy with cleavage...he hee.

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