Yesterday I happened to read a comment (in a completely non-publishing-related post, oddly) describing a certain unpublished author’s preferred method of getting ‘revenge’ on the agents who rejected his manuscript (I am sorry but I am not going to tell you what the method was. We do not need more people taking revenge). There are an awful lot of things wrong with this idea, but I think the biggest and most damaging one is the assumption that the agent/author relationship is a one-way street, in which the agent has all the power and the author is a powerless supplicant.
This is not the case, and I wish more authors were aware of that. I mean, let’s face it – your work is our livelihood. If you don’t write anything then we have nothing to sell.
‘But there are a lot of authors out there,’ you say, ‘and the chance of actually getting an agent is so low! Most agents only take on a couple of clients per year, if that, and they get thousands and thousands of query letters!’
This is true, but irrelevant in my opinion. No matter how many other queries I’ve seen this week, if you’ve written something I find really exciting then from my perspective you are the one with all the power – it’s not like I can go and find somebody else who’s basically written the same thing, after all. Each time I’ve offered representation to a client of my own, I’ve been really genuinely worried that they’ll fail to recognise that I will love them more than any other agent, and end up signing with somebody else instead of me. I know for a fact that I am not the only agent who feels this way. If I want you and I feel I can sell you, it is completely irrelevant to me how many other authors there are in the world.
And surely that’s what you want, right? An agent who is excited about your work – somebody who will talk about you to everybody they meet, who will enthuse about you in meetings with editors, who is utterly convinced of your brilliance and your place in the market? I have written so many ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ rejection emails, because there are so many good manuscripts that just honestly aren’t right for me. Sometimes I can pass one on to somebody I think will be a better fit, and I just love that – this is such a subjective job, and it makes me so happy to see one of my colleagues overflowing with enthusiasm about something I felt was good, but not mine. Grudging acceptance is not something anybody wants.
So you got a rejection from an agent who clearly doesn’t recognise your genius. Never mind – if they can’t love you 100% then they aren’t right for you anyway. Try again. Hold out for the one who is excited about what you have to offer. If you get a whole string of rejections which give pretty much the same feedback, reconsider your strategy. Rewrite that query letter, rethink those opening chapters. Believe in your writing and believe that your perfect agent-match is out there somewhere. And don’t take ‘revenge’ on anybody just because they can’t represent you with the wholehearted enthusiasm you deserve.