I frequently receive emails from writers asking me if the process they’re experiencing is “normal.”
Maybe they’re seeking an agent, and they’re in the midst of a convoluted and confusing process of agents requesting partials and taking forever to respond; other agents never responding to queries; perhaps an agent expressing interest but never following up.
Sometimes the writers asking questions already have agents. They’re not necessarily looking to switch, but they’re having trouble communicating with their agent, or they’re confused by the process, and they want some advice. For whatever reason, it seems easier to ask me about it than to talk to their own agent. So they email me, asking, “Is this the way it’s supposed to be?”
I often sense what people are really asking is: Am I crazy or is this a terrible way to do business?
And more importantly: Should I stick with this situation (this agent? this publisher?) or should I move on and find something better?
Here’s the gist of the answer I normally give:
1. You’re probably not crazy – if you sense something isn’t right, that may be the case. You may be working with someone who’s not handling things ethically or responsibly. Beyond that, I think the whole system is crazy-making. The query process is hard on everyone, and even when you’re represented, things don’t always go as you (or your agent) would want. Add to that the fact that everyone has more on their plate than they can realistically handle, and it makes for a crazy system in which it’s impossible to keep everyone happy. So something may not feel right, but it may or may not be a “normal” part of the system.
2. The best answer is always to communicate as clearly as possible, directly with the person with whom you have an issue.
3. I don’t know whether you should stick with your situation or move on. There are countless variables and every situation is different. Unfortunately, I’m not the right person to advise you on the specifics of your situation. This is where you take all you’ve learned in general about agents and publishing, put it in a pot and stir it with your wisdom, try to eliminate your emotional response, and come up with a plan for yourself.
One of the reasons I write this blog is because I want to share general information to help you navigate the system. I hope to give you a sense of the industry so that you can add your own wisdom and make good decisions.
Basically, I’m trying to “teach you to fish” so that you can be confident in the publishing world. I’m not able to give everyone their own “fish” but I hope the fishing lessons on the blog are useful!
Having said all that, I must admit that I do try to respond to every email that lands in my box. But sometimes I can’t help feeling that if the writer would just read more blogs, talk to a couple of writer friends, and get their emotions out of the way, they’d be able to come up with their own answers fairly easily.
If you’re tempted to write an agent with a question about your own process, I recommend you take a few moments to deeply examine all you’ve already learned about the business, and see if you can come up with a workable answer on your own. Are you asking for fish when you’ve already been given the hook, line and sinker?
Got a question you’ve been wanting to ask an agent? Leave it here.
I’ll answer as many as I can in the comments, and others I’ll answer in future blog posts.
© 2011 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent