How to Avoid Getting an Agent
I suppose there are several good ways to make sure you don’t get an agent. You could, for instance, never try to get an agent. Or you could lack writing skill. You could pitch books that nobody finds interesting.
But let’s say you are trying to get an agent, and you are a good writer with good ideas. What trait can stop you from getting an agent?
In a word: Negativity.
If you’re negative about the publishing industry; if you complain about agents and publishers and the unfairness of it all; if you’re resentful about bad books being published; if you speak disparagingly of specific publishers or editors or agents… you can be pretty sure most agents will not want to work with you.
There are plenty of places on the Internet for you to rant about everything that frustrates you with publishing. But I urge you to use caution, because agents and editors have the same Internet access you do. Sometimes we Google your name if we like your writing and are considering discussing representation with you. If we find things that scare us away, you’ll never know we were even investigating you. You’ll get a form rejection.
I’ve had the experience of sitting in face-to-face meetings with writers who have a ton of potential and may have even published before. Then they start bagging on the publishers they were with; and how the publisher never promoted or marketed their books; and how the sales department dropped the ball and that’s why the book didn’t sell; and how their editor “done them wrong.” Soon I am mentally walking away.
It honestly stuns me when a writer sits there and has the nerve to brutally diss an editor who may be a respected colleague. Or denigrate an entire publishing company that’s a big part of my day-to-day business, or vilify a fellow agent who might not have served them well but also doesn’t deserved to be gossiped about.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a place for honest conversation between an agent and a potential client. It’s possible and even desirable for a writer to express their opinion about their past experience and their concerns for the future. I have more than one client who had a difficult experience with a former publisher or agent, and we’ve spoken openly about it. But any savvy agent can tell the difference between someone who’s justifiably concerned, and someone who’s going to be a nightmare to work with, never happy, and always blaming everyone else when things don’t go their way.
Of course, you could be harboring all this negativity in private and maybe nobody would know. But at some point, I imagine your attitude will show through. Your bitterness will eat you alive from the inside out, and eventually will stop you from being able to produce good writing.
Resentment, negativity, and blame also make you incapable of learning from a situation. If you’re busy blaming the publisher for your previous book not selling, you’re probably not asking yourself what you can do better to help the sales of your next book. If you’re convinced that all agents are evil because they send form rejection letters after reading fewer than 500 words of your writing, then you’re not going to be focused on writing a better book.
And of course, all that negativity begs the question: why are you trying so hard to be part of an industry that you clearly disdain?
The lesson here applies to all of us. Maybe you’re not extreme as I’ve indicated here, but maybe you find yourself having moments of real frustration. Don’t let it go unexamined. Watch your attitude. Don’t get resentful or bitter. If you start getting that way… take a break. Back off from the pursuit of publishing. Take some time to get yourself back in a good place.
There are enough difficult things to deal with in this crazy publishing industry. Bad attitudes shouldn’t be one of them.
So tell us: Have you struggled with your attitude? How do you deal with very real frustrations and keep them from developing into bitterness?
© 2011 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent