Wednesday, January 18, 2012

In an Agent's Shoes

It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that the manuscript we’ve so carefully crafted, re-read, re-written, re-thought, and spent so much time, love, effort, sweat, and tears on goes right from our loving embrace and...

...straight into an agent’s never-ending slush pile.

 -Where we know it will sit in line with hundreds of other manuscripts and risk being avoided, skipped over, or skimmed through if the literary gods look not upon us and the circumstances aren’t in our favor.

It stinks. BUT, I have to say, these last few months— with ebook prices going down and the many many many authors coming out of the woodwork with promotions for their self-pubbed books, my kindle has definitely gotten a little crowded.

My expectations have also gotten higher.

And my attention span has gotten shorter.

And the number of books I actually read all the way through has diminished shamefully.

In the last few months alone I have started five different books and only gotten about a third of the way through four of them before becoming disappointed or disinterested. A year ago this would have been unheard of in katieland!

But it made me realize, if I get overwhelmed just logging through the lists of recently published books and have a hard time getting through stories I’ve paid money for, how hard must it be for an agent to find time and attention for all the pitches that pass through their inbox?

It’s true that agents and editors might let some good stuff slip through their fingers.

But in a perfect world, agents and editors must be pretty amazing creatures- with a love for words and a thirst for stories so profound that they’re able to give every single pitch their full attention and read through chapters of non-client books with a keen eye and an open mind.

I, in any case, would obviously make a pretty crummy slush reader. But it’s reassuring to think that, in a perfect world (I emphasize), the people reading slush are a lot more attentive, patient and open minded than myself.

Do you think YOU could deal with a slush pile objectively?

**I want to thank you all so much for your kind words, thoughts and prayers on Monday’s post. And a special thank you to those who have contacted me by email and shared their own heart-breaking stories. It’s going to be a tough time for awhile but I know I’m not alone in my experience or my grief and that my family and I will be okay so thank you.**

40 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Hope you're doing better.
Guess you're not co-hosting the Origins Blogfest anymore?

Laura Pauling said...

((hugs!))

I have a lot on my Kindle too! And with both self published books and trad. books I've become more picky. And I have enough to read that I don't finish reading if it doesn't keep my attention!

Sarah said...

Oh, I'd definitely get overwhelmed by the slush. I sometimes go to sites where there are pitching contests or first-250-words contests, and I'm lucky if I can get through five before I get antsy. It takes a lot of patience and a lot of hope, I'd say. And--hang in there, Katie. Sending good thoughts your way.

Em-Musing said...

I missed your Monday's post, but I send you well wishes. I think you hit the e-book nail smack dab on the head. If too many books are self pub'd, and haven't passed muster with agents or at least an editor...I think the market will be flooded with books that would have ended up buried in slush piles. Great post.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I was thinking the same the other day. I still have unread books on my shelves that I bought in 2010. No author yet has sent me an email nudge to read them. I finally read one the other day. The plan was not to buy any more books until all my unread ones have been read. That didn't last. You see, the 2010 I read was book three of a four book series, so of course I had to order book #4 (which was on major discount), plus another book (so I could get free shipping).

Unless it's a library book or one I've borrowed, I will read the book all the way through. But if a book I've bought doesn't wow me, I won't be buying the author's next one. With so many trad and self pubbed books available (note: I only buy those of my friends, if I like the concept), the selection to choose from is overwhelming.

Now I can sympathize with agents. But on the other hand, their clients are now trying to get into my TBR pile (which is getting harder to do). Ahhhh the sweet justice. :D

Connie Keller said...

Yeah, it's kind of overwhelming. I know there are great books out there, but there are bad ones--I wish there were a "Good Housekeeping seal of approval" for me personally--You (CM Keller) will like this book. Alas, not. :)

Still praying.

Old Kitty said...

Awwww lovely Katie!! Big hugs from me!!

I'd never be objective about reading a story - so I'd be rubbish at looking through a slush pile - I'd be thinking all these writers with hopes and dreams...!!!

Take care
x

Natalie Aguirre said...

Hope you're doing better. You're right about agents and I can see how they just skim and then say no. Though I don't really like it. Because some good stories are being missed I'm sure.

I have too many books to read too. And have started not finishing them if I'm not that interested. Because I have too many books to read.

Tonja said...

I would hope anyone taking the job of an agent would be up for reading what comes in - otherwise, they won't make any money, right? I think I'd like it. (Hugs.)

Anne Gallagher said...

It is interesting to see how far we've come in thinking about books when it becomes a "job" and not pleasure anymore. I don't read at all anymore, unless it's strictly out of my genre. And even then, the books is usually a bestseller from 5, sometimes even 10 years ago. I pick and choose carefully now, because I feel I don't have time to waste.

Sending you hugs and much love across the miles.

Janet Johnson said...

I'm not sure I'd have the patience for it. But I sure admire agents!

Tracy Jo said...

I don't think I could ever deal with a slush pile. Like you, I can't make it through my own. It does make me respect agents for what they do. I just read Monday's post...I am sending you positive, healing vibes. Hope you find peace in today.

April Plummer said...

"My expectations have also gotten higher.

And my attention span has gotten shorter.

And the number of books I actually read all the way through has diminished shamefully."

Yes! Me too! I've started probably about 10 books on my kindle that I ended up ditching. Some I paid for, some I didn't. But it's much easier to put aside ebooks than real books.

Cherie Reich said...

*hugs*

I know what you mean about the slush pile. I have so many books on my Kindle, and there's no telling when or if I'll ever read them all. Then you take the books on the shelves, it can drive a person mad!

That said, I think I would be a good slush reader, but at the same time, I would have high expectations at that level. You'd have to.

vic caswell (aspiring-x) said...

yeah. slush would kill me... or maybe i'd kill it... with a shovel! ooh! a bucket of really,really hot water! yes! that would do the trick! mwha ha ha haaaaaa!!!

Slamdunk said...

Sorry, I'll have to go back and read your Monday post.

I would have trouble as an agent keeping up with the pile. As just a reader, I think I manage it well. I try not to purchase a book until I can jump in and read it. I am just about to finish 2 and have 2 in line--I am holding off on obtaining the others I am interested in until there is no wait.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Because there are SO many e-books and self-pubbed books now, I think that makes it that much more important for us to post reviews of the ones we really like to encourage others to read them, too. Word of mouth (of blog?) may help promote a worthy book, but the question is: suppose we hate a book? Suppose, like you, there's a book that we dislike so much, we can't even finish it? Then, do we post a negative review of it to save others the misery of trying to read drivel? Or do we keep the negatives to ourselves? My thinking is if I can't say something positive, I'll usually keep my mouth shut. But is that philosophy helping the overall health of the book industry, or is it actually hurting it in the long run?

Jay Noel said...

In many houses (agencies and publishers alike), the slush readers are interns and entry level staff members looking to work their way up. So there's incentive there for them to work fast yet keep an open and keen eye.

For example, I bet that intern that found Stephanie Meyer's Twilight book got a big ass promotion!

Hope you're doing well. Hang in there.

Nicole Zoltack said...

I think that since I'm both an author and an editor, I would be a decent slush pile reader.

If I buy the book, I'll read all the way through to the end. I can't think of any that I stopped reading. It might take me forever though.

Matthew MacNish said...

I would like to think I could be objective, but I'm human.

Meredith said...

I used to read submissions when I worked in publishing, and I didn't recommend about 99% of them to my boss. I cringe to think about that now.

Heather Day Gilbert said...

I could deal with slush. I think the most fun would be finding books that break the mold and set new trends. Then again, maybe I couldn't push those to publishers, which are already kind of locked-in to genres that SELL. It would be a hard job, no doubt!

Kristen Wixted said...

Hi Katie,
I am totally with you on slush reading--I don't finish a book if I get bored. I don't have a ton of patience or time so I think this post is really important, to help us think like the agent.
I wish I could include chocolate kisses in query e-mails. I need to figure out how to do that.

Jessica Salyer said...

I think I would make a good slush pile reader. I've always wanted to get paid for reading.

KarenG said...

A couple years ago I read a post by an agent saying that with all the self-pubbed books on the Kindle, we're all going to have to wade through the slush pile now.

prerna pickett said...

I have no idea. I think, over time, I would start to feel bogged down and start being more picky about what I read. Right now I know what I like and what I don't like, so that makes it a bit easier.

LD Masterson said...

I know I'd never make it as an agent. I have trouble just getting through the blogs I follow - and I follow them by choice.

Hope the heartache get easier with each passing day.

Helena said...

I've only now read your Monday blog. I am so sorry. Wish I could hug away your sorrow.
What you say here about agents and the business shows remarkable understanding. I've told myself many a time that it's my query they've rejected, not my book, and that eases the sting. Remembering how inundated they are with piles and piles of words will help too.

Elana Johnson said...

Oh, I missed Monday's post and just read it. *hugs* to you. I've been there and it's no fun.

As for the slush pile, yes. I think readers ARE the slush pile! If you can't keep them interested, then there's a serious problem. IMHO.

Tony Van Helsing said...

If I was paid enough I'd read a telephone directory cover to cover.

Susan Oloier said...

You make some excellent points here. I am growing more particular, too, with the release of so many e-books.

Melissa Sugar said...

I don't think I would be a very good agent. On a personal level, with work, my own writing and my family obligations I have less and less time to read for mere entertainment or pleasure. If I am not really into a book early on (even one I paid good money for) I toss it to the side and pick up a better one. I no longer have time to stick it out in hopes of it getting better soon. Just writing that made me realize what a difficult job an agent has and how quickly we writers must grab their attention with our opening.

DL Hammons said...

Before we give agents to much sympathy, remember that they are paid to read through that slush pile. You won't find that nugget of gold unless you pan A LOT of dirt. And I believe a good agent looks for something that can BECOME a good book, but still needs to be spit and polished. What you are reading and discarding should have already had that done. :)

Tamara Narayan said...

I keep reminding myself that a rejection may not have anything to do with the writing or how much the agent liked the book. If the agent doesn't know an editor who will accept it, they have to reject.

I found Susan's comment above worthy of a blog post itself. What do you do if you read something and you don't like it? I have no trouble discussing why a best seller didn't appeal to me, but I would have a lot of trouble giving a harsh critique to a fellow blogger's book.

shelly said...

As for the self-pubbed authors...it's very important to polish, polish, and polish your book. Critique groups. Beta-readers. And hire a reputable editor.

Plus, if I write crap, someone please be kind enough to tell me so I don't put crap out there for anyone else to read.

Karen Peterson said...

I'm glad you're hanging in there.

I've seen so many self-pubbed books lately that are just not up to par, and I know that many of them were rejected by agents. For a very good reason. I've also seen some really awful books that were picked up by an agent and a publishing house.

I can't imagine some of the garbage agents have to read on a daily basis.

Donna Hosie said...

I think a slush pile is like a blog roll. I scan the title and the first few words and if they don't grab me, then I don't read.I just don't have the capacity.

Keep hanging in there. Lots of people are sending you lots of healing thoughts.

Amy L. Sonnichsen said...

I could so relate to this post! I've only half-read many a book over the last year, as well. I am definitely getting pickier! ... It does give us a different perspective on the job agents and editors have to do every day!

Kate said...

A wise suggestion. It's always good to try to see things from the other person's perspective.

BTW so sorry to hear your news. It happens to so many of us and yet people are loathe to talk about it. I'm sure I'm not the only reader of you blog who knows from experience what you're going through.

Love and hugs. K x

LTM said...

oh, girl! I am the SAME way. But I've kind of always been that way when it comes to putting books down. I don't have time for books that aren't working for me.

And I could never be an agent. That many emails coming at me all the time with so many hearts and dreams attached to them would send me running for the hills! :D <3

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