InsultingIt’s not like me to stick the boot into people, but really I just can’t help myself here. The world needs literary agents just as much as it needs oxygen, but at least oxygen has developed a likeable outward persona. For the life of me, I just do not understand why literary agents seem to think that acting like a grumpy fire eating dragon with a migraine and having a bad hair day is the way to go in making friends and contacts, and at the end of the day, making money.

I have a list on Twitter of around 150, dedicated to the utterings of literary agents, and quite honestly, if slagging off authors is the way to make money as an agent, I’m so happy I don’t have the job. I could easily copy and paste their comments here, but I will not out of politeness. However, referring to the work of hopeful authors’ submissions in a derogatory manner, is not what I class as a professional attitude and hardly fitting of those in a position of authority. Posting messages about the ‘crap’ in my slush pile smells of someone who really should go and get another job.

The task of a literary agent is of course to sort the wheat from the chaff, and then make a choice over what titles or authors they think they can sell. That’s how they make money. I’m sorry, but I don’t think that insulting those who may well have taken months or even years to write these stories, is part of the process.

While there are a good number of literary agents who post helpful, authoritative and positive information, there are unfortunately another good number, who really need a reality check. Complaining, whinging, deriding and outright insulting the work of authors, who could well be part of their potential client base, is really a sign of a ‘holier than thou’ mentality, and also a signal of a failure to accept what their job really is.

So to those literary agents who understand the process and are supportive in promoting authors to try their best, I congratulate you. However to those who think that sticking the boot in is the way to go, all I can say it that your ego needs a reality check.

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7 thoughts on “Literary Agents – Please Grow Up

  • 17/03/2013 at 9:44 pm

    Lol. It’s like doctors or nurses tweeting about what crappy patients – or rather, what crappy sicknesses – they had coming into their hospitals. All disciplines require their practitioners to be civil and professional. Else they’re just a holes; and the world’s full of them. Great to see a well established author such as yourself comment on this ill choice of attitude.

  • 17/03/2013 at 10:10 pm

    Well said! Many have never written a line in their life. Others handle books like fast food (they must eat a supernatural number of pages/day to earn their loan). Sometime they are so young that they hardly know what respect is and what it means rating a book without reading it… I was really scandalized once to learn from one of these “professionals” who earn a certain amount/book, that she usually fills the questionnaire randomly (about what author and book feels like etc.) and that most times she reads only the introduction, the first 3 pages, something in the middle and the last 3 pages. And while telling me that, she was not ashamed at all of cutting the legs of people who worked maybe half a year or longer to their books (not to talk about those with family), while she was doing her work, as a College Student after going to parties, 5 minutes before going asleep (and maybe drunk). So… I am proud not to be flesh for this horror and to publish my own books on independent platforms. Any criticism, when gratuitous, is unacceptable and a cruelty per se.

    • 17/03/2013 at 11:08 pm

      That’s a real disturbing insight, Rossana. I guess it cannot be avoided. All fields harbor such people, from restaurant kitchens to universities, from public administration offices to financial institutions et all. It’s bad enough when people don’t do their jobs, but it’s even worse when they do it “de mantuiala”. That’s an expression from romanian; literally it means “for salvation”. It implies that something done de mantuiala is of poor execution, essence, or construct. People will always troll and bitch about this and that; but at the end of the day, if they lack arguments and civility – they’re just a holes. And anyone with sense is going to see that.

      • 18/03/2013 at 9:04 am

        You are right, serban. But I’m convinced she is no exception and, furthermore, she seemed to be very appreciated in her role, since what she delivered, and not “how” was important to her employer.

  • 18/03/2013 at 8:14 am

    Is it any wonder that so many writers make the decision to go it alone by self publishing? I think not. No one likes being put down. Its high time these individuals were made to realise that if it wasn’t for us as writers, they would be out of a job!

    • 18/03/2013 at 10:35 am

      Indeed. They should be happy about self publishing. With it a surge in supply has occurred; and that means more people for them to work with and make a profit by helping them sale their stories. That being said, yes, it’s time for them to grow up and cope with it.
      Furthermore, like in any other industry or business, what’s inhibiting more ebook sales is aggregate demand. Producers can’t produce (or expand production and thus hiring more people) if they aren’t able to sell more. They can’t produce if they can’t sell. And they can’t sell if the consumer can’t buy. Of course, in the case for ebooks and physical books, the costs of production are very small for the writer, paper and pen don’t cost much. It’s not an issue. The problem is constrained aggregate demand (readers unable to spend money on buying ebooks or buying more ebooks).
      I’ve read numerous comments on various sites, where people said that they were under a tight ereading budget. Many said that they wouldn’t pay above 5 dollars for an ebook; and that most of the times they were looking for bargains, in order to get at least 2 ebooks for those 5 dollars.
      So it’s high time for the whole world to be done with austerity, and start reducing fiscal drag, increasing spending. That will make aggregate demand grow, and with it so will businesses.

  • 10/06/2013 at 11:37 am

    Thanks for this post. In the end we are just people. Life would be so much less cynical and indeed more beautiful if we could all abandon temptations toward mean-spiritedness and care more for the feelings of others.

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