What I didn't think about too much was the flip side of this equation--telling a hard-working author that we are "passing" on his or her project. It's no fun and, unfortunately, we do this many, many, many times every day. No to the queries; no to the partials; and sometimes even no to the manuscripts. Today I had the even more poignant chore of writing to several authors who were under contract with us. The contracts have been over for some time and we've not been able to find a publisher. We had gotten very fond of some of these authors and we feel like--uh--failures when we fail. It's awful every time we have to do it and it goes to the heart of this business.
Today I resolve to be a sterner, more calculating agent--to practice a kind of tough love. So let me bare my soul (again) and tell you how I'll do this:
- I will NOT ask for partials if the query is flawed.
- If the partial is weak, even if I love it, I will NOT ask for a manuscript.
- If the manuscript doesn't knock my socks off, I will NOT ask to represent you.
- In fact, I will not ask to represent you until I have several editors and houses in mind for the work.
I love the dream maker part of this work; I hate being a grim reaper, even with queries. So forgive me for laying this on you, but I've crushed a lot of hopes today. Yet, on a positive side, I'm just one agent in a pool of thousands! So, just because we can't sell something does not mean Ms. Snark, Mr. Post or Laura Literary can't. Don't let one agent's rejection get you down. (Even if I'm that agent.) Send your work to everyone you can think of and continue to improve it as you go. That's the way dreams are made.