Tuesday, October 12, 2010

My Story Isn't What You Represent But You Should Still Sign Me

My word for the month of October seems to be "perplexed." I have found myself frequently bringing that word into my conversations about a ton of things lately. Most recently, I ran across a ton of submissions for projects that I simply don't represent. I was perplexed. I try to be very clear on my website, on my posts in social media and certainly whenever I talk to writers that I only represent romance and women's fiction. Still, people continue to submit.

I know some of you have heard me rant about this in the past and have offered suggestions that maybe they didn't do their research. Sure, that might be the case, but the issue that perplexes me even more are the people who write back with a response such as this.

Dear Scott,
I received your rejection letter and I was very disappointed with the response. It amazes me that as an agent who claims that you are looking for the best stories out there, you reject stories that aren't exactly what you are looking for. There are a lot of great stories outside of romance and women's fiction and if you were to consider those, you might find yourself being much more successful.

Whoa! Wait a minute. Suddenly this is all my problem?

In the publishing world, we establish guidelines of the type of projects we are looking for. Editors and agents have specialties and therefore we look for only those projects. Think of this as an analogy. If I go to a hardware store looking for milk and eggs, whose fault is it? Do we blame the hardware store for being limited in thought and that they really should be carrying milk and eggs because I need them? No! Well the same goes for publishing.

We send projects to the places that are actually acquiring those projects and don't send to people who openly say this is not what they want. Don't get business marketing confused with subjectivity.

Again, one more reason to really do your research first before submitting.



  1. It always surprises me to read in agent blogs the sheer number of people who can't/won't/don't follow the rules for submissions. It has to be frustrating for agents to spend so much of their time weeding through the submissions that are "exceptions" to their posted rules! (Of course, that ups the odds for me... Hm, maybe there's a positive side to this.)

    Good post, Scott. I'll see you in November with a query for something you *do* represent.

  2. Another agent's perspective...

    I often think many writers just don't trust us to know what we're talking about. They honestly think we're idiots. That we somehow arbitrarily decided, based on whim or personal reading tastes, what we will represent. They have no concept of either our years of experience in the business, or our desire to specialize in certain genres which makes us better agents.

    Submission guidelines are not about "rules for rules' sake." They're an important element of how we manage our business.

    I realize there's no way most writers can understand what it's like on our side of the desk, but if they at leasted respected agents as business-people and trusted that we know what we're doing, there would be a lot fewer of these angry responses.

  3. Some people go through their entire lives casting blame on others for their problems and shortcomings. We former Catholics are usually willing to shoulder all the blame, so it works out!

    Seriously, the world is full of crazies. Some writers read your helpful posts (yours, too, Rachelle Gardner!) and try our best not to annoy agents.

  4. As a writer I kind of get the compulsion to send a query to an agent, any agent. (Oh, the desperation!) But as a rational human being, I just don't understand why a writer would submit to an agent without doing research first. Don't you want the best fit for your work? Isn't more information on the whole process better?

    I want to find the right agent and I want to know as much as possible about the submission process. It makes sense to me and I can't comprehend why it doesn't make sense to others.

  5. Something else to keep in mind too. Since the computer age, it's much easier to write a novel now than with typewriters or carbon copied paper. So more people are doing it, expecting easy results. Many (and I don't understand why) send blanketed submissions everywhere without doing research because they figure if they hurl a pot of stuff at the wall, see what sticks.

    Some writing magazines don't help this theory, for there are often success stories about those who ignore the rules, get noticed for being "different" since they sent their submission on pink paper, and they signed. While RWA doesn't include these types of articles in its publications, often general writing magazines do. That convinces the masses once again that they don't have to work at this.

    For what it's worth, this irritates writers as well. I'm a PRO (4 novels completed) but am still unpubbed. But I follow the rules. Agents are so bogged down dealing with rule-breakers that it makes a bad name for the rest of us who are serious about getting published.

    Good post as always, Scott. Are you doing another radio podcast soon?


  6. I'm not at all surprised by this. People just don't follow instructions/rules anymore. They figure they're going to be the exception. Sometimes I have a hint of that malady myself. :)

    Good post!

  7. Scott, I would love to have you represent me. I like your style, I enjoy your blog, I know you'd do a great job on my behalf.

    But I won't, I can't, submit to you. Ever, from the looks of it.

    Because you don't rep what I'm writing.

    Sad but true!

  8. Wow, I'm actually surprised by this. I guess I'm one of those people who naively thinks that everyone plays by the rules, takes responsibility for their own work and may the best writer win. I think the hardware store analogy was terrific. I'm sharing this as we speak.

  9. That writer grew up thinking she was special and an exception to every rule. I teach graduate students who harbor the same delusion: They have written a C paper and act as if I had been either mistaken at the least or insulting at the most. "But I deserve an A," they say as they march off to complain to the Dean.

  10. I think everyone needs to calm down. If you don't like a submission then put it in a bin and get on with your life.

    Best wishes,