Literary Agent. Myth or Not.

What is the secret ingredient for landing an agent? This is one of those questions which assumes something, in this case it is assumed agents exist.

My Personal Wiki on Literary Agents.

I received an interesting question this week I thought I might as well talk about it for a few minutes while it's on my mind. Someone asked me about getting an agent, the specifics, the timing, you get the idea. I answered the question to the best of my ability with something very similar to"I have no idea". And it's true. I don't. Agents are genre specific more or less and they get way more queries than they can possibly deal with much less represent. Authors doing well on their own often attract them, beginning authors not so much. Many authors wear their rejection number like a scouting badge and flash it like a credential. I won't go as far as to state my knowledge as fact like Wikipedia factual, but in my head I consider it so. Which by the way may well be as accurate as Wiki, depending upon which medication I have taken and the time of day you approach me.

It's been danced around, tickled and touched by several guest posts here, check 'em out. Pretty sure Michele B.B. has agents for different things and no agent at all for others. Hows that for a sampler plate? Everything but ranch dip. Agents for the domestic rights might be different from those for foreign rights. Right Sheri M.? An agent for every purpose and purpose for every season. I think I may have mixed that up with an old song. The agent thing is a pretty common question. Here is my exploration as far as agents go, outside of what I already mentioned.

Somewhere between Unicorns and Sasquatch.

They should be categorized similar to Bigfoot, yeti, chupacabra, unicorns and leprechauns. It is a subcategory I suspect between unicorns which are most commonly accepted as mythical and the Bigfoot type which are purported to be mythical but their existence is still debated. I don't see Bigfoot as being mythical because too many people still believe. Using this alone, literary agents wouldn't be mythical because too many people believe in them. More specifically they believe that breaking through some unknown rejection barrier will actually conjure the appearance of one or their presence like in an email or something better. It's kind of like the old witchcraft spell thing. You get the right spell you obtain powers. Sweet idea, think Harry Potter capitalized on a similar notion.

The main difference between a Bigfoot creature and a unicorn for example, I see is this. There are many, many people who firmly believe the whole Bigfoot thing is not mythical although to many it is. Unicorns on the other hand are pretty commonly considered mythical almost in a factual sense. I for one believe, wait forget about what I believe. I learned many years ago you have to be very careful who you mention things related to subjects such as UFO's or Bigfoot sightings to. It's just not worth it. Let me say many believe many do not. The fact that many believe influences the mythability. (I did not misspell this, I made it up. Say it out loud, its kind of fun.) must have some identifiable attribute

An agent or literary agent as they are called in some areas is a somewhat mythical creature whose appearance as I understand it, varies from one geographical area to another. It is suspected most industrialized countries have their own version just as the Himalayas have a white Yeti version of North America's brown Sasquatch. I have a couple friends who have and or did have agents. One actually had a face to face encounter with hers, possibly on multiple occasions. Did this prove the agent was real? Not necessarily since the agent looked like a person, exactly like a person, there would have been no way to really check, removing her wig to reveal her horn or something easy. Not that simple. Does this qualify as a sighting? I can't answer this. I will say she totally believed it was real so to her it was. Right? I will say to be mythical you must have some identifiable attribute. A horn, a hairy back, the ability to spin straw into gold. Something beyond "I said so."

What does a literary agent look like?

Everything I read suggests agents are experts at imitating their surroundings so well they can purportedly fit in with nearly any global variation of the human species containing a monetary system. I say this is quite a feat considering the diversity of indigenous people on every continent. I suspect the ability to blend with the surroundings and avoid predators while absorbing currency would indeed, greatly enhance the species survival. Assuming of course their existence. The very fact that legends claim they look like any other person leads me to the less than believable. Not exactly balderdash unbelievable but Hillary or any other politician is a caring, sensitive person not motivated by power- unbelievable.

To be a true mythical character you need a gimmick.

Let's use Leprechauns for example. Forget for a moment everything you think you know about them while I change the rules. Leprechauns look just like any other ordinary person, they are tall, they don't wear green clothes or speak in an Irish accent, and most confusing of all they don't even eat breakfast cereal, let alone endorse it. Nonsense right? If leprechauns look just like everyone else I could just say look there's a leprechaun and you would have to prove I'm wrong. In the previous example my friend could have been meeting with a leprechaun or an agent and theoretically would have never known the difference. Besides the fact that it would be entirely unfair to double dip in the mythical character, it just doesn't seem right.  Besides the obvious confusion considerations it would be just boring and who really would trek to the end of the rainbow to see someone who looked just like you or me. Bo-ring. To be a true mythical character you need a gimmick.

You need legend. Period.

If this example isn't glaring enough, please consider Sasquatch or Bigfoot as they are called around here. Everyone knows they are big, real big and hairy and they live in the woods or the mountains depending upon where we are talking about. Changing the rules once again, Sasquatch looks like a normal person and they fit in with any surrounding. The only way you can identify them is by following one home to see where they go on Mother's day. It's just absurd. Stories have been told for unknown generations of the giant beast roaming the forests of North America. For hundreds of years the tales of the hairy subhuman beast taking refuge in the mountains of Mexico have been told and retold. To be a true mythical character you need legend. It's just part of the deal.

You need a mythical quality. Rejections don't count.

Mythical creatures by my definition must possess a mythical quality or ability. How many times I have read or someone has told me the amount of rejections from agents they received. I am pretty sure one of my friends recently said the number 60 rejections before finally finding a happy home with a publisher of some sort. This example however on the surface could be misleading. If I am not mistaken she actually signed directly with the publisher outside of an agent, go figure. The ability to reject people and their writing is less than mythical to me. Rejection at our house was called- say anything at the dinner table. Reality based reality but nothing very mythical.

Santa rejected me, is he an agent?

In my town they put up a giant mailbox and huge statue of Santa before Christmas. The mailbox is for letters to Santa. Think about how easy it would be for the mythical Santa to spread rejection here. I don't remember putting a letter in the box as a child but as an adult I might consider dropping a few letters in the box and seeing what happened before I chose to self purchase if you will and take the whole idiotic Christmas gift buying thing into my own hands. On the other hand, receiving a letter back from Santa would most certainly prove his existence regardless of the true origin of the response. Think about that one will you?

The search for Bigfoot, a UFO and a literary agent.

I think it might be a worthwhile endeavor to start sending Bigfoot letters. If this works out right I could prove its existence by it ignoring my letters for a given amount of time. I have a hard time believing the scientists haven't already explored this first but I will be willing to share my ideas at any time in the name of advancing science.

What do you think? Do literary agents exist outside of the big name author arena? What is your rejection number and do you wear it on your lapel? As always, please join the discussion and thanks for reading. In the meantime I believe I will start crafting a letter which I might be able to use as a query for Bigfoot, Santa, the guy who drives the UFO's and a literary agent dealing specifically in Supernatural Thrillers or General Nonsense.


Elgon Williams said...

I don't believe lit agents are necessary anymore. Big publishers will be on life support in a few years. So, if agents exist, they will need to pursue indie authors and small publishers. Oh, and I believe in unicorns, just for the record.


Gordon A. Wilson said...

I think you offer an interesting glimpse into the future here. This already happens once an independant gains success right? Thanks for stopping by to comment

MJ LaBeff said...

I've had the pleasure of meeting a handful of lit agents over the years. They really do exist! I pitched whatever book I was hoping to get agented at the time and was lucky enough to get a partial manuscript request every time I pitched. I'd email my query of course reminding said agent of the face to face meet, where we were and the polite conversation we shared along with the synopsis and requested manuscript pages/chapters and then I'd wait full of hope and anticipation. Tick tock, tick tock...days, weeks, months would go by and then boom the email I'd been waiting for would arrive. Thank you for the submission, I don't think I'd be the right agent to represent your work. Then the email would follow with how I should continue to search for an agent and wish me good luck. There were a couple of rejection letters that I should've responded to but at the time I lacked the knowledge or perhaps it was courage. I had two different agents a bit interested in my novel MIND GAMES but rejected it due to different concerns with the story line. I should've written back to ask if I changed (did a rewrite) would they read again and reconsider representing the novel. I'm a firm believer in never looking back to what might've been but to looking forward armed with new knowledge- no regrets. I'm proud to say I've earned many badges of courage (I mean rejection) yep, I'm one of those authors. I've archived every single rejection to remind me of how brave I'd been. I've achieved over 40 different agent rejections on two different single title standalone novels. I had only submitted Last Summer's Evil to a few agents maybe five I only remember getting rejected and then I submitted to Muse It Up Publishing and not only did they want the first book in the Last Cold Case series they requested all four books. The senior editor and publisher we're excited about the series and are both representing the books. There are plenty of ways to publish and having a written plan on how to get there will make it real and get you there. Follow your publishing dream and whatever you do keep writing- it's all about the story.

Gordon A. Wilson said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences, it it a big decision as I see it and while self publishing has opened doors which never before existed I can see some definite advantages to a larger publishers reach for an author without a huge following. The more we listen, the more we can learn. Thanks to each of you for taking the time to comment.