My next interview is with one of a burgeoning subculture of unpublished writers whom I call Seekers of Agent / Publisher, or SAPs. Warning: they can be extremely anxious, Twittery sorts; you may be exposed to strong emotions or pithy phrases. In fairness, this is not their native personality, but one thrust upon them after years of addictive anguish.
My search to find one willing to *tell all* was not easy, as they’re desperate to appear witty, easy to work with and/or soulful in on-line comments and appearances. But the reality I’ve uncovered is dramatically different. Most are reclusive, suffering panic attacks if forced to leave their e-mail inbox for too long. Month after dreary month of waiting only intensifies this bizarre behaviour.
One brave woman has agreed to be interviewed under condition of anonymity. I’ve been lucky to lure her away from her natural habitat: trolling the web for agents, editors and publishers, devouring their blogs and web sites for anything on How To Please an Agent / Publisher into representing her.
Shush—here she comes. (rattle-clank-rattle-clank) I’ll have to watch my tongue. Mustn’t say anything to alarm her, or she may scuttle back to her cave. I can tell by her shallow breathing that she’s worried being this far from her computer.
Kristi: Hello there! Don’t you look lovely today, all shiny and…tinkling. I thought a one man band was coming up the walk! Please have a seat.
SAP: Thank you, Kristi. (clang-whizzz)
Kristi: What are you wearing, is that a suit of armour?
SAP: Not exactly. This is a specially fitted metallic suit. Something I’ve constructed to help me crash down the barrier between myself and an agent or publisher. Agents have brick walls barricading their offices and publishers have solid stone.
Kristi: I never knew that.
SAP: Oh yes. A writer only gets one swift bang per manuscript, to smash through.
Kristi: Only one shot? What if you don’t break through?
SAP: You move on to the next agent behind the next wall, then the next, and so on.
Kristi: Sounds like a bruiser of a profession. Is that why you have that helmet with the pointy thing on top?
SAP: I found The Spike on the internet. Watch this. It whirls.
Kristi: (shouting) Rather noisy—sounds like we’re in a wind tunnel.
SAP: (shouts echo from inside helmet) This little gadget not only gives the wall a good pounding, it protects the brain from impact, and most importantly keeps me from writing rhetorical questions.
Kristi: Would you mind turning it off?
SAP: Is that a rhetorical question?
SAP: OK. But I’ll have to turn it back on after the interview.
Kristi: Why do you need protection against rhetorical questions?
SAP: Because some agents hate them in query letters. Makes them hit the auto-delete key. One guy in particular.
Kristi: Are you submitting to him?
SAP: Heck no! Do I look like I just fell off the turnip truck?
SAP: He doesn’t represent my genre.
SAP: A book’s category, like Fantasy, Chic Lit, etc. Agents hate it when you don’t know their preferences: genre, length of query letter, submission by e-mail or snail mail, body of text or attachment, an opening sentence about yourself, or catch their eye by diving right into the plot:
ex.“Sally preferred sharp kitchen knives when killing her husbands; outdoor tools wouldn’t fit in her purse.”
Kristi: I see. What are all these shiny totems dangling off your belt for?
SAP: Ah! These little lovelies are valuable tricks of the trade. This silver arrowhead is to make sure I get to the point, the shiny little bells ensure I have an interesting “voice”, and this shrunken head is guaranteed to ward off typos.
Misplaced Apostrophe = Auto Delete Key!
SAP: You bettcha! Been there, done that. Got the T-shirt. (guffaw-snort-whizz)
Kristi: With all this preparation you must have several agents lined up.
SAP: Are you kidding? I’m no where near ready to submit.
Kristi: Not even a query letter? Why not!?
SAP: Too many other tools to get: there’s your chromium callipers for measuring pulse and pacing, there’s a fancygauge with a new feeler strip for emotional content, then you have your micrometers, rules and angles—got to follow the rules! And your Drilling tools: drill down to the message, Hammer Drilling for poignant impact, not to mention the whole Scribe and Marker category. You have no idea.
Kristi: And none of this is actually writing your book? It’s just your letter to an agent?
SAP: Yep. This is a Holy Quest. It’s got to be done right.
Kristi: Ok, calm down. Your armour is rattling. Would like a glass of water?
SAP: No, ma’am. I’m perfectly in control.
Kristi: Does anyone forget the fancy gizmos and just ram themselves into wall after wall until they finally get through? You’d think they’d get the hang of it after a few bangs.
SAP: A guy in my writing group did. But you should’ve seen the bruises. He should’ve researched! He had no idea what the agent’s pet peeves were!!
SAP: Of course not! There are hundreds of them. That’s why I have to research, order more tools. I’ve got to get back to my computer!
Kristi: Wait, just one more question. Let’s say you happen to submit a query letter saying exactly what that particular agent hates. It’s so bad they use your letter on their blog (anonymously) and you get rejected.
SAP: Oh my God! Did they call you? Are you trying to warn me? I’ve got to go!! (rattle-clank-rattle-clank)
SAP: (calling back) Yeeessss!!
Kristi: (shouting) Even if they do, so what? You’ll do better next time!!!
Kristi: Looks like I scared her off. Oh well. That’s it for this interview, folks. Any helpful comments or words of encouragement for our Valiant SAP are welcome. Thanks for joining me on How Did You Get There!