Wednesday, 29 August 2012

The Fallacy Of The Dedicated Agent

I have been up since three o'clock this morning looking after my very excited and slightly apprehensive grandson while his mother went, with her husband, to the hospital to have a baby. Consequently this blog post may not be my finest piece of prose. However, it is with immense pleasure that I can announce to the world the birth of my third grand child, and my first grand daughter. I know that medical experts will tell you that new born babies can't smile but I swear she smiled at me.

Now it is six thirty in the evening and in a little while a builder is going to knock at my door and I will have to talk coherently to him about the work that we want done on our house. Also, I see from my emails, which I've only just had a chance to glance at, that my Mexican publisher has been experiencing problems making payments to my account. Oh, and a portfolio of work has arrived from one of the students at the summer school I have been teaching for the last couple of months.

All of this perfectly illustrates one of the points I was trying to get across at that summer school. It's a publishing myth that I have called the fallacy of the dedicated agent and it goes like this: the publishing world is full of agents who are constantly on the lookout for exciting new manuscripts by promising new writers.

In fact, agents, being human beings with complicated lives, have a great many other things on their minds. They may be worrying about whether their daughter's labour will go well, or they may be rejoicing that it has. They may be trying to remember the key points they need to make clear to their builder, or they may be trying to get hold of their bank to find out why their money isn't appearing in their account. They may simply be wondering whether there is anything even vaguely edible in their kitchen that they might somehow be able to conjure into a meal tonight.

Whatever it is that is filling those agents' heads, it probably leaves very little space for all those manuscripts that keep arriving in their postbags. That is why, if you want to get their attention, you had better be good. You had better be very bloody good indeed.

Because if you're not then they are just going to sit at their desk with a silly expression on their face, gazing at a photo of their newest grandchild, thinking over and over again, 'Isn't she beautiful!'


Derek said...

Congratulations to all concerned and good luck with the case of the untransferred funds.

I suspect the notion of the dedicated agent is based upon a false idea, that each author - especially the new ones - is at the top of their list. And I agree entirely that any writer expecting to hook and agent or a publisher had better be bloody good. All I can say is, "I'm working on it!"

Brian Keaney said...

Thank you very much, Derek. You're absolutely right: people always assume they must be very near the top of the list. There's a photo of an actual slush pile here
which makes sobering viewing

Paul said...

Third grandchild? They know what causes that these days.

Kidding aside, congratulations. I'm envious since none of my four seem interested in giving me any grandchildren.

(And I'm not going to look at that image of the slush pile.)

Brian Keaney said...

Thank you very much, Paul. Always a pleasure to hear from you.