Agents. Qualified literary gatekeepers?


A few years ago, Samuel Moffie submitted The Perfect Martini to 100 literary agents. Actually, he submitted 90% of the first twenty pages of Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions disguised as The Perfect Martini. Any guesses on his success rate? 100 out of 100, right? No. Only one agent responded positively, but that’s because the agent recognized the original author. 99 agents declined. Just to be clear, yes, the critically acclaimed, award-winning, nationally revered Kurt Vonnegut. Rejected.

Agents are concerned with commercial viability, that’s first and foremost. Period. Literary quality is a secondary bonus, if present. Now, if Vonnegut wrote a novel where a dominant vampire becomes master to a naive, submissive, shape-shifting werewolf, I’m sure he would have fared better.

Here’s the point. Why spend months, or even years, writing and submitting queries to agents who are clearly looking the other way? If they passed on Kurt Vonnegut, what chance do you have?

Agent, defined: 1. a person who acts on behalf of another, in particular. Do agents really represent authors (unknown or established) or do they represent their own financial interests and those of Big Publishers? In terms of quality, perhaps the guards are sleeping at the gates. 2. a person or thing that takes an active role or produces a specified effect. Be that person, be your own agent of change. You, not someone else. You, the person that isn’t so concerned with profit. You, the person that cares about the future of literature, not the 15% commission.

During the course of one year, I queried over 300 agents, followed all their silly and varied submission requirements, I know, no attachments, got it, waited to hear back for weeks sometimes, other times, didn’t hear back at all, even with partial or full manuscript requests, read all their canned responses, I’m not taking on new authors at this time, the work doesn’t fit with my list. Blah, blah, blah.

Query tip: don’t send any more. Take your work straight to the reader.

Within one month, I built a platform, designed my cover, formatted my ebook, published, promoted, marketed, and advertised.

Made sales.

Your turn.