I recently read a fantastic article in the Huffington Post by Curtis Brown agent, Nathan Brandsford.
Before I get into the meat of the article, I'd like to give Mr. Bransford a shout out for recognizing self-publishing as a reasonable alternative to conventional publishing methods. From what I've read, many agents have a negative perspective on self publishing. Whatever their reason, it's refreshing to see an agent give this route of publishing positive acknowledgement. Although his mention of it is more related to e-readers and the fact that not every book needs to be read by anyone other than family and friends, I was glad to see that he wasn't totally opposed to it.
In this article, Mr. Bransford - who has rejected my query letters so promptly, (sometimes in the same hour) I'm left to wonder if his inbox is set to auto-reject mode - talks about how at some point agents won't even respond to query letters if they aren't interested. Supposedly no-answer is our answer. I guess that's kind of like getting the silent treatment.
Honestly, I'm not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, it's good. Just as Mr. Bransford points out, writers won't have to feel the sting of being told "Thanks, but no thanks." On the other hand, it kind of sucks because if you're like me, you want to know exactly where you stand.
Agents are super busy to begin with and I completely respect that. I'd never want their job. It must be awful to read letter after letter and send rejection after rejection, only to find a small handful of worthy books each year. That's a tough job. No one likes being the bad guy. I loathe it so much, I make my husband be the bad guy all the time. "You want candy for dinner? Daddy says no."
Okay, so if you've done your research, you'll know that most agents tell us to be patient as response times vary (sometimes ranging from 2 weeks to 4 months). Some agents encourage you to resubmit if you haven't heard anything within a reasonable amount of time. So, the silent treatment may leave many of us wondering just where we stand. Should we resubmit? Keep waiting? I don't know the answer to this. And if you think you know, please enlighten me.
Mr. Bransford also addresses the responsibility of agents to follow market trends. Afterall, their job is to find a book that will make the most amount of money. So even though a book might be wonderfully written, agents will pass on the manuscript because the market isn't demanding that type of story. And this is indeed a valid point. If I were a clothing designer, I certainly wouldn't try to sell a poodle skirt right now. No one would want it. Unless of course, it was for a Halloween costume.
But, in that same light, if I were a clothing designer, I wouldn't want to try to take last season's skinny jean trend and reinvent it buy putting rhinestones down the seams. But lucky for us someone has bucked the trend and created new fashions. Had they not, we'd still be wearing poodle skirts. Scratch that. Corsets. No, scratch that. Fig leaves.
Same goes with books. How many times can we read a Vampire story? I mean, are you getting as tired of it as I am? Someone has to set the trend, which means some agent, some publisher has to be a risktaker. A leader. I tell my kids all the time: Don't be a follower. Be a leader.
So, I'm curious how much time is spent identifying trends and trying to follow them? How many agents are willing to take that risk and start a NEW trend and be a leader? It would be interesting to know which agents are gamblers. Personally, I like risktakers. Because I've said it before and I'll say it again. I like being a trendsetter.