I came across this article by Chuck Sambuchino, “The Worst Ways to Begin Your Novel: Advice from Literary Agents.”
With all due respect to all of the contributors of the article, I must call a time out.
Since when did these agents’ opinions become the standard by which books are written? Who set them up to be the gods of the publishing industry who grants and denies access into one of the most coveted industries in the creative arts? And who, among you struggling writers, is still bowing down to these agents’ decrees?
Think about it. Hollywood, though far from perfect, produces a large handful of blockbuster hits a year. Though it’s not as often as we might prefer, but time after time audiences are introduced to breakout directors, actors, and other big screen talents.
Why, then, have we only been given one J.K. Rowling in the last twenty years? One Suzanne Collins? And yet, James Patterson (whose name is bigger than his skill) is still raking in millions.
It’s these gatekeepers, these literary agents, who are locking the gates to the rest of you. You hang on their every word and piece of advice because they’ve convinced you that it’s by their opinions alone your writing career lives or dies.
In the article above, Cricket Freeman from The August Agency demands writers to not kill the main character off in the first chapter. Yet, I’m reading Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, where that very thing occurs, and I’m loving it. One of the main character’s death at the end of chapter one propelled me to keep reading.
Laurie McLean from Forward Literary tells writers, “Damn the prologue, full speed ahead.”
Sometimes prologues are necessary. Especially to people whose tastes fall into slower-paced books.
Read the the tips and advice from these agents in the article and for almost each one you’ll find your favorite books break their exact rules.
Writers, it’s time to stop feeding the beast! If you’re a struggling author, you’ve no doubt spent countless hours trying to appease these self-proclaimed gatekeepers only to be rejected again and again and again – with no reason provided whatsoever!
Have you ever considered that their job is to deny your manuscripts, to keep the slush piles from reaching the desk of an actual publisher?
Think I’m crazy? Imagine if Brad Bird had written a query letter to a literary agent:
My book idea is about a sewer rat who dreams of being a cook in one of the finest restaurants in France. He’s a dirty, filthy vermin who convinces a garbage boy to act as his doppelgänger to cook the restaurant’s greatest dishes.
He’d be rejected five times to the moon and back and probably blocked from a majority of their emails.
I can go on, but I hope you get my point. That’s why you must cut out the middle man, because (with minuscule exceptions) a literary agent DOES NOT and WILL NOT take a chance on you! Why? Because you’re not James Patterson or his cousin. You don’t have a million and a half followers on you blog. You’re a nobody and literary agents couldn’t care less if you have the best idea in the world. They’re looking at names and reputations and resumes.
They’re not looking for ideas because ideas are risks.
That’s why at Endever Publishing Studios, we put emphasis on ideas. We don’t leave you waiting for seven, eight, or nine weeks before getting back to you concerning your submission (while requesting you don’t query any other agents or publishers). We don’t look for perfection, because we know that it takes time and work to turn any idea into something wonderful and beautiful and, dare I say it, successful.
After all, that’s what we all really want in the end, right? Success?
Think twice before sending out your eightieth or one-hundred-eightieth query letter to a literary agent. Don’t take their word as the gospel truth. If you feel like readers don’t see enough breakout authors in the industry, think about whose fault that is. Think about all the amazing books and stories we’re missing out on because these agents gave themselves the power to deem what readers should and should not read.
Take a look at my company’s submission guidelines and see if we might be a good fit for you. Yes, I realize our acceptance and denials are subjective as well, but we pride ourselves on our ability to limit that subjectiveness by looking at all submissions with an open mind.
We don’t ask ourselves what we like to read. Instead, we ask ourselves, could this idea contribute positively to the book industry? And if so, let’s make it better!