Friday, July 14, 2006
Q & A 71 Do I need an agent to get respect?
When publishers (who accept unagented submissions) receive queries from authors, do they automatically look down on said author with the attitude of “oh well they could not manage to score an agent so they are reduced to querying us directly.” And do they then pre-judge the work as likely inferior? I ask because it has been implied as such to me, and that scares me.
Evil Editor bought two one-pound bags of bing cherries at the grocery store today. Now, for those who don't eat cherries, let me explain that the ideal cherry is dark burgundy in color, and very crisp. The lighter colored ones haven't ripened enough, and taste sour. The soft ones have ripened too much, and lost their flavor. You're lucky if 5 percent are big, crisp, juicy and sweet, but it's worth it when you find the perfect one. What was the question again? Oh, right.
Let's say I eat all the cherries in bag number one. I eat a hundred cherries, to get five perfect ones. The perfect ones were delicious, but now I have a stomach ache. The next day I give the other bag of cherries to a friend, and say, "Sort these out and give me the perfect ones." My friend ends up handing me ten cherries. Five of them are perfect, and the other five are very good. (My friend is less discriminating than I am.)
The point is, five percent of my randomly chosen cherries were perfect, while fifty percent of my pre-inspected cherries were perfect. And my pre-inspected cherries didn't make me sick to my stomach.
But before you get discouraged, remember that if a cherry-eater has declared that he wants to find all of the perfect cherries, he's going to have to sample all of them. And if yours is crisp and sweet and juicy, you have nothing to worry about.
Posted by Evil Editor at 10:29 PM
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Uhm. Are you interested in my cherry? Words fail me.
Oh. Pick me up at 8. tonight. Or any night. I'm yours.
The Bing cherry was developed just north of where I live, near Aurora, Oregon, by a Chinese immigrant by the name of Bing. He worked for Henderson Lewelling, who was the first to bring grafted fruit trees to the Pacific Northwest. The trees were carried across the Oregon Trail in a wagon in the 1840's.
Now that's probably more than you wanted to know about cherries, Oregon, and the Oregon Trail. But there ya go anyway.
Fruit analogies always give me goosebumps... My cherry (ahem) is long gone, but I've got a couple of melons... Oh, never mind. You'd probably have no interest in an Angelina Jolie look-alike for hire anyway.
I'm off to eat some cherries...
There are times it's best to say nothing at all. This is one of those times.
I don't think I'll share this analogy with my agent :)
Here’s the problem, as I see it – the friend you’ve asked to sort your fruit is really busy, and so the cherrypicker hands the job off to her 18-year old son, who’d rather play video games. So while he’s in the middle of a WoW mmorpg, he glances through the pile of cherries and decides what’s tasty on the basis of color, maybe squeezes one or two, licks all the goodlooking ones and pitches the rest out the window faster than Killer Yapp pouncing on a liver snap.
Consider this. I submitted my proposal/query to five places that said they accepted unagented subs, following their guidelines exactly. They all rejected it without ever asking to see the full. Then I got an agent. 14 publishers requested the full from her, INCLUDING two of the publishers that had previously rejected it. Yep, an agent gets you looked at more seriously.
Mmmm...cherries. Now I'm hungry. *sets off for the grocery store*
Actually, the problem is that there seem to be more sci-fi and fantasy books published each year than there are agents who want to rep them, so an editor might actually not be as picky as an agent in this one genre. The agents all say they want "fresh and new," but what's seeing print in a lot of cases is the same old stuff: portals, elves, dwarfs, prophecies, McGuffins, orcs, gods, spaceships, aliens, lasers and warp speed (gap-drive, faster-than-light-travel, whatever).
Being a Bing Cherry fanatic, and an author who sold the first two of her half dozen books without an agent, I have to agree with everything EE said. Especially the cherry part. It's one of those things. But if you're really fortunate, you live in an area that grows the best Bings in the state, probably even the country (as long as the darn rain cooperates. What is it with rain during bing cherry season already???
But then, sometimes you *need* an agent to buy the best cherries, especially here in agriculture central. You can't just drive up to *any* stand. Someone's gotta screen them. For instance those little stands on the side of the road that sell the way less than prime cherries. But why bother when you *know* the best place to buy them is from the mom and pop stand at the edge of town. Sort of like knowing where to go to get the best manuscripts...
Pretty polished cherries from the slick grocery store might look like the real deal, but a savvy editor knows that you might have to sort through a lot of cherries to find that taste of perfection, and they don't always come from expected sources...
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