Saturday, December 31, 2005

Actively Looking For What?

Agents say that they cannot keep up with the various sites that list their addresses and preferences. With that in mind, I should take the "actively looking" category at Agent Query with a very sizeable grain of salt.

Not that she's ever answered me before, snail or e-mail, but I sent off an e-mail query to Susan Schulman this morning. Ah, the wonders of AOL. I was able to check the status of my query, only to find that this literary agent actively looking had deleted the query. On her Publishers Marketplace website, she says that she accepts e-queries, but maybe she only accepts them on certain days.

I suppose I need a better e-mail address, one that suggests I might be some famous author looking for new representation. Unpublished need not apply, it would appear. Susan Schulman may be actively looking, but what she's looking at is anyone's guess. It's one thing to read the query and pass, but to tell the world that she accepts queries, only to delete them, is rather bizarre. Oh, what a funny world, the Saw Doctors tell us. Certain things you'll never understand.

Friday, December 30, 2005


Funny how one might wish for a rejection. I sent a partial to Liz Trupin - ?? at Jet Literary after a quick response to a query. I only sent her a query because she turned up on Agent Query as a new agent. After one week, with an exclusive, she turned down a manuscript that she said lacked polish. It's pretty much the same manuscript that other agents sort of liked, enough to get the full, but not enough to offer representation.

Kathryn Green just asked for the full based on the query, and I was wondering if I should just send it and blow off the exclusive. Now I can send it to someone I feel more comfortable with, and not worry. As much as I want to be published, I'd rather have someone like Kathryn Green reading my novel than someone I look on as a relatively marginal agent.

All things considered, I don't think I'm ever going to be published, but I've got nothing to lose in trying. As soon as I can get the manuscript printed, it will be off to New York and another pair of eyes. Whatever happens, happens, but I'll keep writing because I like to write.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Been a While

Getting the last rejection on a partial sent me back to an old manuscript that's been languishing - so I sent out some queries after rewriting the first chapter. While an agent from Gerard Jones' page six looks over the partial, I can rewrite the first chapter of MANUSCRIPT and start another round of queries after the holidays. Time to go back and ask some people again, with a new query and a new title. With Christmas and New Year's Eve coming, I'll be too busy to do much writing anyway. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Bad Day

Count 'em - five rejections of a query, all received in one day. Okay, so Amanda Urbin sent a postcard of rejection and that was to be expected, still, it's been pretty pathetic. To top it all off, Simon Lipskar's new assistant rejected the last partial that was still out there. That really capped the misery index for this week.

Something caught my eye in one of the forums on Absolute Write. Cut to the chase was the general recommendation, and so I have taken an axe to the manuscript and eliminated the first chapter. There was some backstory in there, but I thought I needed something to set up the story. Time to try a new tack and just blow off any explanations. Maybe it's enought for the readers to figure out on their own that the main character has just left her husband. Maybe there's no need to spell it out.

New title, new query, and I'll go back to the beginning and re-query everyone again. Another 300 stamps. It's only money, right?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

King Kong and the WTC

Last night, one of the cable movie channels was playing the second remake of King Kong, featuring Jessica Lange in a performance she probably would like to forget. We laughed over the cheesy special effects and snickered at the hippie-redux political message of big oil as big gorilla. It was amusing until the latter part of the movie, when King Kong scales the WTC.

All I could think of was 9/11, the people who were in the building and the thousands who died. The unique arched facade was preserved on film, but my mind saw the shattered remnants that rose like wind-stripped trees above the smoking mound of debris. The famous world globe sculpture stood mutely in the center of the plaza where millions of feet once walked, and I could picture the smashed remnants that have come to represent the WTC to me now. As Kong climbed up the side of one tower and leapt across to the other, I imagined those who were trapped at the Windows on the World Restaurant, beyond rescue and without hope. My imagination replayed the often seen image of the crash, the bright orange fireball splayed out for a moment in the shape of the airplane's nose.

What is now only a movie image was destroyed by a group of madmen who sincerely believe that the world will be at peace when all the world is Islamic. Because they think they do God' work, they think that any and all actions are justified. Not a religion, these people have joined a cult that has spread across the globe, hell-bent on their mission because of a sickly distorted view of God. We are fighting for our lives, for our way of life and for our rights. The neo-cons see the diseased forest while the peaceniks see one tree that just happens to be whole.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Humblest Apologies

The European Union, that bastion of civility and culture, is upset with our United States once again. A rabid dog was put down last night, but in their wisdom the EU has decreed such an act as immoral, an outrage, and whatever else they could think to say that made them sound ever so high and mighty. They're just so much better over there, donchya know, with all their cerebral superiority.

These Yankee ears heard the voices of royalty talking down to the hoi polloi, looking down their regal noses at the scum of the earth that populates America. Like a literary agent's rejection, the MEPs heard America's response in a very loud silence. Blather all you like, our country implies, but we're not listening. When everyday Americans seek solace on your highly cultured shores, we might pay some heed. For now, we're dealing with a big immigration dilemma. Your citizens keep trying to come here, oddly enough, so maybe that worker's paradise that is Europe isn't such a heavenly vision after all.

Julen Dray, speaking for the Socialist Party in France, claimed that "Schwarzenegger has a lot of muscles, but apparently not much heart." Being the most glorious nation that every existed, France abolished the death penalty twenty years ago, setting an example that we all should follow. After all, we follow the fashion trends out of Paris. Why not let our betters also set the trend for the way we live as well? To each according to his needs must mean that it's okay to take someone's life if you need the cash that they worked hard to earn. Maybe if I brushed up on Marxist/Leninist theory I could understand the reasoning. There sure isn't any logic behind the thought.

Some people are so dangerous, so vicious, that society eliminates them. Talk to cops, talk to prison wardens, and you'll hear the same thing. Just because a brutal murderer finds redemption and salvation in prison does not mean a thing. A psychopath is a psychopath.

Rejected Part Deux

It looks like Kelly Harms is a full blown agent these days. My query was passed to her from Andrea Cirillo at Jane Rotrosen Agency, and Kelly is the person who gushed over my submission. Loved the manuscript, a story that needed telling, but, by the way, could you make a few revisions.

Hey, anything to get published, and I revised as she suggested. I guess we weren't on the same page, because I got another no thanks today, three months after submitting the revised manuscript. What I thought took care of her concerns did not address her concerns at all.

The problem with written words is that they mean different things to different people, and what she wanted changed I apparently didn't get. I guess I changed something else and missed her point completely. Admittedly, I did not much care for the changes I did make. My novel is not at all a touch-feely, romantic bit of swish, and rewriting to adjust the main character's relationship with her children just didn't sound right. In fact, I'd say that Kelly did not get what I was driving at. I have had agents complain that the main character's husband needed to be brought out more (she leaves him in the first chapter and that's the end of their relationship). I've been told that the lover is too weak of a character, and I made some changes to build him up. Other than that, most of the rejections are generic, form letters that offer positives about writing and strong characters but still not for us.

Reading current offerings from the library, I think I may have discovered the problem. I write in proper English, complete sentences and semi-colons and the whole bit. I loathe incomplete sentences, dangling like broken limbs. Trying to make sense of the paragraph, I have to go back and re-read, to figure out what that string of nouns and adjectives was saying. Could it be that agents look for choppy, sloppy writing because it's so revolutionary? Break the rules of grammar, become semi-incoherent, and you too can be a published author.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Sunny Day

Agent Query
is one of the best sources around to find an agent. Every day, I check the home page to see what's new in the literary agent world, always looking for another victim to torment with a query. In the past, I've noted the new arrivals and put the names away for a time, certain that the agent would be swamped with queries off the bat and reject mine due to lack of time.

Today, after printing out the three chapter sample that Christine at Jane Rotrosen Agency requested, I took a chance and shot an e-mail query to Tamar Ellman, freshly arrived at Laura Dail Literary Agency. Nothing to lose, no pain no gain, and all that, and in less than three hours she asked for a fifty page sample. Well, I was going to the post office anyway, and my word but it's bright and sunshiny after that foot of snow we got yesterday.

My heart tells me that I've found a good query after seven attempts with limited success. My head tells me that I've managed to get a decent query in front of the right person at the right time. Hot shot, big time agents are not gunning for new talent. They have enough to handle. To break in, I believe that an aspiring novelist can be just as successful with a rookie in a big time (or even medium-time) agency. Someone just starting out is more energetic and hungrier than the old-timers, and should be working that much harder to put together their own stable of talent.

As long as they don't send the rejections in time for Christmas, I'll bask in the bright sunshine for as long as it lasts.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Secret Vice

No one knows I write. I have not told anyone that I have finished two novels, and have been chasing after literary agents for the past two years. How much easier to deal with the frustration and misery of rejection when there is no significant other constantly asking about progress. 'How's it going?', 'Any luck?' and other assorted phrases never have to aggravate me.

The biggest problem with the secrecy is that it is difficult to find time to put pen to paper. With the partner always around, like a great mighty albatross, I have not been able to scribe the words that are constantly bouncing around in my head. I write mental pages, follow characters through scenes and anticipate the next move. Lately, though, my hand has been flexing of its own volition, longing to hold the bright yellow fountain pen and move across the pad, committing the thoughts into physical form.

Without writing to distract me, I find that I am becoming obsessed with checking the e-mail box, which can be done quickly and quietly. This being the holiday season, I do not really expect any literary agents to ask for material. No doubt they are sitting in their offices, trying to catch up with all the manuscripts that they asked for before. There is, therefore, no point in my sending out queries, and with the partner looking over my shoulder most of the day, there is no opportunity to whip up a new letter. And so, I look forward to the New Year, a third manuscript, and another year of seeking representation.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


I just received a rejection to a query - because I am not a published author. Every other agent asking for a partial or full has asked for the material, but David Csontos of Frances Goldin Literary Agency asked about my credentials. The query must have been written well enough to intrigue, but rather than evaluate the material, this agent decided to evaluate my sales potential. Sure, it is easier to sell a published author's material. After all, everyone wants a proven winner.

The reason that David did not ask to see the manuscript was because I have not published before. Trying to be helpful, he recommended that I publish something, short stories or the like. Apparently, it does not matter that the skills needed to produce short fiction are different from those needed to produce a full length novel. Whoever he would submit to only wants someone who has already put something into print.

A good agent could sell an unpublished author's manuscript based on the quality of the writing and the uniqueness of the story. The problem is, the advance would be small, and Mr. Csontos probably does not want to trouble himself with the grunt work that would result in little financial reward. Chances are, he does not have the clout yet, and prefers to acquire some easier money.

Knowing that credits are a good thing, I should follow through on some vague notions to churn out some historical essays for the local Pioneer Press. It won't pay much, it at all, but a by-line is a by-line.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Lost, Strayed or MIA

Although Kirsten Manges has gone off on her own, I have not seen anything that lists her new business address. Such silence is unnerving. She has my manuscript with a four week exclusive, but the exclusive ran out two weeks ago. The follow-up e-mail was quite ignored, even though I sent it to the same address as the one she used to ask me for the manuscript.

Maybe I'm crazy or too Midwestern or too Catholic, but I would think that anyone starting up a company would be aware of customer service. My best guess is that she left Curtis Browne with a full load of authors and she does not really need anymore. From a player at an agency, she has stormed upon the literary agent scene with a stable of writers and can pick and choose from among the hopeful. Her silence regarding my novel has to be taken as an answer, and that answer is obviously no thanks.

Without guidance, I have to do what I think is right, so I am sending out more queries and will submit whatever fulls or partials are requested. The object of the game is to get published. It is a business, and business is ruthless. The movers and shakers of the current Washington administration did not get where they are today by practicing random acts of kindness for strangers.

Technorati tag:

Friday, December 02, 2005


To get a better handle on the current market, I picked up a couple of novels at the local library. One can't go wrong with a proven winner like Anita Diamant of The Red Tent fame. According to the jacket flap, The Last Days of Dogtown would be considered a literary novel, since there is no murder mystery or shoot-em-up type action, nor is there a budding romance or love story.

The first chapter is sixteen pages long, and is filled with descriptions of the characters. Physical attributes are penned as each one is introduced, with enough backstory to place them in the overall scene. And then nothing happens. A suicide has brought the characters together, and I guess that the reader would want to turn the pages to discover why a man might kill himself, but the pacing is not high speed.

How perfect! Who is the agent that represented this novel, that looks for stories that unfold slowly? Surely I should send a query to her, someone who appreciates a style that I also prefer. After a few rejections that complained of slow pacing, I would be a fool not to pursue this person. It is easy enough to find out who represents whom through Publishers Marketplace
. So, what are the odds of getting Binky Urban to take me on? What is less likely than slim and none?

In a way, that explains why agents say that literary type fiction is a hard sell. Few agents rep it, and those that do are so swamped that they won't take on anyone new unless they are particularly stellar, and an unpublished author is not usually on top of the game. Back to square one. Anyone else out there like well written character driven narratives that move at a comfortable pace and then suck the reader in slowly?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Winter Break

The first hurdle is getting past the query stage, to have a literary agent ask for a partial manuscript. Only three times have I taken the next step, to send a full after a partial, which was a rush in its own way even though all three attempts were ultimately rejected. Maybe having a decent query letter is a moral victory, but on the rocky road to publishing, it's only a tiny step. Some have said the writing was good, the characters fleshed out, but it is always the same old "tight market" excuse at the end.

I'm working on a fifth manuscript, with partials and fulls out on two earlier novels. All this querying and rejection is getting to me. The only solution is to focus on the current WIP and read even more - to research what sort of drivel is marketable and head in that direction. I started writing because I could not find anything worth reading. If I want to be published, I will have to write something that I would not bother with if I found it in a bookstore, because that is what is selling. Before publishing worthwhile prose, perhaps an author has to pay their dues with the same old same old that publishing houses are most comfortable with. Don't know if I will write like that, though. I'll probably just keep writing what I like for the pleasure of it, and keep trying to break into the industry. Life is long, and I am not so old.

Word on the street is that literary agents go into a sort of hiatus during December because of the holidays. I suspect that some agents go into a hiatus whenever they are swamped with material, and then exit the break by ignoring whatever they did not get to. I've been waiting - well, not anymore - on Sally Wofford-Girand since October, 2004 (partial), Ethan Ellenberg since February (full), Julia Lord since April (partial), Matt McGowan and Susan Golomb since May (partials), Robert Guinsler since March (full), and Andrea Cirillo since September (full with requested edits). As a courtesy, I would expect a reply, especially since I included a SASE for a response. Following up has proven to be pointless, because my e-mails have been just as ignored as the manuscripts. Must be the New York state of mind - rudeness is not a fault, just a way of life.