I am going to preface this by saying that this entire entry is based on observations, and not direct experience. I don’t know any literary agents in real life, but the ones I follow on Twitter I quite enjoy.
I have noticed lately on Twitter that there is a lot of negativity toward agents. Sometimes it’s reported by them, and sometimes it’s something that I see for myself, a comment, a reply, something that is derisive regarding an agent. More times than not, it’s following a rejection. Authors are upset, they are offended, they are feeling hopeless, and they lash out at the most recent person they can connect to those feelings.
Don’t. Do. This.
In the past, I have likened the writing world to high school, with the agents and others in the publishing business in the “popular group,” and the rest of us on the fringes, trying to get in, hoping to get noticed. Pretending to belong, and able to believe we do as long as we don’t try to talk to these “gatekeepers” of the group. Pressing our faces against the glass as we watch them party it up, letting one outsider in at a time.
While we all feel that way at times, what it comes down to is that agents, editors, publishers, other authors are people. Just like us. They have lives outside of their job. They have friends and family who love them. They have good days and bad days. And they have a job to do. Much as some might picture it, agents don’t sit at their computers, gleefully sending rejection emails, stroking their evil fluffy cats. Agents want to find new authors. They want to find a project they can be passionate about. They are disappointed when it’s not a good fit.
It’s not the same kind of disappointment. I get that. I’m on the writing side. I can only speculate about the other. But some of the things I read have convinced me that somewhere, somehow, some writers have forgotten the humanity of those in the publishing business.
I dislike rejection. A lot. But it’s part of this world. And I feel lucky to count myself as part of the writing community. It’s much better than the high school I likened it to above. People are nice and supportive, and the “popular” group really does want to help. But they can’t take everyone. And personally, I wouldn’t want to be represented by someone who wasn’t passionate about my project, just because they like me on Twitter or hit it off with me at a conference. There’s a difference between liking a person and being passionate about their work. A rejection of a manuscript is in no way a reflection on the writer as a person.
So if you get the urge to lash out, stop and think. (Be kind, rewind…that’s where that fits in…it worked better in my head.) The writing community is fairly small. How do you want to portray yourself? As a professional author, able to take rejection and criticism with class, or as a hothead who will be difficult to work with every step of the way?
For me, when I receive a rejection email, I cringe, move it to my rejections folder, take a deep breath, and move on. I don’t send a reply, not even a professional thank you, because goodness knows agents have enough email overflowing their in-boxes. I don’t unfollow. I don’t write a nasty post. Any venting I might want to do is done in private, with one or two trusted friends. (CPs are great for this!) And then I move on.
So be nice. Don’t be a bully. Or a jerkface. Channel that emotion into your next book. It’s what we do best 😉