Monday, October 21, 2013

Agency Lessons: Failure

This just in: Agents are failures!
This past weekend, I attempted to make an apple jelly. This attempt came after several successful batches of apple butter, peach jam and all other sorts of jelled items. I followed the instructions in the book, did everything I was supposed to, but as of today, I have five pints of apple syrup. No jelly. I failed.

And sometimes, agents fail too. We pass on a project that we don't think will sell and then see it splashed across Publishers Marketplace a few months later. We take on a manuscript we think is genius and will sell right away only to still be waiting for a contract six months later. We offer a client advice on marketing their new release, but sales are only trickling in.

I'm offering up these examples, because it's easy as an author to imagine agents as mystical beings with the all powerful sight and insight into the magical world of publishing you so very badly want to join. Agents can feel a bit like the Holy Grail after months of querying with no success. But we aren't gods of a literary Parthenon.

We're people. People who love books, love authors, love seeing fantastic manuscripts find homes with publishers and readers. We make mistakes and sometimes, we fail. And sometimes, hopefully more times than we fail, we succeed.

As you are querying agents, focus on the success. This is why you want an agent. But always remember in the back of your head, especially when the rejections come in, that sometimes we fail.

9 comments:

  1. Great post, Sarah! Humans make mistakes. It's just a fact. We do our best and strive for success, but it doesn't always happen, no matter how much we want it to.

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  2. After seeing some of the things that the big pubbers are putting out, agents aren't the only ones making mistakes. Some editors have bad taste, too. But art is subjective and the reading public can be an unpredictable beast, so it's never easy no matter what you do. *sigh*

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    1. Everyone is playing a big guessing game called "What will readers want a year from now?" It's a roll of the dice for sure.

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    2. Thanks for commenting on my blog. "I think teens are more interested in a character that speaks to them than a character that speaks like them." That's brilliant and perfectly true! I'm going to quote you in the future! :-)

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    3. Yeah! I'm brilliant. :) There's a first for everything.

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  3. I never thought about how an agent might feel when the project he or she thought would sell doesn't. I'm sure it is a disappointment. But just like your jelly experiment, hopefully the agent and client can find something to take away from the experience to improve, to create a new idea that will help the outcome turn out better the next time. I'm sure there is a famous quote somewhere that talks about how failure can strengthen resolve.

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    1. I hope to learn something from all of my failures in life. By the way, I'm addressing your thoughts from last week about keeping a positive attitude during rejections in my Agency Lessons post next week. :)

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