Thursday, August 28, 2008

An Open Letter From Your "Secret Agent"

Thank you for being so incredibly brave. Sending only 250 words in is like I’ve asked to see a picture of your child, but only her elbow.

This is a wildly subjective business and for as many times as you have been rejected, multiply x clients with y editors each and know that I have been beaten with the no thank you stick quite a bit myself.

Once my identity is revealed there may be a flurry of googling, and much rolling of eyes and harrumphing (“no wonder she didn’t like mine” “I queried her last year!” “she looks like my cousin, Fran” ) and if you compare my fiction and non-fiction sales, it appears as if I have loaded a cannon up with clients and then fired- they are as scattered in range and subject matter as could be. The identifiable trait that they all seem to have is that they understand the foundation and mechanics of writing and are able to build upon that by composing plot and character and facts that are interesting enough but accessible enough to appeal to a wider range of readers.

Ta-da! There you go. That’s the secret.

Okay, there’s a little more to it than that generally fueled by feelings of rage, mourning, ambivalence, desperation, apathy and a pinch of narcissism just for color, but overall you have to just keep refining your technique by reading and writing as much as you can in order to truly establish a solid understanding of what makes a stand out a stand out.

What I am hoping that we all take away from this is that there is such a wide range of agents and editors that you can’t let one or twelve or thirty tell you you ain’t got it, kid. Keep reading what’s on the shelves. Pay attention to your technique and basic writing mechanics. And write. Write like your life depended on it.

Because mine does.

Thank you again for the opportunity to read your work. Best of luck to you all.


  1. They way I see it, ANY feedback from someone in the "biz" is well worth a bump to the ole ego!

    Thanks so much for your generous time.

    :) Terri

  2. I agree with Terri! We're all winners here. Such valuable feedback from professionals, writers and readers is worth its weight in gold.

    Or worth its bytes in...well, you get my drift!

    ; )

  3. I don't think I have to tell you how helpful feedback like yours is to those of us aspiring to publication.

    Thank you so much for your time and your thoughtful analysis.

  4. Yes, Secret Agent, thank you for your time.

    I took away from this contest a greater sense of how subjective this business truly is.

    And thanks, Authoress, for hosting the contest. It's been a lot of fun.

  5. Ditto from me. I've enjoyed it - both posting and giving my opinion for what it's worth. It's always interesting to see what does and does not grab people. Thanks for your time, Secret Agent and thanks for the chance - Authoress.

  6. I didn't post anything -

    (points wordlessly at my unhappy forbidden fantasy/YA projects)

    But I enjoyed reading and commenting on everything - especially enjoyed reading the SA feedback<:

    Sending only 250 words in is like I’ve asked to see a picture of your child, but only her elbow. <- I love this line!

  7. Wait a minute. How do "you" know my cousin Fran? And, do you really look like her, too? Jeez. I don't know what to make about this competition now.

    Hey, thanks for the opportunity both to Authoress and Secret Agent Fran look-alike.

    Have a great day both of you!

  8. I agree with everyone :) Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment on our entries. Feedback is golden and I appreciate every word :)
    Thanks again!

  9. I agree with the previous posts and want to add my 'thank you' for taking the time to read and comment on our work.

  10. I have a guess as to who the SA agent is (especially now that I know she looks like Aunt Fran). Anyway, whoever you are, thank you for your specific, market-specific comments. I've learned so much from not only the comments on my piece, but everyone's.

    And Authoress... of course, many heaps of the highest quatlity chocolate in your direction too.

  11. I have nothing intelligent to add so I'll just say thank you, Secret Agent, and thanks to all the contestants and critters. It's always interesting to see the different points of view.

    Thanks Authoress. Why don't you comment, by the way?

  12. A valid question, Luc2!

    In the beginning, it was my intention to comment. However, the work involved in actually running the contest (especially last month's, with over 100 entries) quickly changed my mind. Not that cutting and pasting is difficult. But the process tends to be time consuming. I'm also quite the perfectionist, so I sometimes go back and fix things after the post is up because "it doesn't look nice" or some funky formatting thing popped up.

    Then, after we're live, I've got a constant influx in my inbox. I find that I can't read every single comment, but I do keep up on some level, plus I have to track the Secret Agent to make sure none of the entries are inadvertently skipped (happened with Holly -- we had a few techno glitches), as well as stay in touch with the SA (making sure those emails don't get swallowed by the others).

    I do have "another life," too. One with a real name and non-anonymous blog. Oh yes, and a husband, too. :D

    All that to say -- the behind-the-scenes work involved has led me to the decision not to comment, even though I've read every entry (often more than once). I don't think you're all missing much by my not adding my opinions to the mix, though. ;)

  13. Thanks for your time Secret Agent!

    It's really interesting to see what grabs the attention of someone in the biz.

    Also, yours and Holly's participation is changing my opinion of agents. There are some nice ones after all. :)

  14. Wow, more work than I realized. Well, it's been a smooth ride for us commenters, so thanks for the great effort there.

    Thanks again!