Recently, Lucienne Diver posted the following want ad on her blog.
Wanted: brilliant writer who behaves in a professional manner. Must:
-write brilliantly, keep the pages turning and keep the reader guessing; originality a plus.
-communicate with the agent (i.e. let us know if you're going to be late on deadlines or you're thinking of going in a different direction, etc.)
-know when =not= to communicate, such as airing grievances with the publisher on blogs or websites
-take criticism well
-know enough about the business to make informed decisions and develop reasonable expectations
-be willing to sell promote
-must love dogs (okay, just threw this in to see if you were paying attention)
Well, okay. I couldn't resist. So here are my responses:
Must write brilliantly, keep the pages turning and keep the reader guessing; originality a plus.
Would I define myself as a "brilliant writer who writes brilliantly?" My favorite nine-year-old Beta reader would say so. But I've been told that the opinions of random manuscript readers outside of the publishing business don't count. So this puts me in a most awkward position. If I call myself "brilliant" and you don't like my writing, I look awfully stupid. If I deny that I am brilliant in the first place, that isn't good marketing.
I can do the "guessing" part, though. As in, can you guess how many more drafts it will take before someone falls head-over-Crocs in love with my current novel? Can you guess how many agents have requested the full manuscript, only to (oh-so-regretfully, or perhaps not so) pass in the end? Can you guess how many rejection letters are stuffed into my top desk drawer?
(Yes, I save them. Why? Um...)
Must hit deadlines.
Pet peeve alert! Don't tell me you haven't done something that you were supposed to have finished by now. Don't even breathe where I can hear you. Oh, wait. You want to know if I hit deadlines?
Must communicate with the agent.
I can speak Pig Latin and Ubby-Dubby.
Actually, I once had an agent -- way, way back in the Early Days of my writer's life, before I had turned the definitive corner from nonfiction to fiction. Before I knew what it meant to have a good agent. This person was of the decidedly noncommunicative type. Emphasis on the NON. As in, emails ignored. Voicemails ignored. Phone conferences blown off. It wasn't fun.
And so. I would absolutely love to sit and chatter away with an agent who was on fire about my manuscript. For that matter, I would be thrilled with a six-word email response if it came my way in less than twenty-four hours.
It is completely outside of who I am to neglect communication with an agent. Husbands, of course, are a different story entirely.
Must know when not to communicate, such as airing grievances with the publisher on blogs or websites.
Even if I'm anonymous?
No, seriously. That's not only tacky, it's taboo. Here's my take on Blogging As A Writer (even an anonymous one): No politics. No dirty laundry. No day-by-day rundown of one's entire submission and rejection history. No sour grapes. And no animated quill pen GIFS that write out your nom de plume in an illegible Script font across the bottom of the page. Ugh.
Must take criticism well.
Are you saying something is wrong with me????
But I'm wondering, can any author actually make it if he can't take criticism? In my experience, it's those of us who cling to their babies as though the earth will swallow them if we let go are the ones who don't move forward at all -- not in our writing, and certainly not in our agent searches.
So this one's a given. Just don't criticize me before I've had my coffee.
Must know enough about the business to make informed decisions and develop reasonable expectations.
Oh, certainly. Why, I could be the keynote speaker at the next Clueless Writers conference in Monkey's Eyebrow, Arizona.
Do you know, my husband wants me to write a book about it? (Isn't that just like a non-writing man, though? Throw his wife out there and expect her not only to learn it all, but to write about it and sells thousands of books so that he can retire early.)
As for "reasonable expectations": I think that's the hardest one of all for many writers. We start up high, toes curled round the edge of the cliff, ready to hang glide into the blue yonder. Six figure advances! World wide book tours! Libraries and elementary schools named after us! A castle in Scotland!
Then we lose altitude. A modest five figure advance? Paid in thirds? No book tour? Do my own promotion? Haven't earned my advance yet? No second printing? Huh?
Sometimes we don't even get that far. And then we crash. 32 editors and not a single one wanted to buy my book? The imprint has shut down? My agent doesn't love me anymore?
"Reasonable" is relative. But it's also where we need to be from the beginning. Without, of course, losing our passion and optimism.
Must be willing to sell, promote.
It still floors me when new authors are surprised by this. Marketing has become as important as writing the story in the first place. Or perhaps it has always been so.
By the way, I'm having a sale on Authoress Rocks tee-shirts right now. Buy one, get one free. Sale ends at midnight. The first 50 customers will receive a free copy of my new book, Everything You Need To Know About The Publishing Industry So Your Spouse Can Retire. Signed, of course.
Must love dogs.
Well, here's the deal-killer. I hate dogs. I made full disclosure on my History page, so this should come as no shock. I am an avowed Cat Person, and shall remain so, even when faced with rejection from an agent on account of it.
Ur, I think.
Actually, I think I'd better remain neutral. Or at least adopt an I'll-be-nice-to-dogs-if-you'll-be-nice-to-cats policy. Do you think there might be room in the contract for that?
And there you have it.
Anyone else want to play? Copy-and-paste away! Fill my comments box and make me smile. (As you often do.)