I was reading through an interesting question posed by Rachelle Gardner, asking "what does an agent need to know about you?" The idea is a platform for writers to allow agents to get a glimpse into who they are. Of course I pounced on the opportunity, putting in my own style and spin on what I think an agent should know about me. If nothing else, I figured some agent might read through my carefully drafted comments and make a mental note of things. It's highly illogical and improbable perhaps, but positive thinking has gotten me this far.
Later on, I darted back onto the page to read some of the other comments out of curiosity. I need to say first however, that Rachelle made it explicitly clear what she was NOT hoping to get. She didn't want it to be a forum for griping about unresponsive agents or the relative slowness of the process. If you've done any research at all on the web regarding agents, writers, and their respective thoughts on the industry, you'll quickly get the sense that agents don't want to hear about writers complaining and visa versa. It's a common theme that agents are usually swamped with work and (right or wrong) they sometimes take a while before getting back to you. It's also common knowledge that some agents do not respond to queries, expecting the prospective writer to get the hint rather than having to send out a "no" response to every MS they choose not to take on.
When I first began my journey of learning about writing and the industry as a whole, I was astounded at the number of stories to be found regarding poor behavior on the part of writers. Patience, fellow writers - I'll get to the agent side momentarily. As I was reading through these endless tales, I found myself saying, "There's no way any respectable writer would act this way. I mean c'mon, of course you wouldn't write a query that poorly. Of course you wouldn't act so needy and demanding towards an agent. It's common sense, isn't it?" I had chalked these stories up as the usual urban legend-type Internet nonsense. You can imagine my surprise then, that as I returned to the comments on Rachelle's page, I read in horror examples of this same behavior. Granted, there aren't many and they are not nearly as bad as they could be. But (as has been said so many other places) it seems as if some people do not recognize a golden opportunity when they see it, and they throw a portion of their professionalism out the window in order to return to that well-worn platform. Me'thinks this does not bode well.
Now I have not had the pleasure of dealing with an agent yet, and I hope that when I get to that point, my experience will be more enjoyment than pain. But I completely understand the expressed frustration with the process. I agree that agents should give a good faith effort to respond to queries, but I'm saying this while not having to do their job. I have the luxury of not having to wade through piles of insufferable ignorance (and not quite good enough writing) in order to find the one or two gems that will make it worthwhile. Judging from some of the responses on Rachelle's site, I can almost hear the groans from agents everywhere - or the silence as they turn away from the page. Yes, they should be held to a standard of professionalism in their work. That's obvious and expected. It's not going to help our case much however, if (when given the opportunity) we choose to vent frustrations rather than utilize the forum in the manner it was intended. I don't have any answers regarding what changes agents might consider in their work, but I can say that negativity in any process is counterproductive.
I may be starting a war here, but I was really hopeful to see some intriguing responses to Rachelle's question. It's almost too bad that a few of us see conflict where instead we should be realizing opportunity.
Am I off base here? I urge you to stop by Rachelle's site, read through what is there, post your own comment, and let me know either way.