There’s a wonderful rant from the fabulous Maureen Johnson over on her agent’s blog. Maureen’s responding to the notion that a bunch of agents giving free advice on Twitter was unprofessional. Here’s my favourite bit where she responds to a comment upstream that claims that they don’t read street signs so why should they read agent submission guidelines:
Yes, you have to read all the guidelines. I don’t even know what to say to someone (I refer to a comment above) who doesn’t think you have to read street signs and says that likewise, you do not have to read guidelines. This is, I’m sorry, I have to say it . . . perhaps the worst example I have ever read. Not only should you not be writing, you should probably not be driving. I know that’s a harsh thing to say, but it’s not nearly as harsh as the impact of your car as you go careening through stop signs and into school zones. Do you skip all instructions? Do you just stick food in the oven because who has time to read directions and then wonder when it burns?
What Maureen said. Times a billion. So many of the rants I see about agents boil down to this:
Why do I have to follow the rules?
I don’t see people ranting online about the outrageousness of having to go to university and study and pass exams in order to become an engineer/doctor/lawyer/architect etc. Or how incredibly unfair it is that you have to train and play regularly over many many many years in different competitions (high school, college, overseas) and be picked up in the draft in order to play in the WNBA or NBA. Why can’t I just rock up to the New York Liberty unannounced and be their next point guard? Why do I have to jump through all these hoops to prove that I’m talented and smart and disciplined enough to be their point guard? It’s outrageous!
Get a grip.
No one owes you publication. No one owes you a place on the New York Liberty. You have to earn it. AND you have to get lucky.
It took me twenty years to get published. I did many other things during that time including earning a BA, a PhD, living in different countries, as well as writing two novels and a million short stories. No matter where I was living or what I was studying I worked really hard on my writing. But in those twenty years the only success I had were a few short stories and poems published unpaid in university magazines.
Yet it did not occur to me to rail at the system. I was sad and disappointed no one wanted to publish me, upset that they could not recognise my genius,1 but I read the guidelines, jumped the hoops, and submitted as I was asked to. Why would anyone who seriously wants to be published not do the same? There are so many obstacles in the way of getting published why would you set up more for yourself?
I really don’t understand it.
What Maureen said.
- I was young, okay? [↩]