Happy Good Riddance To Bad Agents Day
Today I am free of a terrible agent. I won’t say who or what agency because it doesn’t matter.
I am not one of those people - writers - who ever wanted or needed to write a book. Contented with long-form investigative journalism, I slogged on. Then my dad died. Then I wrote an essay about grief, tornadoes, Iowa, “Dad, I will make sure the bird feeders are filled….” I was in the NYTimes and then some agents came calling.
This was less than a year after I laid in bed with dad his last day on earth.
My wits weren’t about me, they were no where to be found (BTW this is still true today, however I am seeing them now just over that gentle eastern rise).
This agent contacted me. They suffered loss too. They knew the pain of losing a dad.
God I needed to hear that.
You should know this about me before we move along. I don’t get excited about any of this stuff: agents, NYTimes, none of it. My blunted affect, and take it or leave it attitude is one of my greatest ASD superpowers. Work is work. It all has dignity and my work (words) isn’t any better or worse than yours. In fact I told very few people about the prospect of signing with an agent, writing some book, because it just really didn’t matter to me - I worked on a proposal night/day/night - but it was just work.
(It’s like the time I ran the Chicago Marathon and didn’t mention it to my parents who - after I told them - said “well why on earth didn’t you tell us?” - my only answer was “it was just a thing I did”. Their excitement outflanked mine insofar as I wasn’t excited. They were proud of me - What An Achievement! Me: thanks, I need to take a nap.)
I knew this person (agent) was wrong for me when my book project didn’t sell after two weeks (this isn’t a joke) and then this person ghosted me (because what use was I after all?)
I knew this agent was wrong for me when I began discussing a new project idea - one that focused on the storm in Iowa - you know the place where everyone is nice, wholesome?
And when I said “I’m a journalist and I need to get back to my roots (investigative) and tell the stories that matter - you know boring shit about policy, politics, horse races and god almighty the f’ing caucuses - footnotes, quotes, long passages about white supremacy and that Iowa is Noheartland.”
This person tossed out their idea of comparative titles (a thing that has to go into all book proposals to show editors “look how my book compares to these amazing other books and all the cash you could rake in if you spill my guts all over your publishing house pages!!”
Their list included:
Thomas Frank (What’s the matter with Kansas?)
J. D. Vxxxx
Then? I tell you dear reader I was unimpressed. Especially that last piece of garbage. This is when I realized: this agent isn’t a reader and apparently doesn’t get into Lady Writers. Trying to stifle my growing anger at That List Above I asked agent — what about:
The Poisoned City by Anna Clark? (Response: Didn’t Sell Enough)
Mill Town? Kerri Arsenault? (Response: Too Soon To Tell About Sales)
Anything by Rebecca Solnit? (Response: Who?)
The Address Book by Deidre Mask? (Response: none)
The Kissing Bug by Daisy Hernandez? (…..)
So now what? Who knows. But to be under the shadow of an agent’s misguided, careless and frankly uninformed “guidance” is a lesson well learned.