Friday, October 16, 2015

Closed Doors

Before I self-published, I made the mistake of sending query letters to literary agents. I received rejections, some on little scraps of paper, or no response at all. I must have been doing something wrong.

I attended conferences and workshops designed, not only to help me be a better writer, but to help me snag an agent. Write your query letters this way, the presenter (a New York agent) said. Do this and this and this.

Other workshops had a person read the first page of our work while a panel of four agents listened. As soon as one hand went up—sometimes as quickly as after the first sentence was read—the reader stopped and the agents each explained why they would reject the manuscript.

Armed with this information, I tried yet again. I stopped when I learned that at most the agent spent 15 seconds looking at my query letter. I stopped when a keynote speaker at the Willamette conference said, “I’ve pitched my client’s book to 36 publishers. One accepted demanding rewrites. The book will be out next month. It’s taken us a year. Avoid the grief. Publish your book yourself.” I stopped when another agent said, “I’m not representing authors traditionally. I am helping them to self-publish and market.”

If the doors to literary agents are closed, the doors to Hollywood are glued shut. It’s virtually impossible to even find agents’ addresses to send query letters to. And, if you do find one? From Hollywood you don’t get rejections, you get your letters sent back unopened.

I marvel at the attitude that allows only for insider contact. What grand opportunities are the agents and producers missing? Perhaps instead of sequels upon sequels, and copycats upon copycats, Hollywood could be offering fresh new movies and television series if they cracked open those doors.

I’m not hopeful that anything will change soon—or ever. But I won’t stop writing and I won’t stop trying to make contacts. As my mother always said, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

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