If space aliens are watching me through a special supermacronite telescope, and keeping notes, one of the things they are probably writing down is “He likes to be told no.” Of course they may have come to this conclusion just from watching me try to get dates. But as further evidence—if aliens need more evidence—they can note that I am again sending out query letters to literary agents.
You know how space aliens are, they can be a little harsh, what with the death rays and all, and I picture them up there with their supermacronite telescope stopping to write, “Reconsider whether intelligent life exists on this planet.”
I don’t want to argue with anyone who has a death ray, but I might say that I contact the agents because I’m “hopeful”, or not hopeful exactly, experience necessitates avoiding that word, but “desirous” perhaps.
Or I might say that I am expansive in my policy of giving the world an opportunity to reject my advances. Now that I’ve self published The Illusion of Being Here, in addition to publicizing it when and how I can (I stand on street corners and say “Uh, uh, excuse me”), for the next novel I’m still considering the traditional route of using a literary agent to approach a publisher.
The one petite hitch to this graceful, elegant plan, almost too small to mention, really, is that you must have a literary agent. Dang it. So I’m searching for representation, or to use the preferred technical terminology, I’m “agent begging”. Over the years I’ve compiled a list of agents, and while there must be many who I don’t know about, I tend to contact the ones who I’ve actually heard of.
My list has about 200 names, and I’m currently going down the list, hoping to finish contacting them this month, though I can’t use all 200. If you choose to walk this happy road and contact literary agents yourself, be aware that things change, people leave the profession, or switch to new agencies, or they may simply not be accepting anything at this moment. I would never consider contacting someone based on my list without checking for current information. The ideal place to look is at the website of the agency or individual agent.
But since this is only the 21st century and not the 22nd, some agents do not have websites. In that case, there are other websites you can go to for information, such as Query Tracker, 1000 Literary Agents, Absolute Write Water Cooler, or others. With everything you do, however, you need to keep your critical faculties sharp about you.
You might, for instance, go to 1000 Literary Agents and read the entry on Robert Lescher. That seems like good information, unless you happen to have seen some website such as this one from the New York Times, telling you that Robert Lescher died in 2012. Most of these sites do not have dates, and they are certainly not kept up to date, so you might be looking at information ten years old.
In addition to knowing whether an agent is still working, still at that address, accepting things at the moment, and so on, if a particular agent only handles cookbooks or children’s books and you query with an erotic science fiction thriller, you look like a Viking in a martini bar. A stupid Viking with a plastic cup asking where the keg is. Even when the agent has a website, however, and you check it, sometimes they tell you all about themselves and the fact that they went to Brown University and live in Brooklyn with a cat named Mr. Spock, but they don’t actually say what they are looking for. I would ask that the space aliens make note of that fact.
Unless you are fond of wasting time and effort, it takes investigative work for every agent queried, and that effort can add up over hours, evenings, weeks. Then when you actually go to contact the agents with a query letter, to make sure to spell their names correctly, to include a bio if they want it, to send the required 10 pages, or 5 pages, or 30 pages, etc. ad nauseum (whatever they ask for), and don’t grow bored or glazed over or inattentive and screw something up—well, the fun just doesn’t seem to stop.
It could be better. I want to go up on the ship with the space aliens and see if Elvis is there. I heard that he is, that he needed a quiet place to write a book. I might offer to do some proofreading.