A long, long time ago (2004), in a land far, far away (lower Manhattan), I worked briefly as the assistant to a literary agent. The job lasted only a few months, as the employment intersected with my flight back to Boston. It was a short, but really interesting bit of employment, and it introduced me to the special crazy of the aspiring writer. My mental trajectory regarding slush (the submissions that writers send to literary agents) went something like this:
“Each one of these packages could be a work of genius, what a honor to be involved in this artist’s process!”
“Some of these are pretty good. I mean, once you get to the middle. And they are writers, so of course they’re intense about their work. I get it.”
“I don’t think I understand high fantasy. Why is everyone using the word ‘phantasmagoric’? It’s kind of creative that this woman sent in a scrapbook of her cats with her query…right?”
“I’m going to start pretending that this is a pizza delivery place if another author calls up to tell me how stupid my boss and I are for not recognizing his genius.”
“…I’m sorry, this is Domino’s. Domino’s Pizza. I…I can’t help you with your dreams.”
Back then, there was no Twitter to connect with other professionals and aspiring authors. Also, my boss was very busy and often out of the country. There was no one to confer with about the process and what’s normal. Man, that would have been useful! But now, I follow a number of great agents and marvel at their tweets regarding the strangely divine hubris of some unpublished writers. The proclamations of greatness! The threats! Yikes. It’s half funny, and half terrifying.
Now that I’m on the other side of the equation, being one of those crazed (quietly though, super quiet crazy) aspiring authors sending my work out to different agents, I have nothing but love and gratitude to all those who take the time to read my query. Extra special love for those that make requests, of course, but I don’t take any agent or assistant’s time for granted. It’s hard to sift through all that material, and even sending out a polite “no thank you” is a ton of work when multiplied by 300.
So thank you, assistants. Thank you, agents. And to that lady who sent in a scrap book of her cats along with her story about elves…I hope you found what you were looking for.