Sunday, April 8, 2012

G is for Gatekeeper vs. Champion

Everyone's been subjected to the whims of a gatekeeper. It might be a judge in a competition, the teams picking sides for kickball, the bouncer at a nightclub or the guy who goes 'eeny meeny miney mo' at the door to Valhalla. It's frustrating to know that all your future happiness, or at least dance floor fun, is in the hands of the dude behind the velvet ropes.

That's what an agent is, right? S/he's the person who stops you at the door and checks out your outfit, finding your leopard print tights and go go boots wanting (What? Isn't that what everyone wears to go clubbing? It's been a while...) An agent seems to make arbitrary decisions based on indefinable criteria. You can make yourself absolutely loopy - I know, I've done it - trying to figure out WHY an agent has rejected your query/ms.

But it puts a different spin on things if you think of an agent, not as an adversarial gatekeeper trying to keep you out, but as a champion who is always on the look out for a writer and project they feel passionate about. Someone who opens up their email in the morning and thinks, man I hope I find it today.

That's what I think an agent should be, an advocate. Someone who loves your work almost as much as you do, gets excited about saying 'yes' and can't wait to talk about your work to whoever they can corner with the line "You've GOT to hear about this book I just read." Isn't that what you want? I do. And that's worth waiting for, the needle in the haystack. And that's why you can't ever give up.

And G is for Grizzly Bear:


  1. That's a good way to think about it. I always remind myself that agents are just people, and probably people not too different from myself. Keep up the great work with the A to Z!

  2. This is why it's so important to find an agent that's the right fit for you. The first one isn't always the best one :-)

  3. Absolutely right! An agent who is passionate about your work is worth "waiting" for (or querying for with patience).

  4. I love this post. I've come back to it a couple of times since you wrote it because it is so true. I have a full manuscript out to a couple of agents, and it is really hard to stay calm. I have to keep telling myself that the agents are not looking for "good enough to read on a train," but for "I would give up my big toe to get this published." So rejection doesn't mean they don't like it; it just means they aren't in love. So if they say no, it is not a big deal, right?

    On another note, I'm so glad you shared this Grizzly Bear song. Sadly, I was one of those unfortunate people who felt lukewarm about Grizzly Bear until I saw them in concert (with Beach House, whom I also now love). But since then, I've been hooked. :)

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