Asked a simple Question. Look What I Got!

Those of you not reading this blog, and that seems to be all of you,  if you are writers, likely you have been in this soup with frequency.

I have not queried this agency I won’t name, and likely will not. Keep in mind, this agency claims it is Christian, complete with a faith statement. Whoo hoo, that’s for me! But first, I had a question:

“After spending a valuable two hours navigating and reading the volumes of material at (the site) I think I’ve deciphered most of it, but have at least one question. Quote: “We are looking for quality Christian fiction in all genres. We are looking for quality Christian non-fiction of all types, with the exception of: No poetry, no personal biographies, few personal stories, no end-time literature (either fiction or non-fiction), almost no middle-grade fiction, and no children’s picture books.” By the way, English majors, all those “no” are grammatically incorrect.

That sent me to their website with my question, since the agent, a seasoned, long-term representative in the business, states clearly on his web page and on his consideration list that he is interested in memoir. So, what did the above statement mean, I wondered. Would you not think since he represents writers and their work, this is an invitation to submit a query re your memoir? Mais non, mes amis.

I emailed this agent with my question. Here is the response:

“We will make sure (the agent) sees this but it is unlikely to be something he would represent. As he puts it. ‘the memoir category escapes me most of the time. Maybe it is because I don’t read much of it for pleasure.’ Plus a memoir from events nearly 60 years old make(s) it even more challenging.

‘His blog was to encourage those writing in that genre, but didn’t necessarily mean he was looking for them himself.

‘If he has interest he will contact you. If you don’t hear anything within 8 weeks you will know that it wasn’t of interest.’

Now, why should you know, unless you are writing memoir, that lots of “memoirs” include just about the last five exciting minutes of a writer’s life. Memoirs used to be written by very famous and ancient people nearing the end of their lives and their careers. Memoir is written now by any old body, or not, about their up-to-date lives, with or without much importance. Folks write memoir about the life of their pets. Their travels. Their mental state. Not necessarily their life or any significant part of  it.

This agency has little idea about my book’s contents, except that I placed it in a time period….WW2….1942-1945, and post war 1946-53. Oh dear. So very passe, apparently. From a child’s point of view. An informed analyst would know this was the bedrock period in which the Women’s Movement was born. Believe me, 6 million women carried the nation through that war, and were shunted aside, banished back to the stove and the market, after tasting their own magnificent skills, now put in park. Returning men needed those jobs. Life was going to be different. Women now knew they had earning power in a nation that told them to go sit down. The war in my story is just the jumping off point. Keep in mind, this email came from someone with almost no idea of the memoir content.

When agents post the genres they represent, apparently that can be called into question, as I inadvertently did. When their secretaries dismiss out of hand, while covering that bad acting with “we will make sure that (he) sees this”, she has effectively kissed me off in his name.

My take: someone decided, without reading a single word of my memoir, without even a query, to tell me her boss, contrary to what he implies at his site, has no preference for representing memoir. When you go to great lengths to declare your Christian posture, one has the right to expect honesty.

Let me be totally clear here: Growing up in an orphanage defines the meaning of rejection. For me, after that, rejection is easy to blow off. The rejections I have gotten, from querying agents, have been gracious, full of regret, good instruction and encouragement to continue to send out and not to give up. They don’t owe me that. For some, this is not an appropriate fit for them. Stupidly, agents don’t tell you much about what they represent, for they want terribly to appear to be interested in almost everything. Few are specific about what not to send them: erotica, children’s books, cookbooks, picture books, for instance. And they do state what they want, in genre. That is so neither of us waste our time. It also means that they don’t have the contacts or network they need to do the effort justice. They intentionally toss a broad net, hoping to catch that one book that will make both of us famous. I’m kidding, of course; most agents are quite realistic and very clear about why we can’t get married. They are of very high value. They do work hard. They get endless schlock in their email box.

Learning their business is difficult. You know, when my car is running erratically, I do not expect or want to take a course to understand the mechanic. I  just want to know he’s competent to repair my car. But agents seem to think I must grasp the enormous job they do if I am to appreciate them.

If you believe the world of agents, it appears that the whole world is writing a book. Or books. They are inundated with queries. They are the busiest people on the planet. Of course, I must live off-planet. Because I participate in a writers group, take online classes with other writers, I do know some. But they are not mega in number. I know more writers who threw in the towel because the gatekeepers are, well, keeping the gate closed.  Get some perspective. We ALL think we’re busier than anybody else. We’re the busiest people we know. I invite you to shadow a doctor for a day. Shadow any member of his or her staff. A teacher. A nurse. EMS folks.

Here are the many, many presents agents would love to get. It’s your gauntlet, writer: do you know anyone famous who could write a recommendation? Are you a public speaker with a consistent audience? Have you written a best-seller? Do you have a high following on Twitter and Facebook? Have you been published before? Do you have an MFA? Do you have a blog? Do you know  a famous author? personally? Would that  person write you a reference? Good grief. No wonder countless writers self-publish.

No, Virginia. I am not kidding.

5 thoughts on “Asked a simple Question. Look What I Got!

  1. When the Writing Circle at Westminister Canterbury in Richmond decided that they were going to offer their book “Animal Limericks” to publishers, they wrote to 83 houses. They received 83 rejections. They contacted the illustrator, from whom they had received two of the 26 necessary drawings, to let her know that they were undaunted and would be publishing it themselves. Of course the illustrator ended up designing the book and doing all of the work covered by the term “publishing”. All, that is, except marketing. The Writing Circle took that on–thumping around Virginia on their walkers and canes holding book signings at independent bookstores in small towns throughout the state. The illustrator came along for the ride. Thankfully, the run was small–500 copies–and sold out quickly. And there was no agent involved.


  2. Check out The Glass Castle. A. Memoir by Jeannette Walls.

    I was at my daughters over nite this eek and found the above book in my granddaughters room where I was sleeping. No matter how late I need to read myself to sleep.

    Ali, my granddaughter is in her senior yr at Dayton…she has talked about becoming a child psych…Not sure if shr will go for masters or take a yr off….then who knows? She did a paper on results of rejection in children. Her bugger of a father rejected her at age 12 because she didn’t want to go for weekend because of party w/friends….since she chose friends he told he he would support her til 18. The bastard missed her high school graduation, 18th birthday..Oops he scheduled business trip out of country…Etc etc…in the meantime he has written a check for her brothers tuition to Northwestern…while during her time at Dayton she has tutored and worked part time as a telemarketer…. Kim and Jeff divorced over 14 yrs ago…still in court over money he has withheld…he is listed in Craines as one of the high set paid execs in Cleve…brilliant mind…real SOB….was abused as a child and did nothing to stop the madness! Kids are exceptionally bright too…good genes…(my daughter no slouch either…runs successful business). I hope the kids miss some of his bad genes.. He has another family of four. More cheers!

    I saw the book the other day…thought of you and thought you could contact the author or publisher…I just googled the title…don’t know how to copy and paste on my iPad…

    Check it out….quite a story….didn’t finish…but thought of you immediately.


    Sent from my iPad



    1. If you liked “The Glass Castle”, you should also try “Half Broke Horses”. While “Castle” is the story of Jeanette Walls’ growing up—“Horses” is the story of her mother’s childhood and it sort of explains how they all got to where they are.


  3. The statement by the agent’s agent or the publisher or whoever they were don’t sound remotely professional–ignorant of what a memoir is. Ignorant of how to respond. Not all non-fiction, by the way, is memoir, so maybe they don’t represent it–since they don’t know what it is or how to read it–but the letter to you is off the mark. Are they a legitimate publisher? Sheila is wonderful. We have often had her present at the National Association of Memoir Writers! And many, many wonderful memoirs are being either self-published or come into the world through hybrid presses like She Writes Press, which has reps at bookstores and professional proof editing and designs. Good luck with your book.


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