Be all you can be...and less

Oh Most Snarky One,

My question boils down to a few words:

How much sucking up do agents have to put up with?

One of the opportunities a conference I am going to next week offered was a critique of the first 10 pages of your manuscript by an agent or editor Today they told me which agent I would be meeting with to discuss the manuscript. Once I get past apologizing to this woman, who had to read my manuscript when I submitted it to her as the first agent I'd ever queried so that she's now read it twice, in two relatively sucky incarnations (not that I thought so at the time, but I've learned a great deal in the meantime), we won't have much to talk about.

The thing is, the reason I submitted my work to her first is that she's my ideal agent. I'd supply her with gin and chocolate, or whatever her vices are, from now to eternity if she'd represent me. Now, I know I can't tell her that -- it would sound like sucking up. I'd like to be able to tell her something about the terrific work I think she does, however, especially since her original rejection was very kind. Plus, I have every intention of submitting my current work in progress to her!

So...how much sucking up do agents hear from unpublished authors and can I say some nice things without sounding like a boot-licking sycophant?

First, don't mention any of that before stuff. Just say hello. Admire her coiffeure (unless it is on fire, then offer pail of water NOT gin). Thank her for her time. Listen to her advice. Don't argue with her (you'd be surprised at the twits who do this at conferences).

At a conference there are a couple people you don't want to be:

1. The crazy lady. There's always one. She is always two standard deviations off normal but it can take a couple minutes to figure it out. She's always the one who asks for your phone number so you can discuss her ideas in more depth.

2. The loudmouth. This is the one who hasn't figured out that pitching a project to an editor or agent during Q&A at a panel is a bad idea. Don't sit next to her. Don't talk to her. Don't sit on the same side of the room with her.

3. The apologist. The one who says "I know you're busy but". You're just as important as I am. Maybe more so. Respect yourself.

4. The complainer. Nothing goes right, and it's always the end of the world. No soap in the bathroom? Throw a hissy fit. Run out of Q&A time before the mic gets to you? Throw a snit fit.
Someone drank all the gin before you got to the bar? ...well, ok that's not complaint, that's a catastrophe.

5. The ringy-dingy-dingbat. Put your fucking phone on vibrate.

If you are none of those people, I will like you just fine. Well, as much as I like anyone, which is of course, not much UNLESS you happen to have an ARC of LOTTERY in which case Miss Snark is very fond of you.


Dave said...

And remember -
If you ask for advice, listen to it and thank the person for the advice. Don't explain to them why the advice is wrong. Keep that to yourself.

ORION said...

What about a combination crazy lady WITH an ARC of Lottery...

Miss Snark said...

You might be one standard deviation from normal but not the required two.

M. G. Tarquini said...

I might be able to come up with that second standard deviation...

Anonymous said...

"I'd supply her with gin and chocolate, or whatever her vices are, from now to eternity if she'd represent me."

Be careful what you wish for. If I read you correctly, you sent out less than your best writing not once but twice. Why? What's your rush? Seems to me you need to work on being professional first. Learn your craft and it'll be easy to sell someone else on your work.

Bernita said...

"you happen to have an ARC of LOTTERY"
I have been promised one.

Shots said...

I know that standard deviation woman. She was on my MA course...

I sent my ideal agent two sucky versions of my novel, which he dutifully ignored. When I got it right, he took me on. I have never mentioned the sucky submissions and neither has he; maybe they never got past his assistant. Whatever the reason, I plan to keep it that way.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous 4:16--

The original poster sent off his/her "less than best" writing because that's what we've all done at one point or another. Because she didn't realize it was bad.

Why do you think they call it a slush pile?

The learning curve in writing is harsh. I give the poster cudos that he/she kept working on the novel instead of sending the same bad writing out -- that's how you grow as a writer.

A novel of mine comes out soon. I sent it many places not realizing it was bad, and in rewriting made it better, better, better, and now it is sold.

Anonymous said...

This is your chance to hear exactly what you need to in order to improve your work. Yanno, the stuff you didn't get in that polite rejection. The stuff nitwits clamor for.

Ryan Field said...

You forgot to mention the ones who flirt, too (Ah, well). Or maybe this is the third standard deviation.

Laura Kramarsky said...

Well, I have no problem at all admitting that the person who emailed Miss Snark.

Dave: uh, thanks, but Miss Snark already said that (see her first paragraph). And I may be a nitwit, but I'm not an idiot, so of course I am going to listen to advice from someone who absolutely knows more about what works than I do.

Anonymous (1): See Anonymous (2)

Anonymous (3): yep, that's what I am hoping for!

Shots: Thanks, I needed that!

Miss Snark: As always, thanks for your help! I'm baking dog biscuits for the family dogs this weekend. One batch of cheese, one batch of peanut butter. If Killer Yapp would like Gin Treats, I'd be happy to send some, but I will need a recipe.

Anonymous said...

You left out the Gusher, who showers me with so much praise and "I'm not worthy" belly-crawling that people fifty feet away are cringing and edging toward fire exits.

Towel, please?

Grasshopper--roleplay your pitch with people before you go on stage. When their eyes glaze over or if they start looking alarmed you know what needs work.

Miss Procrastinator said...

It would be much less confusing if those who post as anonymous would use a name, any name.

Princess Haiku said...

Your examples of what not to do are highly entertaining as well as informative.

Anonymous said...

But you argued with "Dave" instead of simply saying thanks. You took time to note that he repeated advice:
Dave: uh, thanks, but Miss Snark already said that (see her first paragraph). And I may be a nitwit, but I'm not an idiot, so of course I am going to listen to advice from someone who absolutely knows more about what works than I do.

Dave said...

I noticed that. I didn't think it worthy of a comment. Still don't.

Manic Mom said...

Oh My God. I was soooo No. 5 at a conference last year! Twice.

Ringy-dingy-dingbat. That's me.