3 Kinds of Writers – Which are you?
by Wendy Keller, literary agent
Recently, a news story appeared about a female literary agent who was stalked. In the early days of my career, I had two stalkers – kinda creepy. I changed my address. That ended that. Worse than stalkers, though, in my opinion are the people who drive out to California in the Winnebago from some little town in the Midwest and want to meet me almost as badly as they want to go to Disneyland. Their manuscripts are usually the story of how as a kid they moved from Indiana to Wisconsin and nothing was ever the same.
Uh, yeah. I’ll pass.
The most interesting would-be stalker I’ve had recently was in early 2009. He called me and in a thick Middle Eastern accent told me he couldn’t find my office. He was in the back of a cab driving around a Malibu parking lot. I said we didn’t have an appointment, so he could just drop off his manuscript at the front desk of Mailboxes Etc. My office at the time was 4 miles away, also in Malibu, but there was no way this guy was going to discover my real location. I hung up politely but he called back.
He raised his voice and told me he’d arranged a special 5 hour layover and driven all the way from the airport in a cab just to meet me in person because he knew I was the perfect agent for his book. (Boy, if I had $1 for each time I’ve heard that one!) To get him off the phone, I said, “Why don’t you tell me what your book is about? Then we’ll decide what to do next.”
He said – I am not kidding! He said, “I know the way to solve all the problems in the Middle East. Line up all the gays and lesbians in the morning and shoot them with a firing squad. This is the only way Allah will be pleased and bless the land again.” I wish I was making that up!
I said, “Let me tell you two things: I would never represent such a book. Second, I wholeheartedly support people who find love, doesn’t matter to me with whom. I don’t want to see your book and I do want you to stop calling me.”
I’ve had authors follow me into the ladies room at writers conferences. I’ve had queries slipped under my door in hotels in which I stayed – I’d like to know how they got my room number! I’ve been sent every kind of bribe from Godiva to checks to lingerie to flowers in an attempt to get me to represent someone’s book. (The Godiva is preferred!)
Here’s the sad truth: if your book isn’t good, NO AGENTS will want it.
The happy truth: If your book IS good, show it to 10 of us and you’ll have 8 of us fighting over you.
Really. That’s how it works.
From the last billion years I’ve spent in the publishing industry, I’ve learned there are 3 types of authors:
Talkers: These are the ones who are always talking about the book they plan to write, but never writing. Or they write it and talk about it and brag what a big seller it will be, but never show it to agents so thus it is never sold, or worst of all, the people with awful books who stubbornly self-publish. These are the Talkers. All they do is talk. They don’t sell books.
Stalkers: The folks who are so darned sure their book is amazing, who try to shove it down every agent’s throat, but still can’t get representation…but who aren’t smart enough to edit their way to success.
Authors: Those wonderful few who realize this is not a game for the agents, it’s a livelihood. Real authors take the time to study the business, study their craft, built their platform. They spend time considering if there’s a market for their book BEFORE they write it, and long before they try to get representation. We like them. We help them. Be one of them!
Which kind of author are you? Getting an agent and a publishing contract isn’t that hard if you take the steps necessary to achieve the goal you desire. Play by the rules and win!
Want to build your platform – your fan base – your social media platform
so that agents are stalking YOU? It’s simple!