Monday, May 12, 2008

Hopeful Writer & the Unsolicited Manuscript (Part 2)

Our story so far: Mercia, 955 Anno Domini. Our hero, Hopeful Writer, has arrived at the SCBWI-Mercia Annual Regional Conference, in quest for the Holy Gr... wait, wrong quest... make that: in quest for the Sale of his First Novel. After a key note address (with confusing subtitles), Hopeful Writer and the other Knights of the Library Study Table (see the cast list) have discovered they have all signed up for a seminar led by that awesome individual known as (drumroll) The Agent.

Now, on to part two of... (What, you haven't read part one yet? What are you doing reading this? Wondering who I am and what this blog is for? Hie thee to the beginning!) Okay, without further ado, back to (cue dramatic music)...

Hopeful Writer & the Unsolicited Manuscript
Part 2

by Howard Shirley

SFX: Heavenly trumpet fanfare.

Cut away. Exterior shot, sky with clouds. A blazing beam of light emits from the clouds.

Cut back to the Knights of the Library Study Table, looking in stunned amazement.

HOPEFUL WRITER: It is The Agent!



SINCERELY the SUBMITTED (nervous): Maybe I should have gone to Alan’s workshop...

REPETE the REJECTED: It’s only a junior assistant.


HW: Oh, great and mighty agent, he who...

ASSISTANT JUNIOR AGENT'S ASSISTANT (interrupting, annoyed): She.

HW: She?

AJAA: You think I spent four years at Radcliffe to put up with being referred to by the third person masculine pronoun? It’s just another example of how the English language has been used to oppress the rights of women...

RR: Oh Lord, not another one.

AJAA: What was that?

HW: Nothing, O Lord! Uh, O Lady!

AJAA: That’s better. Now, get on with it.

HW: Right. Oh great and mighty agent, she of beautiful countenance...

AJAA: “Beautiful countenance?” What’s that got to do with anything?

HW: Nothing! Nothing at all! Merely a pleasantry!

AJAA: “Merely a pleasantry?” Are you making some sort of judgment about my appearance?

HW: NO! Never! I... I hadn’t even noticed your appearance, not that it might not be noticeable, if you wanted it to be, which I’m not saying you do or don’t and really has nothing to do with the matter at hand, after all, this being a purely professional encounter...

NF: This pitch is not going well.

AJAA: Oh, cut the crap. I hate rambling queries.

HW: Right. Uhm... so what sort of queries do you like?

SS: Oh, good one, Hopeful!

AJAA: Haven’t you read my blog?

SS: Uh oh.

NF (jumping in): Religiously! Every day!

AJAA: I update weekly.

HW: But your updates are so good that we read them over and over, just to get the full impact of your insight!

NF: And I’m a complete idiot when it comes to that http, RSS stuff.

EI: That she is!

NF: Thanks.

EI: Don’t mention it.

RR: Oh, let me handle this. (TO AJAA) I’ve read your blog and been to the agency web site, but the submission guidelines conflict with each other. I assume, naturally, that your personal preferences take precedence, but I wanted to confirm that with you personally. I also understand that the needs of your list change, so I wanted to hear from you what your were looking for now, so that I wouldn’t bother you with a query outside of your current interest.

SS: Wow.

RR: I’m used to this.

AJAA: Aren’t you the smooth one.

RR: Just experienced.

AJAA: Been dumped a lot, have you?

RR: Uh...

AJAA: Okay, I’ll take pity on you. That’s why they sent me out to this hick conference anyway. I want something new and fresh...
(The Knights pull out notepads and begin transcribing furiously.)
... but be sure and tell me how it’s similar to other best-selling books already on the market. Just don’t compare your book to anybody else’s, because that really turns me off. Start by telling me why you’re writing to me, but don’t make yourself look like an idiot by stating the obvious because I already know why you’re writing to me. The first paragraph should sell me on the book, but remember that it’s the book that counts, not the letter, though frankly, if your letter sucks I won’t take look one at the sample, so no pressure. Include some biographical information so I know your level of experience, but don’t bore me with details that have nothing to do with your book, because I really don’t care what you’ve done before, I just care about the book you’re querying me about. And include a SASE, though if you don’t hear back from me ever just assume I’ve rejected you.

RR: How many times have I heard that.

NF (sniffing): They never call.

RR: I was talking about agents.

NF: So was I.

HW: I’d like to know about your own sales record.

EI: Excellent question!

AJAA (proudly): I’ve sold to all the major houses and several minor ones. I schmooze with all the greats. You may grovel.

HW: Uh...

AJAA: I believe I mentioned groveling?

KNIGHTS: Grovel, grovel, grovel!

AJAA: That’s much better. Just so long as you realize that the best way to find a publisher is through an agent.

HW: Oh, yes, great and beaut... uh, wonderful Lady! If we may beseech thee with but one more question?

AJAA: Oh, all right. But make it snappy.

Knights look around, confused, then begin snapping their fingers.

AJAA: I meant the question, you dolts!

HW: Right! Knew that! Sorry... just got a little light headed, what with all the note taking and what not, one day conference and all...

AJAA: The question?

HW: Oh! Uhm... you said the best way to find a publisher is through an agent.

AJAA: Of course.

HW: So, what’s the best way to find an agent?

AJAA (laughs): Why, find a publisher! (Maniacal laughter as light fades and clouds cover her.)

HW: Wait! But how... dang, she’s gone.

SS: There’s never enough time at these conferences.

NF: What do we do now?

RR: Same thing we do after every conference.

EI: Try to take over the world?

RR: No, you idiot. We look for a publisher. And stop quoting Pinky and the Brain; this is a Python parody.

EI: Sorry about that, Brain.

HW (waving arm forward): On to the Publisher!

KNIGHTS: To the Publisher!

They move forward, out of the shot. Cut away.


Postscript: Do not assume that Hopeful Writer and his fellow knights always make the right choices in their efforts to secure a publisher. In fact, for the most part assume otherwise.

Postscript two: No actual agent is represented above. Any resemblance to an actual agent is completely coincidental and unintentional, though if you know a person like this, appropriate avoidance techniques might be in order.

--- Howard Shirley

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