After reading an interesting blog post on this subject, I stumbled into a lengthy debate on twitter surrounding the topic: should an agent love your writing? Or is it enough for them to recognize that it will sell like hotcakes? Darn gatekeepers and all. My very respectful opponent pointed out that we have to do taxes, whether we love it or not, and agents have to sell books. They should pick what will sell, and let the author’s love carry the writing bit. At the end of the debate, I was left with much to say, and here comes the blog post.
I’m not sure I understand why this is an argument at all. Granted, I’m only starting the journey of looking for an agent, so you may think my opinion is a little too Pollyanna, and not enough Donald Trump, but I am convinced I do not want an agent who merely thinks my book will sell. I want the unicorns and rainbows! I want madly in love kind of feeling, and I do want it to be mutual.
But it’s business, no more no less, they say. If you can write it and the agent can sell it, shouldn’t that be enough? Business it may be, but when an editor asks my agent, “So, you really love this book, eh?”, I don’t want my agent faking the passion for my writing. I want their hands trembling, mad glow in the eyes, maybe even a little drool on the side, and the “Precious… Take a look at my precious… Next bestseller from my favorite author, only for you, my friend,” kind of crazy.
Kind of like this:
vs. “The writing sucks, but it sure will sell!”
If for no other reason than pride in my own work, I expect people who represent me to do it because they think I’m brilliant.
Sometimes, I read a bestseller and I enjoyed it. I plop it on the virtual Goodreads shelf and move on to the next title. Sometimes, I don’t even finish the book. But there are also those occasions when as soon as I turn the last page I clutch the book, and carry it around the house, and look for someone, anyone, who has read it or is willing to read and discuss it with me. I’ll nag my significant other, I’ll consider naming my future pets after the characters, and call my sister, and talk the ears off of my co-workers at lunch, until I find a kindred soul. Bestsellers come in all shapes and sizes, after all, having a bestseller label is no guarantee that this or that person will love your book.
Here comes a point: If an agent, with a limited number of waking hours and coffee supply, has to make a choice of representation to any one of those possible titles, and actually has a say in the matter, why would I expect them to choose anything other than the name-your-pets-after-the-villan one? If I expect of myself to write what I love, and wish for everyone I care about to hold the jobs they are excited to have, isn’t it hypocritical of me to demand an agent to represent a book they don’t want to read over and over again? And more importantly, if I can have an agent with either one of those attitudes toward my writing, why would I settle?
I might be naive, but at this point, I have no intentions on settling for anything other than fireworks. I don’t want an agent working on my manuscript because they have to. I want them to do it because they love it. We all do a better job when we are passionate about our task at hand. I expect this rule does not exclude agents. Therefore, if I want the best representation for my work, I better keep looking for an agent who is reduced to excited stuttering and the trembling hands upon reading my manuscript.
At the end of the day we are all free to make up our own minds. Writers are free to hold their grudges for impersonal rejection, but it will do us well to remember, agents are just as free to invest their time as they please. It is their time, after all. Until we all sign on the dotted line, of course.