Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Response to Our Response to...Oh, Forget It!

"Why do people include article credits? Because every single "how-to" book I've ever read tells you to. This is the first agent blog that I've come across that is against mentioning article publishing credits. Other agents say that by including those credits you're showing them that you can write well enough that somebody at some point paid you actual money for it. Yes they're totally different kinds of writing, but then again, writing a novel is vastly different than writing a query or a synopsis, yet we're expected to have mastered both of those art forms in order to get published. I think this is the perfect example of why I love agent’s blogging. Now any author who does their homework on what your agency prefers will know not to talk about any articles they've published, and to keep it solely about the novel writing that they have done."

First of all, it is important to remember that many (many, many, many, many…) how-to-write/get published books—and even articles on writing, for that matter—are written by writers whose only writing credit is their how-to-write/get published book.

Writing a query should be no problem as it’s a business letter, something we all learn how to write in high school. It’s only when writers are taught to try to embellish to somehow turn a simple query into a work of art that query letter writing becomes a chore. I have seen articles, books, and workshops on how to “pitch” in your query and how to “hook” an agent, and most of that kind of gimmicky, hype-y stuff just gives me more to plow through. The key, as always, is in the writing, as you mentioned. As has been stated on this blog in many posts, KEEP IT SIMPLE and you’ll get further. Writers who have been overwhelmed with “helpful” information seem to trip themselves up in their own words, and simplicity practically eliminates this.

Just on a personal note, I have never really understood the idea that if a writer has been paid to write something, an article in this case, that his skills would command monetary compensation in another area of writing. Let's look at it this way: If you were a novelist, would that count if you were going to apply to write articles for Newsweek?

The deadlines for articles and novels are different, as is the rhythm of the publishing process and how it proceeds. For me, it would be like saying that if I have held a job selling screws, that I would be an expert at selling automobiles because they contain screws--if that makes any sense. :)

Thanks for bringing this up. Good discussion.


NL Gassert said...

Oh, I like your screws analogy, but I don’t think you’ve applied it the way writes are taught to look at their credits. If you’ve held a job selling screws and then apply for a job selling automobiles, no one would expect you to be a great automobile salesman. But your new boss would expect you to know something about sales and how to treat customers, etc.

Similarly, writers have been advised to mention their non-fiction credits/journalistic credits not because they say the writer can write, but because they say s/he is familiar with the business of writing. Those credits are supposed to say “hey, here’s a professional who’s worked with an editor before, who’s survived deadlines and won’t balk at revisions.” (Not that that’s necessarily true …)

In the same vein, I don’t mean to impress you with my Master’s in Public Relations. Does it mean I’m a good writer? Nope. I just want you to know that when the time comes to sell my book I will have heard the word “press release” before and chances are I’ll have some ideas about publicity and marketing.

All that aside, I agree with the person you quoted. The author who does his homework on your agency won’t have to worry about what to mention. Agency blogs are a great thing. Thank you for taking the time to do this. We appreciate it.

DanStrohschein said...

Amen - Relationships with agents, even though they are business relationships - are still relationships. Both sides should know each other well. The agency blogs you keep allow us to know what you want, how you want to be approached, and what your current open needs are. It shows us how to work with you if we want to submit or if we ever become business partners.

Thank you for your effort and time in keeping up the blog.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with what you say about the transferability of different types of writing. My technical writing and academic writing have made my fiction writing much easier.

I think that if a person is a practiced writer, no matter what kind of writing she is practiced at, those skills support other kinds of writing.

Just my humble opinion.

And many thanks for your blog; it is terrific and I'm learning a lot from it.