Agent Jonathan Lyons talks about agents and blogging

From the mouth of the Lyons:

Just like any profession, a few bad apples can damage the reputation of the entire field, and so it seems that a few bad agents and their bad blogs have injured some writers’ opinions of agents as a whole. I can only ask that you try to keep the same perspective I do when I read queries. I get a few queries every day from people who clearly spent no time researching either me or the industry. I also am the subject of abuse from aspiring writers all the time because I’ve reached the personal and subjective decision that I don’t want to represent their work. However, I don’t let the bad spoil my view of the good.

So true. Something for me to keep in mind. Those handful of people who react badly to my responses to their query or rejection of their work are probably the people who blame others for anything that isn’t working in their life rather than the people who learn and grow. It’s the latter that I want to encourage. I am always looking for the next project that resonates with me. Why let a few bad apples ruin a journey full of discovery….

11 responses to “Agent Jonathan Lyons talks about agents and blogging

  1. I am the latter. I am certainly learning and growing from your blog and my betas, two of whom are brutally honest, and I respect them for that. They have agents and weren’t asked to rewrite a thing by their very well-known agents, so obviously, they know what works! :*) I want my novel to be absolutely ready before I send it out. Will you ever discuss mechanics of writing? Voice? Showing vs. telling? Or any problems you find when you request partials and fulls? Thanks!
    ~Tyhitia
    http://obfuscationofreality.blogspot.com/

  2. I feel the same way regarding looking for an agent. I’ve got to admit, your blogs, and a few others, have helped keep me grounded that agents are real people too.
    As for people who react badly and blame everyone else… maybe they should let everyone else write for them then. I’m lookin’ forward to taking the lumps of pink slips and editor bleeds on my work. It can only help to make it stronger….bigger better faster…

  3. I wish I could have been there to witness the cultural change in the industry since the advent of the internet, followed by the popularity of blogs. I mean, never before have people had such a level of access to others (of any industry).
    It brings a really unique dynamic on so many levels. Of course, it also brings other things…things which shall remain nameless.
    …and while I admit to occaisonal bouts of informality (*ahem* sorry Agent Manners), there are those that don’t respect having such a neat insiders perspective into a previously “closed” industry and abuse the privelege of transparency that the interwebs have brought us.

  4. Something to keep in mind is that anecdotal tales of woeful reactions to rejections can be educational as well as entertaining. It is one thing to “tell” us that some folks do not write queries correctly, cannot create a decent synopsis, or become bitterly defensive when rejected. It would altogether be much more useful to “show” us the details of how this actually happens, especially the marginally not PC responses.
    Having taken a seminar at a recent Norwescon on writing queries (from Mary Rosenblum), I now appreciate how tightly written I must be when composing a synopsis to include. However, from listening to the examples given by the other students, I can also appreciate that there is more than one way to stone the crow. Given all that, I’d say it would be a good thing if you were to expound on the style, formatting, and content of successful queries. Oh, and include samples of what to do and what really makes you really gnash your teeth in frustration.
    PS: I am in agreement with the other responses that your words of wisdom are taken to heart and are a very useful resource to budding young authors. Thank you.

  5. Pass the blame
    It’s a sign of the times. You hear it on the news, you see it on TV; people everywhere find it easier to blame someone else for their own faults or mistakes. I blame Bart Simpson because he started this whole fiasco!

  6. See, even the less, ah, dignified agent blogs have been really helpful to me. First, they demystify the whole process–a reminder that editors and agents are human beings. They all have different ideas about what’s good and what’s bad, and that’s better for everybody overall. Not every author will have the same taste in agents, and that’s good, too.
    But mostly, it’s just good to know that you folks aren’t really picking manuscripts by coin toss or something, which I used to wonder about when I was younger. 😉

  7. Not to sound a note of disagreement, because by and large I do agree with what everyone else is saying here.
    But — I do get my hackles up at what comes across as agently smugness on a great many of these blogs. Yes, we understand that the business requires you to reject most of the queries you’re sent. But why be gleeful about it?

    • I certainly haven’t ever seen Jennifer react with glee when discussing rejecting queries. Her blog is always professional.
      In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen any agent who blogs regularly do this. What some of them do, however, is discuss quite honestly WHY they reject certain things. There’s a big difference.

      • Yes, I recognize the difference between glee and saying why they rejected something. That’s not what I’m talking about.
        I can’t count the number of times when I’ve read statements like “I read 200 queries this week and didn’t request anything,” with context that makes it sound as if they’re proud of the fact that they didn’t. We all know the competition is tough without reading that sort of thing over and over. Really.
        I also all but said it wasn’t likely that anyone here was going to agree with me, and that’s fine. But that’s the cumulative effect for me. I read these blogs to glean information, but it gets darned depressing at times. More than it needs to be.

        • I think that it serves a good purpose – it does give a writer a realistic idea of just how competitive the marketplace is and how much work an agent has to do to find one new client. Also, it lets a writer know how far the agent has gotten through their slush pile.
          Consider that it takes about ten minutes to read and respond to a query. 200 queries is about 32 hours worth of work, then. Now consider that reading queries – especially for a busy agent with a full client list like Jennifer’s – is NOT actually the primary part of the agent’s job: in addition to dutifully reading and responding to queries, she is also sending out submissions, following up on submissions, following up on contracts that are in various stages of negotiation, working with clients on revisions and developmental editing, and any number of other tasks.
          And consider this as well: a good number of any agent’s clients actually come as referrals from other writers or editors, and not from queries. So the act of reading the queries every week is a show of good faith, and – really – proof that an agent actually does have hope that s/he will find a gem among all the slush.

  8. This is so true of, I think, most professions. When I was teaching English, I had the usual troublemakers in my classes, but on those bad days I had to remind myself that most of my kids were really good–bright, fun, observant, willing, polite, and ready to learn. Some days that was easier to remember than others, though!

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