Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Fishing for Representation

I'm taking a quick break from writing, so I thought I'd write up today's post before my wrists give out.

This morning I read an interesting post at Jennifer Jackson's blog. In it, she takes minor issue with the phrase 'landing an agent'. I can totally see where she's coming from, but after thinking it through, I don't agree. You see, if you look at this whole thing from a certain way, you'll see how hopeful writers really are trying to 'land an agent'.

In essence, what we're doing out here is similar to fishing. I don't know how many of you fish, but the first time I went fishing was 1975. Thinking about it now, I can make quite a nice analogy from experiencing both the art of catching a fish and the art of securing representation.

First off, fishing isn't just dropping a hook in the water and waiting. If it was that easy, there wouldn't be tournaments devoted to the sport. You'd never have to teach a man to fish so he could eat for a lifetime. We'd all be rolling in bass and trout and walleye.

Nope, fishing takes art and skill. You have to know when the fish are biting. You have to use bait - and if you want a certain type of fish, you have to know which bait to use. You have to know how to cast, and how to set a hook, and how to reel it in just right so it doesn't break the line and get away. You have to have the right equipment for the kind of fish you're going after.

Sometimes you can forget all that and catch fish anyway. When I was a kid, my brother caught a huge salmon using rigging for perch. It's rare, but it can be done. That's where the luck comes in.

While luck does come into play, it's mostly skill that's going to get the fish in your boat. Whether you're trolling for the mighty muskie or using a bobber and hoping for panfish, you need to target your skills. The same holds true for whether you're trying to get an agent at SUPER HUGE AGENCY or the only agent at ONE MAN AGENCY.

You need to have your equipment - the query letter, the synopsis, the outline - ready to throw into the water. You need to know whether the agents are biting and whether your kind of bait is what they're hungry for.

And then of course, you need a little luck so you throw your hook in just the right spot.

Of course, with either, you also need a boatload of patience. Somedays the fish aren't biting. Somedays, the water is so full of other good things to eat, you're lucky if they even give your query a glance.

But when the skills and the luck and the timing are right, you'll hook a big one, and you'll be in for the ride of your life. It takes a lot of work to bring in a big fish, just like it takes a lot of effort to land a great agent, but either way, it's worth the effort.

Sometimes whether we land an agent or a fish is entirely out of our control, but just like you'll never catch a fish if you don't drown a few worms, you'll never get an agent if you don't get your hook into the river.

Happy fishing!

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