Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Location: Books & Such Central Valley Office
Wikipedia gives the following definition of a workaround: “A workaround is a bypass of a recognized problem in a system. A workaround is typically a temporary fix that implies that a genuine solution to the problem is needed. Frequently workarounds are as creative as true solutions, involving outside the box thinking in their creation.”
When encountering computer problems, I avoid workarounds. I say, work through the problem to keep everything humming. But how many times have we acknowledged that the system for finding your agent is seriously flawed? As our wiki-definition says it is a “recognized problem in system.”
Could it call for a workaround?
This week I’m going to offer four different workarounds to recognized problems. Four ways to get around the faceless, flawed agent query system. The system would work fine if there were ample slots for every good writer but there are not. It’s more like succeeding in Hollywood–a combination of who you know, the level of your talent, the current opportunities, the climate for your type of talent and just plain being in the right place at the right time.
Let me break those down a little further:
Who You Know. We hate to consider this–it feels so unfair–but the best way to get your foot in the door is with an introduction. We’ll talk about this tomorrow, including the dos and don’ts of referrals.
The Level of Your Talent. This goes without saying. I’ll present some creative workarounds for you but don’t use them yet if you aren’t ready. It does no good to catch the attention of an agent if you can’t knock those agent socks off with a fabulous book.
The Current Opportunities. This is one of the major sticking points. You are trying to find an agent in a contracting market. Most agents have a full client list. They still don’t want to miss out on something spectacular so they keep taking queries and meeting authors, but you have to convince that agent to squeeze you in.
The Climate for Your Style. If you are writing prescriptive how-tos right now you are up against the entire internet. That’s some competition. If you’ve written a sassy chick lit novel, your boat has sailed without you. You have no way of knowing what your target agent just heard over the last week from editors–she may be looking for the exact thing you are writing or, she may have been hearing about a softness in that genre.
The Right Place at the Right Time. This used to be called dumb, luck but since we believe in divine intervention rather than luck, this is a point of hope. If your query/proposal/book lands on the desk at a perfect moment–perhaps when your target agent just got back from a Starbucks run and is ready to settle in and enjoy searching for that next bestseller–you are gold. But your query could land on the desk in the midst of a protracted kerfuffle and be pushed aside. As it joins the pile, it is more likely to be dealt with in a mad dash to get through the pile. The truth is, all of that is out of your hands. That’s why we need to learn some workarounds.
Your turn. What would you like to change most about the system? Have any of you found a workaround that let you bypass this flawed system and find the perfect agent?