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  • D A Howe

The strange business of being an author

Updated: Jun 1, 2021

I managed to finish my book (at long last) in December of 2017. After that I took a break and traveled to my parent’s place for the holidays and provided the family with IT support (ah, Christmas traditions). When I got back home, I set about writing query letters to agents.

I decided that this is an oddly depressing activity. I’ve made the effort to write an entire novel and now I’m faced with begging someone to read it in the vain hope that this same mysterious someone thinks they can make money from it.

My depression wasn’t helped by reading this article in The Atlantic: Why I’m Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years

I cannot imagine spending a decade trying to get a book deal. Especially when the article’s author managed to score a literary agent on multiple occasions only to be dumped when the agent couldn’t sell the manuscript. I’m going to lose interest in six months. Probably less. (A Writers’ Digest article suggested that an author should query 80 agents. To which I say, “I’m too lazy. Also, I have better things to do with my life.”)

Also, querying agents is an oddly bizarre activity. I’m hard pressed to think of other careers/jobs that come with these types of rules. Can you imagine other industries working in this way? “I’m sorry. You have years of experience, and you graduated with good grades but we won’t consider you a chef until you have an agent. The agent must have negotiated a deal with one of the big five restaurant chains that we consider legitimate producers of approved meals. And sure, you could be one of those chefs that starts their own restaurant and produces imaginative and innovative meals but we all know you wouldn’t be a real chef.”

Or a band producing their own music and loading their songs to iTunes and Spotify.  “Well, you know, they’re not real musicians.  Self-producing their own music is proof of that.” Or some poor actor. “Well, sure you worked on Broadway but we only consider you a legitimate actor if you’ve got an agent and you were in a movie made by one of the top five directors.” I should qualify this by saying that an actor’s life is pretty tough but at the moment I don’t think actors are stopped from auditioning on the ground they’re not ‘legitimate’ because they’ve never worked with Steven Spielberg.

Anyway, the pointless task of querying agents will continue for a few months at least. I’m just not sure I have the patience to wait around for an approval e-mail that somehow legitimizes me as a writer.

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