This was one of those weeks where I got to make someone’s dream come true and put a “perma-grin” on their face for a few days. But I’m afraid I also dashed some hopes. Perhaps that’s the case every week, as I go through queries, and for some I request a deeper peek and for others I just decline. But the fact that as an agent I have that “power” is never so in my face as when I hear pitches at a conference, or like last night, when I gave feedback on authors’ query letters at the WNBA-NYC Query Roulette.
First, the wish-granting story
I offered representation to a wonderful children’s book author earlier this week! Not only does this guy clearly have talent, but we seem to share the same quirky sensibility and sense of humor, and he has done the things he needs to do to hone his craft. It’s not always about degrees and letters after your name, but let me tell you that going for that MFA has the potential to really kick your writing up a notch and have you stretch in ways perhaps you didn’t know you could. I may have to get me one of them myself. (See my post about writers educating themselves.) I can tell already my new client and I are going to be a dynamic duo. And I can’t wait to share his work with editors!
I hate that I am sometimes the person across the table that says something to an author about their manuscript that will make their lip quiver, their eyes brim with tears, and have them take a deep breath just to hold it together. And then that author may or may not have been heard crying in the bathroom. Oh my. That is not the power I want to have.
Unfortunately though, because I have a commitment to making dreams come true, I also am committed to telling the truth to authors. Especially authors who seek me out specifically to get feedback about their work. If I don’t think your work is strong, it’s my duty to tell you. If I think your query letter needs work (a lot of work), it’s my obligation to point out where. If I share what a tough market it is for what you write (memoir, picture books, a particular subject, etc…), I’m doing my job if I tell you the truth.
Your job as an author is to take it. Take the feedback, input, critical commentary, and use it. Use it to make your work better, or build a stronger platform, or perfect a pitch. Use it to put aside your current project and write your next manuscript. Or use it to help you decide that perhaps writing isn’t for you. Or to decide that writing is for you, but getting published really isn’t so important. But your job is to use it.
Of course though, telling the truth to authors doesn’t make my job easy.
How do you handle hearing the truth about your work?