No Dogs Allowed


Not yet giving up on agents, two years ago I signed up for a workshop with a panel of experienced agents who would share their approach to selecting, or not selecting, manuscripts to publish.

The room was full of writers and writers-to-be excited to learn more about how to get connected to a publisher via the agent process. I was particularly excited about this workshop because each writer attending had been invited to submit a “best line” to be evaluated, on the spot, by the panel of agents who would offer their hypothetical verdict, either “no thanks” or “send me more.” I was one of five writers whose best line had been chosen.

The workshop was introduced by a prolific writer who described her agent experience. She has six books published and a flourishing career. What caught my attention was that it took twenty years of knocking on agents’ doors and endless rejections before she finally got somebody to work with her. She’s about my age now and I’m thinking, at that rate, I’ll be eighty-four before I get an agent. If I ever do.

Following the introduction, each agent described which kinds of queries they paid attention to. I found all but one agent to be optimistic, encouraging, and open-minded.

So, about the “all but one.” She was a young woman, obviously impressed with all the requests she gets from hungry, humble writers looking to catch a break. I got the impression she felt powerful by being able to quickly and unemotionally discount a writer’s hard work and creativity with a mere “no thanks” response.

One of the “valuable pointers” she gave the participants was, “Don’t ever send me anything about a dog. No dogs allowed! I’ll quickly chuck it in the trash.”

The audience grew silent. I laughed. I laughed not only because of her utterly bizarre statement but also because I knew my best line had been chosen, and guess what? It was about a dog!

I had chosen my best line from “Wolf,” the first story of my memoir about my childhood, Stories from the Stoop. The dog-hating agent was the first on the panel to comment. She studied my slip of paper for nearly a minute of very serious concentration. With some hesitation she finally announced her verdict. “I want more,” she said. This time the audience laughed. I didn’t.

I was angry. This agent’s process was fickle and capricious.

After my first meeting with the “leaky ceiling” agent (see previous post), the writer with twenty years of rejections and now this agent who proclaimed herself to be anti-canine, but it turns out wasn’t or not always, I was rapidly losing hope and patience with this whole agent thing.

I realized at sixty-four, that I wasn’t cut out for this game. That’s when I decided to take a hard look at Amazon self-publishing. And pretty darn quick.

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