If Literary Agents Had Been With Us Through History
I've been saying for years now that literary agents with their solipsism, greed, elite attitudes and general, all-around stupidity in matters literary and otherwise, are slowly but surely destroying our literary culture and heritage. What follows below are what some of the greatest writers in history would've faced if literary agents had been indispensable from the outset or if these writers were trying to make their mark today. These are actual responses that I and other writers have heard from literary agents of late as to why we were beneath consideration for representation and this writer has no confidence that his legendary predecessors would've been any more immune.
Dear Mr. Tolstoy:
We have read your proposal for your novel, War and Peace, and, while we recognize its merits, we have to regrettably decline an opportunity to read more. Today's market being the way it is, we simply do not feel we can place a book that's over 100,000 words. We have recently had to decline other massive projects by people such as Margaret Mitchell and Steig Larsen. Our recommendation is to cut roughly 80% of the novel and resubmit it. But we wish you the best luck in all your future endeavors.
Dear Mr. Dickens:
After careful consideration of your book, Oliver Twist, we have to decline your offer to have our agency represent you. As stated in our submission guidelines on our website, and as we'd recently had to tell a horror writer in Bangor, Maine, we cannot with sufficient enthusiasm try to market books that place children in danger. But we wish you the best of luck in your future publishing endeavors.
Dear Mr. Homer:
We have received and carefully reviewed your presentation for your epic poem, The Iliad. We are obliged to decline reading the rest of your project because poetry simply does not sell in today's market. But we wish you the best in all your future endeavors...
Dear Mr. Philip K. Dick:
Re: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
We have read with some interest your proposal in a subgenre of science fiction that you've labeled "cyberpunk." As we have told another writer, William Gibson, your work lacks credibility in that you do not have an internet presence, hence a marketing platform. Today's market being the way it is, if you cannot guarantee at least hardcover sales of 5000 by having a specific threshold of followers on certain social networking sites, we cannot take you seriously. Try setting up accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and try us again. We wish all the best in your future endeavors, etc...
Dear Dr. Johnson:
We've read your submission for your project, A Dictionary of the English Language and, while the erudition cannot be faulted, we have to decline extending an offer of representation. Number one, we do not represent nonfiction and, number two, we must say that your bellicose attitude in uncharitably bringing up the observation that the modern world has taken away an author's patrons and replaced them with literary agents is perhaps the reason why you remain unpublished. But we wish you good luck in your future endeavors.
Dear Mrs. Shelley:
While we think your science fiction project, Frankenstein, has many merits, we feel we cannot wholeheartedly embrace your book with the enthusiasm necessary to place it with a publisher. This is a highly subjective business and while we cannot delve into why we're passing on this, allow us to suggest making the Frankenstein monster a zombie or vampire who's hunted by a historical figure, such as Abraham Lincoln. Good luck in your future endeavors...
Dear Ms. Carson:
We have received your nonfiction project, Silent Spring and had immediately declined it for being liberal, alarmist propaganda. Global warming and effects of pollution are mere theories and there isn't a market for your unsupported allegations. Good luck in your future endeavors...
Dear Mr. Bradbury:
No. There is no market for short stories.
Dear Mr. Shakespeare:
Obviously, you did not read our guidelines on our official website, which categorically states that we do not represent poets or playwrights. Try converting your projects Hamlet, Othello and MacBeth into novels under 100,000 words and make the characters more compelling. For instance, Hamlet's constant dithering and lack of clear motivation left us unsatisfied. Reduce the body count at the end to leave room for a sequel. Just some ideas. We wish you the best in all your future publishing endeavors...
Dear Matthew, Mark, Luke and John:
Thank you for your collaborative biography on the life of Christ. We usually don't give detailed critiques on properties we decline but we were particularly impressed with Jesus' ascent to heaven. Perhaps you'd have better luck placing this biography if you turned Jesus into a zombie (Given the popularity of AMC's The Walking Dead, you'd be smart to jump on the bandwagon). And his ascent to heaven would make him a flying zombie, which would give the zombie subgenre a novel twist. Just something to consider. With much luck on your future endeavors, we remain, etc, etc etc...