Thursday, January 7, 2010

Literary Agents- mars or venus?

While searching on, I realized I am more comfortable with the idea of a female agent. They don't have a male/female sort button, btw. Then I wondered why I feel that way. Be prepared for some Freudian self-analysis.

In high school and college I was more comfortable around men. That might still be true- Perhaps it might be that I hate to shop, don't feel naked without makeup, like to go fishing on my dad's boat, and love camping. I usually arrange things so that hubby is putting up the tent and I'm building the fire. I would rather drywall than mop (but who wouldn't?)Now that I have kids, I have a lot in common with other women, but I didn't feel that was true for a while.

I dress up and wear makeup several times a week- even today, when I'm not going anywhere except dropping the kids off at school. And I don't like watching a lot of sports, including-don't tell- my kids little league games. They like it, so I take them, but I'm much more proud of them when they finish a good book or do something unusually kind for each other.

Perhaps it's some strange subconscious thing with being married and 'off the market'- perhaps now that flirting is out, I don't know what to say to guys. Yet the feeling is remarkably similar to how I feel about having a female OB/GYN.
I've had both male and female doctors. It wasn't exactly more embarrassing to have a male doctor, but I never forget that he was a man. My work-in-progress is an urban fantasy romance with an empath main character and I wonder if a man could really get it. Letting someone read my story feels vulnerable and I'd rather have a woman inside my head. According to my research into detecting lies, women are better than men at white lies, so maybe I want someone who will be able to tell me things in a very nice way, more concerned with my feelings than the exact facts.

But I wonder if I'm quicker to shut out a woman's criticism than a man's. And I'm afraid of a woman being 'witchy', and I would never expect that from a man. I have this notion that men tend not to take things personally or hold on to past mistakes like women may. Whether that's true or not, I don't know.

I don't value crit partner's and teacher's and workshop member's critiques differently based on gender. I value it based on usefulness. And I've had no problems working with men or women in various areas of my life. So why do I think it matters? Does anybody else care what gender their agent is?

This prejudice aside, what really matters? Does it matter that an agency only has contact info on their one-page website? (are they unprepared for the digital age that has already arrived?) Email query or snail-mail? (emails are deleted so easily. Does a piece of paper linger in the hand longer?) What if the one-web-page agency accepts 50 pages of the manuscript? Is that positive or negative? (I'm thinking that it would be nice to know that SOMEONE has 50 pages that I wrote, but how much of that actually gets read?) Would I be comfortable with an agent who sells erotica? Would we be able to work together?

I think I want a newish agent in an established agency. Although, let's face it, I could see myself being desperate enough to press my hand on the cab window as they drive away, mouthing 'call me!' with my hand in the phone sign at my ear. I'm not a stalker yet, but maybe one day.

Ginger Clark of Curtis Brown did a podcast with her client, Jon Armstrong, in which she describes some of the hilarious/scary things authors have done- well beyond accosting an agent in the elevator. It made me feel rather rational and balanced, for a writer;)


  1. I would be a bit wary of an agent who had only contact info on their website or didn't have one at all; that's really very telling in this day and age.

    As for the gender thing - I find I am more forgiving with women I work with. I'm afraid the men get a rougher treatment :)

  2. Hey Stephanie- so it's not just me that treats genders differently. I realized that the books that agents like are probably the most important thing they tell me. That is a stronger connection for me than gender. So a certain agent likes "The Left Hand of Darkness" and I love that book, and it's a very 'culture' and character driven book, so that trumps this agent being a man. It makes it irrelevant, actually.

  3. Hmmm, I totally get this, and I've had the same sort of thought process when I've been adding agents to my "who to query" file.

    Usually, I think I could only go with a female agent, for the same sort of 'not having to explain myself' reasons you mentioned (and the doctor was a great analogy!).
    But then there are a couple of men out there who I think I'd be as happy or more with because they can handle both masculine and feminine aspects. Like Nathan Bransford. Something about that guy makes me think I would never have to explain myself or be embarrassed about discussing a romantic scene... he seems to get the world of female emotions.

    So, a female agent, unless I can snag Nathan ;-P

  4. Haha Ann- I know just want you mean. One of the agents at the top of my list is a man, but he lists "The Left Hand of Darkness" as a novel he likes and I thought- there's a man who could understand what I'm trying to do. I think the think about Nathan is he's so spproachable and I feel like he's really my friend...even though we've never talked.

  5. Can I comment again about "The Left Hand of Darkeness?" haha.