Thursday, March 3, 2011

No, I can't help you turn your website into a book

Continuing a theme from the previous post ...

More and more I'm being sent submissions that aren't really submissions. Rather, they are letters or emails that say, 'I've been doing X and I've made a website. Can you please give me advice on what I should do next?' or 'Can you please tell me how to turn it into a book?'

I've probably said it before but just so we're clear: agents aren't a general advisory service for writers. If I'm not getting letters like this then I'm seeing things like, 'I want to write a novel but I really don't know how. What advice can you give me?'

Well, none. I'm not running a public service. Having said that, I would love to have the resources and time to give this type of advice, if only so that ultimately fewer and fewer people will be in the dark, but luckily I don't have to: writers centres (or writers' centres, depending on whether or not you think it's a centre for writers or a centre possessed by writers) already offer this service.

No doubt agents seem like logical people to ask for advice about writing, but the parameters of our jobs are fairly clear: we work with authors who have already written something (well, most of the time). There is enough information available on the internets for fledgling writers - I'm fairly sure none of that information suggests that agents are the go-to people when you are first thinking about writing something or pre-thinking about writing something. And every one of these letters and emails that asks for advice has to be answered, meaning my submission-reading time gets squeezed (hence this ranty-type post).

So, please, if you are ever tempted to ask an agent for some general career advice and they're not already your agent: don't. There are writers/writers' centres to help you. And the Australian Society of Authors. They're all helpful people. They would love to help you turn your website into a manuscript. And then you can contact me and any other agent you wish.


Shannon said...

It's weird that people are making this mistake. If ever you wanted to be super-duper helpful to them I suppose you could put a writer's conference or organisation brochure in the envelopes!

Julia B said...

I must admit, you're nicer than I would be in responding to those kind of letters! My deletin' finger would be getting one heck of a workout! ^_^

Slush said...

So I suppose emailing you about how to get my twitter ramblings published is out of the question? Lol!

I think newbies hold you in extremely high regard. For us lowly, unpublished ones Agents are demigods merely a stone throw from the gates of Olympus or Asgard (whichever you prefer).
While the emails are trying and the questions downright silly, you are AWESOME (which I say to anyone with patience)! Don't ever forget it you demigoddess, you.

Janet Johnson said...

Fascinating. I can only shake my head. Crazy.

Lynda R Young said...

lol, I get asked that question a lot too and I'm not even an agent. My advice is this: just write it. Like you said, there's plenty of resources out there to help us along the way -- but we'll get nowhere if we don't write.