Sympathy for Agency Readers…

As an aspiring writer, I have of course experienced the frustration of rejection letters from agents and publishers. Having come maddeningly close to actual publication a couple of times, it is all too easy for me to moan about the traditional publishing industry. Again and again one hears complaints about it being a closed shop, about it being who you know, no-one being prepared to take a risk on a new author, etc, etc…

However, at the television company where I work, part of my job is to sift through the TV equivalent of a “slush pile” or “unsolicited” submissions of films, documentaries and other programmes hopeful fledgling production companies or individuals wish to have us broadcast. Said programmes generally range from the mediocre to utter rubbish, and only a very small percentage of them are remotely of interest. All too often I issue the dreaded standard rejection letter, so I know what it is like at the other end of this process.

Indeed, on one occasion, a particular individual was so incensed by the rejection that he turned up at the studios demanding to speak to me personally so I could explain myself. Needless to say, the gentleman was escorted from the premises, but the incident made me more sympathetic to those who had perhaps on occasion rejected my work. Besides, perhaps they had a point. Looking back over the last decade or so, I can see how much my work has improved – hopefully to the point where rejection may not be forthcoming to such a degree.

Literary agents employ armies of “readers” to sift their material, and as someone who sifts television programmes I know this is not an easy task. Just as there is a wealth of bad programming out there, I am sure the same is true of writing. At any rate, agents and publishers are not the devil incarnate. If they reject your writing, they just might have a point.


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