November 18, 2012


Somewhere around thirty years ago, I met Bruce Bethke for the first time – when I responded to an ad in a newspaper for a science fiction writers group seeking new members. I called, then sent in an “audition story” and was invited to join the group at the ORIGINAL, original Loft Literary Center (before grant money started flowing) in Minneapolis. One of THEM reviews books now, the other published a few books and short stories but no longer writes. Bruce doesn’t write much lately except for non-fiction; he is currently executive editor of STUPEFYING STORIES, an irregular anthology of new speculative fiction, he mostly works for a super computer company as well as presiding over Rampant Loon Press. These nuggets of wisdom can be found here: They are used with the author’s permission.
2. We believe that an Agent far greater than Our Last Agent can restore us to publications, sales, and critical acclaim.
While I have seen this happen, I’m not sure that Bruce personally experienced this. For the entire time I’ve known him, he has been represented by Ashley Grayson Agency.

I haven’t had an agent long enough to wonder what “an Agent far greater” would be like. So far working with my agent has been a great experience. She understands me and after a few tries, I began to see what she was trying to tease out of my writing.

Hearsay is a different story altogether and while I’d never name any names, I have HEARD lots of stories. Also, if you’d like to read about bad agent experiences, you can read about them at these sites:

What I’ve HEARD is that the agent doesn’t make or break you. For example, I’ve never had an agent before, yet I have written and gotten things published in some of the best markets: ANALOG, CRICKET, CICADA as well as others (including an article in THE WRITER). All of that without an agent.

What I’ve HEARD is that you and your agent are a team with different areas of expertise. Your agent may no longer want to be a full-time writer, editor, or publisher but they know the industry well enough and have enough connections within the industry – as well as knowing what editors and  publishing houses want – to have a good idea of where to direct your work.

Agents have also built a level of trust with editors at publishing houses and when they send a piece to an editor, the editor knows that the manuscript has been edited to within an inch of its life! They know that all that needs to happen now is for them to sit down and find out if THIS piece will fit the company’s goals and programs.

The writer then, produces the best and most original piece of literature that they can. They tell their story as clearly as possible. They pay attention to all the things first time writers have drilled into their heads (whether be teachers, mentors or by reading about writing: dialogue. pace. plot. characterization. milieu. originality.).

Working together, the writer and agent form a team. For many, it’s a lifetime thing: besides Bruce, writer Anne McCaffery and her agent Virginia Kidd worked together for decades; and never mind – I’ve spent the past hour trying to find out what agents represent some of my favorite authors. Some are apparently very secretive, so we don’t need to go there.

Suffice it to say that like everything else, blaming your non-success on anyone but yourself is an exercise in futility as the only person you can change in this world is yourself.

I suppose that would be the best anecdote to go with this second step of Bruce Bethke’s Twelve Step Writer’s Program…

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