Why finding a literary agent is like playing a game of Mortal Kombat

This is a post by Novel Publicity President, Emlyn Chand/ Do you like to play video games? Have you ever played Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Soul Calibur, or Super Smash Brothers?

If you’re a writer who has attempted to land a literary agent, then you have to some degree. Securing a literary agent is one part fight and one part game, and there are many rounds to this battle.

I’ve made it through the first match alive but slightly worse for the wear. Rather than explain my literary agent submission experience in lengthy, dramatic prose, I thought it would be more fun to turn it into a video game script.

Welcome to Book Basher Super Fiiiight Time—Hiyaah!

Deep in the snowy wasteland of the mid-January Midwest, our hero boldly prepares for battle. With nothing more than a six-time-revised manuscript and a dash of hope, she sets forth on her journey toward publication.

Meanwhile in the magical urban forest called “New York,” an army of battle-weary agents also prepare for their day’s journeys. They have emerged victorious many times before and think nothing of today’s show-down.

Within the space of the cyber realm, at last they shall meet.

Our hero goes forth, query in hand, with minimal armor to protect her feelings. Although she has honed her skills for more than one year, nothing could have prepared her for this first battle.

Emlyn vs. The Literary Agents—Battle 1—Fiiiight!

OUR HERO: “I’m calling on my strength.” She circles her arms and performs a sun salute.

AGENT #1:  “He, he. I will make you cry!” She looks at our hero from over her shoulder, sticks out her tongue, and winks.

OUR HERO inches forward, hesitantly, toward her opponent

AGENT #1 performs a swift maneuver, pulling a red rejection stamp out of her pocket and bringing it to rest on our hero’s manuscript—KO—“You die too easily, hmmpf!”

Emlyn vs. The Literary Agents—Battle 2—Fiiiight!

OUR HERO: “If I believe in myself, I shall emerge victorious”

AGENT #2: “Don’t waste my time,” he growls through his robotic sheath.

OUR HERO stands still staring at her massive opponent. She can not forget the outcome of her previous match. She is immobilized from this fear of failing again. She is almost too afraid to…

AGENT #2 sees his opponent’s hesitation. He jumps high into the air and lands on our hero using a three-move combo—not for us, misspell querier’s name, forget to mention ms title—BAAAAM!—KO—“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to consider your work, weakling.” He laughs quite maniacally.

Emlyn vs. The Literary Agents—Battle 3—Fiiiight!

OUR HERO: “If I persevere, success will surely be obtained.”

AGENT #3: “This is an automated reply—beep—if you do not hear from us with 8 weeks’ time, then we have determined your work is not a right fit for us—beep!”

OUR HERO: sighs, shrugs shoulders, and sits to wait for her opponent’s arrival. Weeks pass by, months—no word from Agent #3. Our hero stands up and jumps off the edge of the screen, effectively eliminating herself from this battle—KO!

Emlyn vs. The Literary Agents—Battle 4—Fiiiight!

OUR HERO has hurt herself in the fall. She has spent weeks recuperating under the guidance of her writing sensei. Now, she is finally ready to approach battle again. She has lost almost all of her optimistic fervor. She now expects to lose but that doesn’t mean she won’t continue to train hard and try her best in battles.

AGENT #4 emerges from the shadows and glares at our hero hostilely. “Let’s make this quick.”

OUR HERO stares back. “I’m not afraid of you,” she says. And she’s not. They can’t scare her anymore. She’s suffered many defeats, what harm will one more do? Even with the slightest chance of securing victory, it’s worth fighting, it’s worth suffering another humiliating and painful defeat.

AGENT #4 removes a stack of papers from her satchel and prepares to fling them at her opponent, Chinese star style.

OUR HERO sees the approaching onslaught and jumps high into the air, landing at the agent’s back. She brings out her weapon.

AGENT #4 attempts to do a low-back kick but misses our hero.

OUR HERO makes her attack. “I will not be ignored. My name is Emlyn Chand and THE IRON PILLAR is an 85,000-word work of multicultural women’s fiction…”

AGENT #4’s eyes glaze over. She has been caught in our hero’s trap. Now she has no choice but to listen. She can attack again once our hero’s attempts at securing victory have finished.

OUR HERO: “The most important of which is love for oneself. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.” Having used the only move in her repertoire, our hero raises her eyes above her query letter and waits.

AGENT #4 is still in a trance-like state. The well-written query letter has calmed her. She puzzles over her thoughts for a moment, and then—“Yes, I am interested. I would like to request a partial manuscript.”

OUR HERO jumps high into the air, doing an elaborate spin kick. She cannot believe what just happened. She won, she won, she won! No KO this time. She lands on feet as light as the air.

AGENT #4: “This, of course, is only the first step. If I like your partial, I’ll request a full, if I like your full, I will consider offering representation.” She snaps her fingers and vanishes back into the tangle of the urban forest.

OUR HERO is left all alone in the cyber realm. She hadn’t realized that she would have to face this same agent again. The agent will be back, no doubt, stronger, more vicious. The only thing to do now is to wait and prepare herself mentally for the next battle. Our hero sits down cross-legged and begins to count the blades of grass that cushion her bottom. It shouldn’t be too long now…

THE END (FOR NOW)

 


Emlyn Chand, President of Novel PublicityEmlyn Chand was born with a fountain pen grasped firmly in her left hand (true story). Novel Publicity’s mascot is a Sun Conure, thanks to her obsession with birds–and she gets to decide anyway since she is the company’s founder and president. Although her first novel Farsighted won the prestigious Writer’s Digest Self-Published Novel of the Year award in 2012 for the YA category, she now writes most of her fiction under her “real” name, Melissa Storm. Learn more or connect with her (or her Sun Conure, Ducky!) on either of her author websites:  www.emlynchand.com or www.melstorm.com. You can also friend her on Facebook, tweet with her @novelpublicity, or send her an email via emlyn@novelpublicity.com.


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