But That Would Be Kaos

Are you seeking literary representation? Agent Katherine Sands is quoted over on Nipposkiss. She suggests looking for an agent who doesn’t specialize in your genre and remarks that Chaos Theory is at work in the business of selling manuscripts to publishers.

Late last week an unidentified literary agent remarked that ‘a weird karma permeates the biz this autumn.’ We’re only in the first week of fall, aren’t we?

I think Katherine Sands is on to something important. After all literary agents have assumed the role of First Readers, a job once held by recent college grads in smoke filled rooms with loud radiators. It was organized back then; the slush pile had to be read or the intern would be crushed under the weight of manuscripts like some medieval monk reading the Vulgate.

The submissions are now decentralized into a hundreds if not thousands of small offices scattered worldwide; no one knows what they’re looking for until they see it. When they see it, they must locate the author who, in turn, must endure the shock of acceptance tempered by the realization that having been accepted, they now face additional scrutiny from editors. Now there’s talk of slots and lists and revisions and a crowded marketplace. And Karma, dude.

I think it has to be this way. The process starts with someone writing a book, a process rooted in chaos. It’s art, not science. Every step of the way from first draft to publication is subject to whim and fancy; the writer could quit, the book could be devoured by a dog or invaded by mold spores. it could be lost in the mail, discovered on the subway by Salman Rushdie, fly whole through the window of Sam Tannenhaus who might cry “eureka!’ and hold the presses of the NYTBR. That’s chaos in all its glory.