By: Jeff Herman
Why is it so hard to get agents and editors to respond one way or the other? The deep secret that no one but I has the nerve to reveal is that their is a long-standing conspiracy to destroy any remnant of ego that writers dare to possess. More than that, we want to eradicate your morale and will to grow and succeed. We want you to become an empty spot in a dark world of broken dreams and deceptive dead ends, until you abdicate your talents to our dictates.
If you think the above is true, you might not be wrong. Though you would be wrong to think that such a condition is isolated to writing and publishing. However, it's unlikely that I or any of my peers belong to any organized conspiracy, or that any even exist. Reality doesn't need a conspiracy in order to prevail. By definition, we exist in a realm of hunger and desire that pushes us forward. For every well stocked restaurant in Mid-Town Manhattan there are many malnourished villages in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Oy Vey, how did we get from rude agents and editors to famine? Because in a way it's all the same. People don't struggle for air for the simple reason it's everywhere all the time. Whereas such commodities as food, oil and publishing opportunities are outpaced by demand.
In a better world would there be equilibrium between supplies and demands? I don't know and I don't pretend to. But in my little space of reality I know that there are too many writers trying to get published at any given moment, and that too many writers are trying to get attention at any given moment. It doesn't require an Einstein brain to predict the outcome: a lot of writers won't get published or get attention, at least not at the time they demand it. It's that simple. There's not enough space or time to fulfill what everyone wants, and once you understand the physics it doesn't have to be as personal or random as it may appear.
Imbalances breed competition, not to mention corruption, aggression and fear. We all have choices about where we fit in the spectrum of deeds and intentions. In the realm of writing and publishing, it's entirely possible to be extremely successful without harming others or yourself. But you need to respect that there's a layered meritocracy in which the quality of your writing is only one of the factors.
Start by understand that agents and editors have specific jobs to do within a limited time frame; they need to get through their days the same as everyone else and produce value for others. They are vulnerable to professional deletion, and are prone to frustration for not having the freedom to do more of what they personally value the most, which might include being more responsive to writers in general. This enhanced sensitivity on your part will enable you to see that you're not up against impermeable walls, but are compelled to accept and unravel the same complexities that agents and editors also confront.