As I posted in this previous blog piece, I’ve been flirting with sending my manuscript out to a number of literary agents after the fulfilling journey of writing. I’ve been told this process can be seemingly opaque, difficult, and riddled with punches to the face. The last thing a writer wants to learn is that when all the writing is done, it's time to put on the marketing hat. While I’ve received helpful and interesting feedback from some agents, I recently received the following response:
Dear Mr. Fan,
Many thanks for contacting me about your work. After consideration, I regret to say that your project is not right for my list at this time.
As you know, any reader’s response to a particular book is highly subjective and it is entirely possible that another literary agent might find that your work more closely aligns with their interests.
Please accept my best wishes as you continue your search for representation.
Now, I know my name, “Pan Pan Fan”, is gender-neutral and therefore gender confusing, but being called “Mr. Fan” is what I’d experienced mostly in the business world. There, during my day (and sometimes weekend) job, I’m often addressed with “Mr.” when I’m first contacted by someone external (who is clearly taking a bet that a Director in Business Development in a tech job in Silicon Valley must safely be a man). At this, I scoff as the internet age has made these assumptions wholly unacceptable. A quick search through Linkedin, Twitter, or Facebook would lead the searcher of “Pan Pan Fan” to a round-faced, long-haired and (probably) smiling Asian woman.
What was more irritating, however, in this situation with the agent was that in the whole four paragraphs of my query (pitch, theme, marketing, and bio), I clearly identified myself as a woman. So this leads me to some assumptions and conclusions based on his assumption:
- He didn’t bother to read anything,
- He fired back a quick response after scouring the first sentence for any indication that I brought with me a market of several million blog followers (and found none),
- He assumed a novel written about famine and mysterious corporate murder using a male protagonist must clearly be written by a man,
- He has terrible attention to detail, or
- He just can’t read.
The first time I was addressed as “Mr. Fan” in an email related to work, I was sympathetic. “Oh dear,” I thought, “our Japanese customers will be so embarrassed when they find out how high my voice is!” Now, after countless mis-addresses, I just use this as a filter for tossing out resumes (“Dear Mr. Fan, Please find enclosed my resume for the job posting…” - um, delete.) and an assessment on attention to detail. Maybe Sheryl Sandberg has something witty to reply to my agent email, like, “Lean in to your email, bro, and stop making an a** of yourself and your agency.”
* * * * *
Do you have a story of your own that’s similar? Post in the comments section below!