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Thursday 7/4/19

Cover letter:

Hello, (redacted),

Something for you. New. My fiction recently appeared in Harper's. My op-eds appear in The Wall Street Journal. My nonfiction in The Washington Post, Rolling Stone, The Daily Beast. I have a unique work of fiction called Meatheads Say the Realest Things: Satire from the End of Civilization. I wanted to compose as humorous a book as there is in American letters, a kind of modern Candide. We spend so much energy now on snap judgments, descrying others as objectionably different from ourselves, and my thinking, through the ostensibly lowly "bro," was to, on the one hand, lampoon bro culture, but also to provide a work that was paradoxically warming, touching, suggesting that more binds us, from group to group, than truly separates us. It's very funny, and it's for a lot of different kinds of people (for, perhaps, a lot of different purposes). There is more information about me on my site (, which I'll not bore you with here. Thank you for the time. Best, Colin

Response (five minutes later):

Alas I fear I am way too square to be your best agent match... I am sorry 

But I wish you  success! Gh

That's what you're dealing with with these people. You will note how much I downplayed what I do and my abilities and the range of abilities in the cover letter. Publishing does not want you to be great. Agents do not wish you to be great. They want you to be simple, limited, mediocre. They do not want you to be smarter than they are, or know more. They want a basic career, from a basic person, of no brilliance or genius, and they want to give you your marching orders (but they also like when you are connected and have Twitter sheep). They want you to go at a slow pace, which is what they go at, they want you to do only one thing--one niche of a niche of a niche. They don't want to have vision--that takes imagination and it's tiring--and rather than have an all-timer genius, they would rather have someone mediocre whom maybe they can get a few things for. They want you to be the writing version of the milquetoast. The nebbish person who gets a note out of gym class, who can't look people in the eye, who is not passionate, not hurtling, but with control, into one amazing achievement and work of art after another. They want the moldy old scholar in tweeds, not a combo of Mickey Mantle crossed with Led Zeppelin. That's not in their league. As someone said, at least this person was honest. You have to respect that, I guess. (But do you? The bar is so low that it's buried a mile under the earth?) Another person who saw this thought it was a joke or something I made up, but it's not. The better you are, the more you can do for this world, the greater the artist and entertainer you are, the more people who would embrace your work and who you are, the more screwed you are with this system. This is an agent who would rather I had published four things in my life, in journals no one had ever heard of, who had a bad, boring book about a professor teaching gender studies in college and learning some "valuable"--read: safe, boring, meaningless, cliched--lessons along the way, who thinks about having an affair with another professor, but who does not, and their form of growth is letting their daughter go to Yale, rather than their alma mater of Harvard. That's what they want. They don't want a genius who lights it up, despite waves and waves of resistance, who publishes constantly, who is the expert on so many subjects, who writes so many forms of fiction. Someone who can make you money through 100 different channels over time. That's bad here.

Bit of trivia: There was not an agent in America who would represent Orson Welles. He represented himself. Granted, he was never in this position. But think of all of the ways he made money--through directing movies, acting in movies, narrating movies, through theatre, through writing plays, through doing commercials, through doing radio, through doing talk shows, through television. All of those revenue streams. And no one would represent him. All of that money. And the hate towards him was so great that people turned down money. And he was a good person. Wasn't through anything negative that he did to any of them.


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