Now I know how agents feel

I am, hopefully, moving very soon.  And in the process of cleaning out my closets I stumbled across my old CD collection.  I have a few addictions in life – Coca-Cola, books, and music.  Which means this collection happens to include about six hundred CDs or so.  (And anything from Bush to Pink to Rolling Stones to Johnny Cash to Bach to Evita to Rigoletto.)

I transitioned over to using an iPod exclusively about five years ago, which means these CDs have just been gathering dust since then.  At the time I moved to the iPod, I did import most of my favorite CDs (although I somehow missed importing Janis Joplin), but I didn’t have the time or energy to import everything.  Especially not CDs where I knew I might like a couple songs, but none of the rest of the CD.

With the move, I’ve finally decided to get rid of all of these CDs for good.  And, since I hate to waste things, I’ve decided I need to go through every CD that isn’t already in iTunes and import the songs I like.

I could just import everything, but I already have 3,840 songs in iTunes, and I’ve found that if I don’t keep good playlists, I tend to lose songs I like in the noise of so much choice.  And I don’t want to import crap when I already have 20 GB of music on my computer.

Which brings me to the point of the post.  I’ve spent the last few nights popping CDs into the computer and deciding what songs to keep.  My method is pretty simple: Listen to the first five to ten seconds of the song.  If I remember it and like it, keep it.  If I don’t remember it, but it sounds intriguing, keep listening.  If it’s ok, skip ahead about a minute and see if I like the sound of the lyrics.  If it starts off weird, uncheck it.  If I don’t like the singing, uncheck it.

I’ve also found myself being much more particular with really long songs.  If there’s a ten minute song on a CD and I don’t recognize it immediately and think it’s worth keeping (like Jimi Hendrix playing the Star Spangled Banner and Purple Haze at Woodstock), I’m probably not going to keep it.

I’m sure I’m missing great songs.  One of the reasons I used to love to buy a CD as opposed to a single is to discover that one song on the CD that wasn’t going to get radio play, but was really good.  But I just don’t have the time.  I need to listen to and then import as many as 1,000 songs in the next week or so.  And that doesn’t allow for nuanced decision-making.

So, if you apply this to how agents read queries: High word count?  Out.  Clichéd plot?  Out.  Poorly written?  Out.  Too long to get to the good part?  Out.  Seems difficult to work with?  Out.

I don’t know if this little analogy will help anyone else in their querying and writing, but hopefully it does.

About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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3 Responses to Now I know how agents feel

  1. Dave Higgins says:

    A good reminder that you need to catch someone’s attention before you can show them how great you are.

    • mhleewriter says:

      Too true.

      With the songs, I found myself impatient with the slow guitar intros even though I normally enjoy listening to them when I’m listening to a full CD.

      Another argument for getting to the story as soon as possible in a novel.

      • Dave Higgins says:

        And a reminder of how people are more likely to accept experiments and artistry from someone they are already following; so save the deep explorations of character and politics for later novels in the series.

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