First…a peek behind the curtain.
- Irving Podolsky is a character created by this writer.
- Literary agents are good people. I’ve had three.
- Irv’s Mom is not my mother.
And for those of you who have written to me with great concern…
- I’ve never been in therapy.
And now…a glimpse into Irv’s…
He always wants me to meet him at night, somewhere in the country with no one around. I’ll get a text with the address, usually a two-hour drive from where I live. But it’s worth the work. He’s the only man I trust to show my words to the world, to make me famous and be the envy of all other authors.
The price for all this? My soul.
That’s fine. It could have been my record collection.
So I’ve parked my car off the road and it’s dark everywhere. Throwing another glance to my GPS, I start trudging down a lonely dirt path, the wind flapping my jacket and the ream of paper I hold in my hands.
You see, I brought my book, just printed. Getting it to hard cover is my only hope for happiness, for self-esteem. If he likes it, I’ll rejoice. If he doesn’t, I’ll sink back into a hole where only writers go.
But sinking is not my plan. The person waiting for me is a literary agent. A very special literary agent.
He is, THE AGENT OF DEATH – a fallen soul who can make you matter in colossal ways. Or he can suck all hope out of your days, killing your spirit and all desire to write another word.
Knowing this, I take the gamble that he’ll like my stuff. Winning him means total fame, and I flood my mind with that thought as I extend my eight hundred page tome to the man in the black shroud. His skeleton hands meet mine, grasping my only copy of this four-year project.
(I ran out of toner last night, my hard drive crashed and I’m too broke to buy or fix anything.)
So I really, really need to sell this book. I need to break-through after all these years. And I need to pee again, ‘cause his cowled skull just dropped to review the papers he’s holding.
The wind gusted. And all my pages just flew away! Except the first…and the last, held by his left gnarled hand, and his right.
He scans my opening paragraph, then slowly moves his covered face to my closing words.
Oh no… He’s shaking his head!
I drop to my knees…and weep. It’s rejection! AGAIN!
That was my fifteenth draft! Of my memoir! He HATES my life. Still! And I’m sobbing, feeling faith drain from every cell in my body.
“Irving!” I hear, whistling on the wind. “Get up! Don’t be a nebbish!”
With pain rolling down my cheeks, I reclaim my full height and look past my robed examiner to another solitary figure standing at the top of the hill, silhouetted by the moon.
I know this voice. It’s Mom’s, and she’s watching me like she always does, with her left hand resting on her apron-covered hip and her right hand held up to her heart, telling me I just gave her heartburn.
She knows like I know, that if I don’t sell this first book and make some cash, I’m moving back home, which wouldn’t be so bad, except Mom rented my room to two dudes from Kazakhstan, and my bed’s a little tight for three guys.
A floppy piece of leather is now hanging before my eyes, held by the skeleton hand of The Agent of Death. Words are written there…in blood.
Hey you… GIVE UP!
“Noooo!” I scream. “I’m a good writer! The twelve people who read my book, they told me they loved it! So why can’t I get known?”
“Because…” says the deep raspy voice of The Agent of Death. “Until you ARE known, everywhere, no one takes you seriously.”
“So how do I get known?” I plead. “TELL ME!”
“With your budget, it’s too hard to get known. Just GIVE UP.”
He fades away.
Seconds later, my teary eyes flutter open. I’m in bed staring into a dark room. I turn to the clock on my night stand. It reads: ten-fifty, five pm.
DAMN! I’ve been asleep for nine minutes and already the night sucks! I need…
MY ANALYST, he’s jotting down another note:
Re-occurring dream. Agent hates submissions.
His brows raise as he looks back to me. I’m reclined on his therapy couch, this week in a five foot by five foot plexiglass cube. You see, when I cry, I clutch…my therapists. All of them. And they tell me that hurts. A lot.
So here I am, isolated with my own pain in a place where it stays mine.
“And these dreams,” he continues, “when did they start?”
“This past week. And in each one I’ve re-written my memoir and it’s still not good enough. Even my mom hates it.”
“Is she in it?”
“Rule one: if you’re Jewish, never write a memoir until your mother dies.”
Too late, I’m thinking. And now I’m stuck in this box doing more therapy. Wonder how much oxygen is left. The glass is starting to fog.
I turn my head back to my current shrink. “Doc… I just don’t feel like we’re friends.”
“We’re not. I’ve been trained to disassociate myself from your life.”
“That’s what my agent said.”
“It’s his job.”
“I thought his job was to help me build my career.”
“On a good day, his job is to build his own career. If you fit into that plan, you might consider learning his name.”
“I’m waiting for him to remember mine.”
“He will, when your books sell.”
“That’s what I mean! Agents don’t care about you unless you’re making money for them?”
“NEWS FLASH, IRV. That’s the way it SHOULD BE. You’re supposed to be making money for them, and yourself, and everyone involved in your book.”
“But they’re getting it all before I am. There’s hardly anything left!”
“You’ve been writing how long? You should know by now, only a handful of people make real incomes from writing fiction. The money comes, after you’re famous.”
“I don’t even care about the money. I just want to sell books and be known for that.”
“I know. You want to build a fan base. Sometimes there are shortcuts to that. Most of the time there aren’t. Gaining social proof is generally a long process, taking years. Unless your Dad’s Rupert Murdock or Barack Obama, everyone has to walk-the-walk in their own way, on their own schedule. Faster doesn’t mean better. And fan quotas don’t define talent.”
“We talked about this last week.”
“What else did we talk about?”
“That agents DO care. But they have to make a living, and they only have a certain amount of hours each day to do that.”
“Correct. An agent is not your enemy to be conquered and seduced. An agent is your advisor, your negotiator, your link to the people you need to meet, and the buffer between you and those you don’t want to meet.”
“As long as I’m selling books…”
“But he promised to help me! He’ll get paid for it!”
“Only if your book makes a big splash. But Irv, most fiction doesn’t make a splash. Yet every agent and publisher does their best to have ALL books make a splash. And when that doesn’t happen, they need another shot at the game, just like you do. They need another book, or script, or sitcom concept. And if it doesn’t come from Irv Podolsky, it has to come from someone else.”
I sigh. He’s right. I just wrote one thing.
“Agents, just like writers, need to sell what buyers are buying. And Irv, I don’t think you’re writing what they’re buying.”
“I’m not into genres. I want to be different.”
“Different is a harder sell.”
That hurt. I’m depressed again.
“You are, who you ARE, Irv. You have to be confortable with that.”
“I’m a writer in a box. Can I come out now?”
“Maybe. What will you do?”
“Go home and write some more.”
“Because that’s who I am.”
“But…are you happy about who you are?”
“Good. Because if you’re not, you’ll face The Agent of Death every night. He wants you to give up. For you, that’s spiritual death.”
“Without your words, you have no hope. Without hope, you have no joy. Without joy, life has no purpose. And without purpose, you cannot write.”
“But Irv, no one can stop you from writing. Absolutely no one.”
“And no one can stop you from putting your words on the internet. And you don’t need an agent for that. There is more opportunity for writers now than ever before. We truly live in exciting times. You have access to the entire world.”
“Yeah…the entire world. Can I come out now?”