This is my recent correspondence with a literary agent. I am fond of this guy because at least he answers emails, but I’m starting to realize people like me make his existence irrelevant…  I’m not saying I used to not care but now I’d just rather play with my cat…

 

From:”Jason Akley” <jasonakley@ymail.com>

Date:Wed, Nov 5, 2014 at 11:37 PM

Subject:work in progress

Dear Jeff,

Sorry for the late night email I’m at work til midnight
and I thought I might share what’s going on with the
writing because you’re about the only one that actually
responds to emails (frankly I don’t know how you do
it). I work for the VA now. You know that
joke how suicides come back as civil servants–well,
that’s me. But I must say I’m much more
financially secure now and though my wife and I divorced
we’re still on good terms and she’s not afraid to be
a friend and I see my two daughters everyday so that’s
good.

I wanted to say something about Lazarus. It’s been
a good six years since I finished writing it and besides
the Kirkus review (and they’re supposed to be known for
their prescience) many other just average reviewers on
Amazon have said (besides complaining
about its complexity and length) that it’s a
masterpiece. So what gives? After six long
years and three more books, of which The Psalmist is another
highly favored by the critics, it’s starting to hit home
for me that like in London’s Martin Eden it’s
pretty much arbitrary bullshit. Like the protagonist
in that book, am I any different now than I was six years
ago, or will I be different fifty years from now? The
work’s already done. It don’t change.
And that’s haunting but at the same time it still
seems a strange mystery to me how one gets
“branded” and enough people (or the right people)
say “Hey, this guy’s good.” and the money
follows. Or which is it, you know what will make money
so that’s what you brand that’s what you give people to
read and say, “It’s good.”

Anyway, I don’t care about making money that’s not
why I started writing but after fifteen years of it and not
just talk but actual work it does seem kind of a shame the
writer of Lazarus as lauded by Kirkus still works as a lowly
lab tech and has to face coworkers who he doesn’t tell he’s a writer
(believe me he’s learned that lesson) yet still the word
inevitably gets out and I have to take people telling me
what I should write to be a bestseller (of course they never
admit to reading my writing or whether
it’s good or not–funny how people will confront you
out of the blue and you have to be the sane one and say to
yourself “Oh, you must be stalking me on
Facebook. That’s why all of sudden you’re
talking to me about what I should write though I’ve
never once told you I was writer or that I’ve written any
books.”) I’ve gotten used to it, and
that’s fine–it’s kept me humble. But I will
say it seems a waste that I spend 40 hours a week at a
VA hospital lab which could be time I used for writing
full-time. There’s been projects delayed and book
ideas I never get to because I can’t write full-time
(yet I’ve managed so far to publish over 2600 pages in
my spare time).

So anyway–maybe it is what is. All very Zen.
But I wanted to share with you how I feel because you’re
in the industry you know how it works and if you respond to
this I’ll probably find it discouraging and it’ll
probably just piss me off and I won’t write
for a few days, but at least this is documented for
posterity’s sake and I have to be grateful that at least
you responded (you also get used to the silence).
Every writer over and over has said it’s a lonely life
and after The Psalmist I almost hung in the
towel. I figured I’d done enough for a
legacy. But I can’t help it. I write for the
pure joy of it, and I get restless if I don’t.
Working on a short story collection now. Not
commercially viable I know, but what are ya gonna do?
Hell, the stories I’ve written so far aren’t even commercially viable for the
literary magazines–they’re too long.

Maybe eventually I’ll just luck into something that
sells. But I don’t think it’s luck.

Thanks if you read this. I don’t know how you
respond under the deluge of correspondence you must get.

Sincerely,

Jason

On Thu, 11/6/14, Jeff Kleinman <jeff@foliolit.com> wrote:
Subject: RE: work in progress
To: “Jason Akley” <jasonakley@ymail.com>
Date: Thursday, November 6, 2014, 3:01 PM

Hi, Jason, thanks for the email. I’m sorry things haven’t
been going as well for you as you’d hoped – all
I can say is that publishers today seem to be looking
for a wonderful premise married with a wonderful voice.
So maybe really figuring out that great premise is a place to start?

Good luck with the short story collection – not quite
sure how it can help you, but hopefully you’re
enjoying the process.

Take care!
Jeff Kleinman
Folio Literary Management

On Thu, 11/6/14, Jason Akley wrote:

Subject: RE: work in progress
To: “Jeff Kleinman”
Date: Thursday, November 6, 2014, 4:11 PM

What better premise than Oedipus? Not only in my retelling it as a great Greek tragedy but the fact that it touches on the deepest themes of existence? That’s what I’m saying, Jeff. I already did it. I already married a wonderful premise with a wonderful voice, and unless Kirkus is a liar I dare you to compare their review of Lazarus to any of their reviews from the past eighty years on what are now considered standards as great pieces of literature for unless they were just blowing smoke up my ass take their review of say The Grapes of Wrath and put it beside their review of Lazarus and compare them and tell me what you think. It just proves my point that it’s abitrary bullshit and market demographics and about making money and giving people what they want when the truth is we buy shit as long as it says guaranteed on the label. The truth is I already did it. I already wrote a wonderful book and nobody gave a shit and here I am telling you it’s for sale I own the rights and still nobody gives a shit.

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