I spent the day running errands and looking through Writer’s Digest 2012 Guide to Literary Agents. This is all part of tackling one of the goals I posted about this week.
A few things I’ve learned. First, I will be following more agent’s blogs. I’ve really enjoyed following Janet Reid, Nathan Bransford, and Rachelle Gardner. An agent’s blog sits in a nice little niche between author and reader and their insights are very unique. Writer’s digest even has a page dedicated to agent’s blogs. I think this will be an excellent resource for writing, editing, and the publishing industry as a whole.
Second, the book is defintely worth checking out if you want to get published. I got mine for under ten bucks on Amazon and so far I have a list of over forty agencies that deal in fantasy, they give some nice blurbs about the agents and agencies, and best of all they seem very genuine about cutting out anyone who might be predatory.
Just getting a starting point was worth it to me but it also has some great advice on putting together queries, a synopsis, how to attend writing conferences, networking, etc. A lot of it seems like stuff anyone who has ever applied for a job would know. Grammar, professionalism, not being an ass, but it also has all those fine little details you might miss. The query seems very analogous to a resume and anyone who ever put one of those together knows that’s a possible minefield.
I only have two problems.
The first is kind of petty. I’ve counted about six or seven instances where they refer you to the the Writer’s Digest Guide to Literary Agents, you know, the book I am holding in my hands! That’s like a trailer for the movie I’m about to watch. Stop selling me, I bought it. I don’t know if they’re trying to get me to buy next year’s edition or if because it’s so many authors, agents, editors, etc, that wrote for it they didn’t know what was going in and what wasn’t.
The second is something I want to weigh a bit more. It seems like a good bit of the intro was geared toward the hard sell of going with an agent. What? You mean to say that the book on agents tries to sell you on agents? Egads! No, I expected that, but not the fear selling they use. It spends two chapters acting like publishers will snatch your manuscript out of your cold, dead hands and no one will ever find your body.
That’s a joke, it’s not that bad, but as a salesman I know what it’s like to motivate through uncertainty. It felt weird too because I didn’t even know it was an option not to have an agent until I felt pushed in that direction. It’s not something I’m going o disregard, just something I’m taking with a grain of salt.
They also act like if you self publish no one will want to touch your work with a ten foot pole. It’s not as prominent as the above subject, but it’s there. One point they made went pretty much like this: “Agents want to find new works and if it’s already been self published they don’t get that same thrill of discovery.” Yeah…that’s bullshit. Throw in something about synergy or hustle and I would have thought that was a quote from my VP. It may be true for a lot of reasons but it’s not that one.
The thing that gets me, and I would love to hear an agent’s opinion on this, is that if you’re successful at self publishing, even moderately, you’ve put in a ton of effort. They keep talking about how agents are looking for more than just the ability to put together a good story, but also what it takes to be a professional author and be able to put forth the effort it takes to be successful. Well, barring Twilight fan fiction, if you’re successful at being self published, you’re probably already doing that. If seeking an agent and traditional publishing is like looking for a job than self publishing kind of seems like opening your own business.
That went on longer than I thought, but just goes to show how much more I want to learn about this industry and all its forms. This is all based on what I have read across dozens of blogs and books about writing and publishing. It’s not something I take lightly and without more information I wouldn’t say either way. What I do know is that it’s not enough to have talent. Talent is subjective and there is a lot of luck and work in being successful, no matter what industry you’re in.