Today I read an article asking if an independent author needs a literary agent find success. To read, click here. The article was good. I responded in the comments section but my quick thoughts turned into a rant. I did not want to hijack the article with a long winded rant. That is what my personal site and guest articles are for. Here I go… this is in response to Ann Gimpel’s article “Literary Agents: Bane or Boon?”
This issue is a two-sided coin. Agents open doors to the boy’s club known as the New York publishing industry (let’s face fact, the publishing titans live in New York). But with the internet and a little marketing know-how you can argue that an independent author can find success without an agent or the boy’s club.
As Ann says in her article, having an agent makes life easy, he or she can open the clubhouse doors. Having a publisher legitimizes an author. But today a publisher expects an author to put up their own cash, set up their own venues to promote the book. It’s not easy on either road. Getting an agent, starting to walk the legitimized road, is harder though. Agencies are flood with query letters. You are lucky to get a cold form letter back rejecting you. Most of the time, agencies promise you this: “if you do not hear from us in four weeks consider your novel rejected.” Thank you for playing. Please try again and spin the wheel! The industry is cold. It’s a business. Read the article (click here). The question here is this… is having an author mean success and is it worth the trouble? Better question… why? Here is my contribution to the topic:
I think the problem is not the agents. It’s not us writers either. The game has changed. The market is flooded with new authors who want to break into the industry, a lot more people than twenty years ago. And the industry is a business, the publishers wanted to make a profit back in the day and still do. Agents want their commission. With any business there is risk, here that risk is easily defined: will the novel on the bookstore shelf sell? That’s the question all agents have to ask, because if they have an author/client who is a less risky venture then their work can be sold easier. Less risk, easy sell, the profits will outweigh the expenses and there are profits and commissions all around. A new author is risky; a new name, unproven in a market hypnotized by video games and 500 channels on cable television. The readership of novels in general has reduced. Stephen King and Patrica Cornwell sell more books just because their names are on the book cover, and their printed name is LARGER than the book TITLE. Silly, huh? This generation is also focused on trends, they have tunnel vision and only focus on what is popular and hip. Right now that’s vampires and werewolves, though I hear mermaids are coming into fashion. (I know… mermaids? Beats me.) And businesses (publishers) are concerned with trends, they love them, live by them. This is cold and ruthless. Writing is an art. Art is not logical. I know. I know. No one wants to here this. Truth arts.
Agents and publishers are cold because they are the business. The rejections are not personal. Though when a mother sees her child victimized and bullied at school does she not feel her child’s pain and humiliation? As a writer, our children are our novels. Rejection is like getting beaten up at school by the bigger, more popular jock. We cannot help but feel personally attacked.
Believe me, I’ve received my share of rejection letters. I have a pile. A special folder in my e-mail box to immortalize my rejections. Why? Probably because I’m masochist or maybe because I want to remind myself of the price required to obtain success (when I do). Either way, I know the sting. It does not get easier after a hundred or a thousand bees have attacked you with their cold business logic. But we authors preserve. We write other books and submit again and again, or we self-publish. Both options take strength and hard work.
Publishers should be running scared, as you suggested, Ann. Paper publishing is dying. The new generation is tech savoy. They want their books on an Ipad, a Kindle, a Nook. As the old generation fades away, so will the people who are not adept at using the Ipads, the Kindles, and the Nooks. E-publishing will be how the industry survives, and it will. The industry will survive, it will morph. That gives us a chance. And we, the self-published, can compete. We can reach the publishers’ readers. We can give them a well edited, exciting, fun read. We can give them an eye-catching, professional cover that looks just like a Stephen King or Patricia Cornwell novel. We can use the same enthusiastic marketing the publishers require of a big time author, if we want to work hard.
I encourage everyone to grow a couple layers of extra skin and never give up. Persevere. Dream. Write. Market your butts off and tell people you have a fantastic novel they need to read.