It’s me, so you gotta know this is likely going to be an uncomfy topic to talk about. Seems I excel in finding those to blog about.
A little forward for those who don’t follow my blog, I’m an excellent writer and a phenomenal editor (not my words). I’ve been writing for 29 years on and off, on spec for 5 years, I’ve queried 5 of my own books now, plus answered 4 proposal calls and submitted numerous short stories.
and I’m unpublished as far a traditional publishing is concerned. With no hope of an agent on the horizon. Now, it could be that my writing sucks, logistically minded, that’s me. But when I have international renown and high ratings on what I have self-pubbed, and a lot of strangers go out of their way to email me to tell me they love my work… well, I’m erring on the side of it being ‘not me/my writing’.
So… I’ve just finished my fifth official book-query go round in the query lists. My mind feels exactly like I imagine a jouster’s would after the lists are closed.
So many different kinds of forms to fill out, so many different kinds of submission packages to put together, so much sheer research to be done to make sure each particular agent represents what your current project is. (Especially for multiple sub-genre writers like me, this is incredibly hard.)
We have to, (and should) make sure that their tastes haven’t changed, that they’re still where all the programs like querytracker.com and absolutewrite.com say they are as far as agency, that they’re OPEN to queries right then.
Making sure you’ve dotted all your eyes and crossed all your tees, and all the many other parameters are met or fulfilled or…
It’s bloody exhausting. I’ve been doing this most days for over a month now and in that time I could have drafted another book, or most of one. A novella and two short stories for my readers at the very least.
And… I think I’m done. This is likely the last book I’ll try to query to agents. Every time I get another rejection in my inbox, I’m basically checking off ever querying that agent for anything ever again. It’s not even anger, or angst or even negativity. It’s a cost/benefit scenario in my mind. It wasn’t worth the time to query that agent, hence I won’t do it again when I could be writing a book for indie-pub that will make me money doing what I love. Things could change, but… this isn’t the kind of thing one considers lightly.
I admit, the first few books I tried weren’t that great, so it’s perfectly logical that they weren’t picked up. As far as quality of writing goes, though, there is no reason for the last two not to have been agented. No, that’s not my arrogance speaking, that’s professionals (editors, agent friends who don’t rep my genre etc) telling me that the writing is excellent. I have readers telling me the same, that the stories are amazing and could I maybe hurry up and write another one, please?
I know all the arguments, that the market isn’t buying that kind of book, that the agent doesn’t have enough time, that, that, that…
But this go round, I’ve already gotten a very warmly worded rejection asking me to definitely query an agent with my next completed work because they loved the writing sample.
But. No. Unless something changes, I don’t think I will.
Here’s why, We’re in a time of changing markets where the ease of self-publishing, and marketing groups, freelance editors, and cover artists, micro-presses and un-agented submissions to mid-level presses, all of it has completely changed the face of publishing.
I’m not the first person to point this out, to write an article like this one.
When I first started writing, oh… 29 years ago? The only way you got published was if an agent took you on and IF they managed to sell the book to one of the big 5 (then 6).
If that didn’t happen, and you didn’t pay the massive amount of money to a vanity publisher just to see your words in print, you didn’t get published.
You HAD to keep trying with new books, had to keep querying agents, had to just keep trying. While the other books you’d written sat shelved. All that creativity wasted.
In this age, I don’t have to do that. We as writers don’t have to do that.
We don’t have to obey the dictates of a publishing industry that limits debut authors to a short book, even when anyone who listens to readers (you know, the ones who actually buy the books??) would repeatedly hear them say they don’t like to spend their hard earned money on a short book, especially from a new author.
My readers keep asking me when I’m releasing another book. Because I’m sitting on three books in the query trenches right now… I don’t have an answer for them.
I work as an editor and I see a lot of books in that role, many aren’t that great, much like my first few, (because it is true that almost every book you write is going to be better than the last). Some are absolutely outstanding and the authors often ask me, why, if it’s at least good, isn’t it getting picked up?
Why can’t I make it as a writer?
Why am I still un-agented?
Because that is still the end goal for many writers, (no shame in that at all) to be agented, to be partnered with someone who can sell their book, works contracts, have contacts in the industry and maybe inform them of the markets and all-in-all, help them along.
It’s why I’ve been trying. I don’t really like to talk to people on the phone, and that’s part of what I’m willing to pay an agent to do for me.
Forgot about that part? That it’s the writer paying the agent for their expertise and connections?
Well. It is. it’s not the fault of the writer at all, it isn’t even the fault of the agents. It’s the industry behind everything that is a hide-bound dinosaur that doesn’t seem interested in change.
I mean, why would they? It’s worked this way for a long time and if it isn’t broke, why fix it? Don’t forget that publishing is a corporation, they work like corporations do.
So many agents I see list on their blogs the ‘ideals’ for a perfect client. Most will say commitment, ability to write, in it for the long haul, and you know, so many of us are?
But the way the system works just doesn’t work for us. Not the ones for whom this is a calling. The ones who have to make themselves stop writing vs the ones who have to make themselves start.
I’m going to, lol, as I usually do, share an unpopular opinion.
Agents may have to change the way they do things.
The way they still function (on the surface anyway, I don’t have an agent so I don’t actually see behind the curtains) is very much the same as it was 20 years ago.
In today’s day and age, where it’s so much easier for a talented writer to say ‘screw this’ to the way THINGS ARE DONE and strike out on their own… I really think agents might need to be looking more to the clients, and not just at a book they can sell right now.
This is especially true for people like me, who write fast and self-edit well (no, not perfectly, I stand by my words that no author ever can see ALL their own mistakes because we’re too close).
I highly doubt any agents are likely to read this blog post. But if you are, I’d suggest that when you find an author with a voice you love, you consider signing them on their voice and talent alone, vs whatever book they have at the time.
In a market as demanding as the one we’re all in, someone like me who has written custom stories for years, (and many good writers have, it’s easy money to ghostwrite, edit on spec, write custom kink stories…) those kinds of writers could very easily turn around a saleable book quite quickly. It takes me, probably 3 months (at most) to draft a book,
Another month, maybe 2 (at most) to self-edit it to the point where it’s in better shape than a lot of NYT bestselling titles.
Seriously, one of my biggest complaints with big 5 pubbed books is the lack of editing that goes into many of the titles. (My other huge one is the lack of interesting new types of stories. I’m bored with the same old, same old. Something new please!)
So, that’s 2 books a year, and those are ones that I’m ripping up from the depths of my soul. The hard ones to write, my own creativity.
If I had a little guidance on what was likely to sell? What the market would be looking for in the near future? It’d likely be faster.
If, for instance, I had a working partnership with an agent who loved my voice, my style and repped the genres I write in, vs a book I have right now, there’s no telling how many sales we could make. Which is rather the point of the whole author/agent relationship, isn’t it? To make sales so both of you make money? Maybe I’m romanticizing what I don’t have yet, a relationship with an agent, but I do write romance… so it’s in my nature.
Oh, I know. I’m breaking the rules, I’m thumbing my nose at the way things are done. (Probably shooting myself in the foot with any agents I DO have queries out to.) But you know what?
Change starts somewhere.
It often starts with words.
If only it didn’t hurt so much to give up this idea that I could make more money with an agent, than without one.
I think part of that comes from having wasted months of my time querying, when maybe, I didn’t need to do that at all.
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