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Posts Tagged ‘self-pubbing’

This is King Louis VVI during the French Revolution. I don't think that, at this moment, he was worried whether or not "his subjects" were calling him "you majesty."

This is King Louis XVI during the French Revolution. I don’t think that, at this moment, he was too concerned whether or not “his subjects” were calling him “your majesty.”

The Daily Progress hit us with this pointless whopper on Saturday: Literary Agents Discuss Publishing Industry.

I should have known two paragraphs in that it would be a useless, somewhat sad exercise in denial. I expected, at the very least, there would be some sort of real acknowledgement that, hey, it’s getting a little scary out there for agents and publishers, particularly when the article started out with “In an age of overwhelming digital saturation…” But, no.

In an age of overwhelming digital saturation, personal insight is essential to commanding the attention and interest of book agents and publishers. A lack of tact is an oversight — or slight — that can doom a novel.

“You wouldn’t believe how many submissions we get from people who don’t address us by name,” said Howard Yoon, of Ross Yoon Literary Agency in Washington, D.C. “People aren’t doing their research.”

This is like the upper class twits sitting in a London bomb shelter complaining that their German valet can’t seem to locate their favorite tea.

Okay, so, first, in “an age of overwhelming digital saturation” (read: the tools to publish your own work are right there, right at your fingertips), why would a writer give two shits about “commanding the attention and interest of book agents and publishers?” And second, seriously, if agents think writers not addressing them by name (oh noes!) gives them their biggest sad face, then I suppose we should all just stop worrying about book agents and let them just blindly, blissfully get blown to smithereens. So long as they have their tea. Their favorite tea. That they love. It’s their favorite tea, for Pete’s sake.

So, not addressing the agent (or editor) by name is the problem (despite that we all sort of know that, mostly, these people aren’t the first at the pile, their assistants are). An oversight in tact. Because that’s important. Like this post is clearly an oversight in tact (oops). Because I’m about to point out the obvious…

If I was a literary agent working in today’s publishing climate, I would at least make some effort to pull my ass down from my self-constructed pedestal long enough to hopefully realize that part of the reason why writers can’t be bothered to learn my name is because I am quickly becoming irrelevant. Perhaps writers are spending less of “their research” time on agent/editor ass-kissing and more of that precious time educating themselves on how to get their book in front of readers without having to jump through these meaningless hoops.

If they’re not, they certainly should be.

So, anyway, I’m reading, expecting that any word now the obvious is going to swing up and take a bite, but, again, no.

Overall, the panel said the book publishing industry in good health, but with some caveats.

Oh yeah?

“Things are actually very healthy in terms of readers and in terms of authors,” Patrick said. “What’s sick is the business model of publishing and that’s what I’m finding is so depressing.”

Yes, and yes. And yes. Go on…

Well, the next few paragraphs basically say the following without so much saying the following, because the following just sounds bad:

The resulting problem from the actual problem with the current publishing model, which we won’t actually directly address, is that, hey, I’s gots to make some $$. What Yoon basically says is that publishers don’t want to bother with anything that won’t turn out to be a bestseller, because the money they spend on pushing a “mediocre book” (make note of that: Not a Bestseller = mediocre book) is considered a waste. Not writing the next Harry Potter book? Your book sucks. Not crapping out Fifty Shades of Shit? Your book sucks. And agents see it that way, too, because they work on commission.

“Our business is commission based … we don’t take on projects that we don’t think we’re going to sell. We can’t afford to,” Yoon said.

No, you can’t afford to. You know what else you can’t afford? You can’t afford to do what you’ve been doing for decades, Mr./Mrs. Literary Agent, and that’s feeling so comfortable and superior in your little safe room that you think even addressing that writers don’t know your name in public is a good, not at all vapid and narcissistic idea. Maybe you ought to stretch some long-atrophied muscles and do a little research yourself. Perhaps you ought to figure out a way to survive the massive changes overtaking a stagnant publishing industry. Books aren’t going to disappear, but you just might, because the relationship between authors and readers is changing.

Yoon is identified as saying, “the publishing model is widening the gap between the winners and losers.” The old publishing model is indeed widening that gap, if you read “winners” as “authors and readers” and “losers” as “agents and editors.” The new publishing model is actually narrowing the gap between authors and readers, which is leaving little wiggle room for agents and editors to feel it’s important to whinge on about how little tact we heathen writers have nowadays. I feel that’s worth thinking about.

Bethanne Kelly Patrick finally states the obvious: “I think you’ll find people doing a lot more guerilla [sic] everything.” But it stops there. It either stopped there in the discussion, or the article’s author just really decided to avoid moving into any sort of boat-rocking, complicated areas of thought. Don’t screw up the narrative that says the publishing model is fine just as it is. No worries. We’re not sinking!

It ends with this blinding ray of brilliance:

For fiction writers unsure if their work will be a page-turner, Yoon suggested a simple test.

“You have to think, there are other people in the world who are doing this … [so] take your plot, take your characters and ask ‘How many people would realistically read what I’m writing?’”

Really. Maybe this little nugget of advice seemed non-insultingly applicable…when? the 60s, the 70s? Maybe. I suppose. At this point, though, it does feel a little face-slappish. First, don’t most writer’s ask themselves that, you know, after they’ve written what came from their gut? After they’ve been true to their soul as a writer, they might leaf through their manuscript and say, “Hmmm, who’s going to read this?” Oh, or are we supposed to ask that first, what needs to be released from our guts be damned? Second, considering that you’ve basically just told us that it’s not worth writing if millions of people aren’t going to pay to read it, isn’t the answer to this question regarding most writers’ books a floppingly deflated, “zero; no one?” Because in the publishing model that is still trying desperately to disparage self-pubbing, your book—the one that came from your gut—is worthless. If it’s not going to make everyone but you rich, agents and editors can’t be bothered, so neither should you.

Writers, I suggest that after you’ve asked yourself the question they insist will tell you whether or not “your work is a page-turner,” you then ask yourself “What exactly would I be getting out of the relationship if I signed up with an agent and/or publisher, compared to just doing the work and publishing/marketing it myself?”

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