Perfectly good advice for one writer will be flat wrong for the writer standing beside him.
1) Take every statement by any WRITER, including me, with your bull detector turned on. If it doesn’t sound right for some reason, ignore it. It may be right for the writer speaking and wrong for you. And for heaven’s sake, be extra, extra careful when you listen to any writer who is not a long distance down the publishing road ahead of you. Some of the stupidest advice I have ever heard has come from writers with three or four short story sales talking on some convention panel like they understand the publishing business and think that everything they say is a rule.
In fact, I get that all the time in e-mail. Honestly. Some beginning writer with a couple novels published is insistent that I am doing something wrong. I might be and I always keep an open mind and look at what they are saying. But most of the time it’s the writer telling me in no uncertain terms I need an agent or need to publish in traditional publishing as they did. (I guess they forgot to look at my bio with over a hundred traditionally published novels behind me.)
So, when some advice doesn’t feel right, check in with yourself and ask yourself where the concern is coming from. Is the concern that some advice isn’t right in conflict with something you learned in school from someone who wasn’t a writer? Or does the advice just not feel right for you. Check in with yourself on each thing you hear.
Writers are people who sit alone in a room and make stuff up. The problem we have is that when we get insecure without rules, we make stuff up as well.
When we don’t understand something, we make something up to explain it. Then when someone comes along with a “this is how you do it” stated like a rule, you jump to the rule like a drowning man reaching for a rope. And when someone else says “Let go of the rope to make it to safety,” you get angry and won’t let go of that first safety line.
First, indie publish your book and then keep writing. Sure, there is a slight learning curve of covers and blurbs and such, but If your books get traction, traditional publishers will come calling and you will be able to actually negotiate a contract with some clout because they want your book. And you will know what your book is worth.
This happens every day now.
Second method, mail the book directly to an editor. This has sort of come around to where it was when I started off. You must meet editors and be a nice business person and talk with them directly.
You need to go out and meet some editors at writer’s conferences and conventions. So while all your idiot friends are crowding around the agents, make an appointment with an editor and pitch your book. Know ahead of time what the editor publishes and be nice. Let me stress the be nice and professional part.
If the editor gives you a card and asks you to send the book, you are in the editor’s door and on their desk without an agent. You have become one of their writers.
Of course, later I found out Tor doesn't require an agent, but several other big publishers still do. This makes have an agent still a viable practice for those of us that want to go the traditional route.
What I'm getting at is saying "You don't need an agent" shouldn't really come as a sigh of relief for some people. It should come as "Oh, crap, I have to do everything now."
For me, I want to experience trying to get an agent myself. If I find the whole process to be soul-crushing and disenfranchising, then that will just be something I've learned about myself and the process.
So while maybe you don't need an agent anymore, some people still want one. Like me.
But I don't suspect this road is always easy either.
However, some traditional publishers still require agents. What about those publishers who you want to get deals with who won't take unsolicited authors? I'd still like to submit to them. I'm sure some editors will accept something from you if you meet them face to face, but some may still follow the same protocol. I'm just saying what I figure, he obviously has more experience at these kind of things than I do.
The article stated that the "requirement" that you have an agent is just so much bunk. His suggestion was to go to writer's conferences or other places where you can meet the editor personally and pitch your book.
Honestly, that sounds like it's more likely to get you blacklisted than a book deal. I'm all for approaching people, but you need a reputation that precedes you before you can expect to get anybody's attention.
Can anyone here cite to an instance of someone getting blacklisted or ruining their career merely due to approaching an editor at a conference. I've never heard of such a thing. I have heard of a number of instances where that tactic was successful, though in the majority of cases I suspect it is not.
I believe Mr. Smith's advice tends to lean more towards indie authors who may be disgruntled from thinking there has to be one singular way to get published.
The success stories you're aware of - do you know anything about their careers prior to approaching the editor? I was only suggesting that you need a "success" to speak of to get their attention before you randomly pitch to people.
I go to conferences for law, and also for some of the industries I work in. A lot of business gets done at those conferences. Why should writing be different?
I only know of one instance that was related to me directly (i.e. I was talking to the author herself). In her case, she was a practicing bankruptcy attorney with no prior publishing credits. She met the editor at a hotel pool at a writing conference, somehow they struck up a conversation and hit it off, and she ended up mentioning she had an unpublished manuscript. The editor told her to send it along, and she ended up with a three-book traditional publishing deal. I believe she did fairly well with it. In any event, I saw the books at Barnes & Noble, which is pretty cool.
If you're a very good salesman, maybe you can start with the hard-sell approach and make it work. I can't.
I think it's worth noting that an experienced salesman can more or less replicate the conversation Steerpike described above. It's not all hard-sales.
Yep. A good salesman can do it. I can't - the only time I have any luck is if the whole thing really does come into being organically, just as a natural interaction between people. So it is a good thing I'm not in sales.