1. Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us.

Is publishing really this easy?

Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Caged Maiden, May 13, 2015.

  1. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    3,599
    1,520
    163
    I read this article about how to snag an agent, and it warranted sharing. Publishing ... and Other Forms of Insanity: Getting an agent: Schmooze or you lose

    Oh man, I wish it were this simple. I've got a pretty serious year going so far, getting ready to finish a novel and begin a new round of querying, but now i'm reconsidering my approach (hence why I'm out reading more blogs).

    What do you guys think? Is face time the secret? (Because, seriously...I don't know anyone who can give me a jump. I'll be waiting all day in a lonely parking lot if I can't get this thing started on my own...)
     
  2. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    4,538
    1,689
    163
    I don't think it is that simple [right place, right time being the key] but unfortunately I do think that is how its done.
    It is who you know not what you know. Nepotism, old-boy/school-network, friends of friends, call it what you will, it is the personal contact that is the key.
    Any conversation that starts "Jane/Jon said I should talk to you" is going to go better than "Dear Sir/Madam, you don't know me..."
    Okay - there will be exceptions to the rule but they are just that - exceptions.
    And it won't get you published if you are not good enough, but it might get you to the top of the list...
    The upside is that you get known too...
    I know at least one person [a friend and a poet], that now gets chased for their new work because they went out there [and on a limb for them], made contacts and eventually got a friend of a friend to look at it and take a risk on publish it [and their work is sublimely good, magical even - imho]. They had been self publishing for 20+ years before that and barely covered their costs on a good day. Now they have residencies, give talks and run workshops [especially for children], and are a full time poet.
    Personally I also think it helps if you are near a major hub for your chosen art so you can go to three launch parties in a week or meet the interested person for a coffee at their convenience...
    I wish you all the luck you can handle, because the prospect of doing it myself TERRIFIES me...
     
  3. PaulineMRoss

    PaulineMRoss Inkling

    424
    242
    43
    This sort of stuff makes me glad I self-published. :)
     
    BWFoster78 likes this.
  4. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    1,952
    983
    113
    Psst. The secret is that you don't need an agent.
     
  5. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

    5,997
    1,715
    213
    I think if you're going the traditional or self-published route, then yes, networking is sometimes key to getting your manuscripts in the right people's hands. I think writers are traditionally introverted and don't really want to do that kind of thing, but it's becoming more and more important to make connections when you can. That's doesn't mean you have to be an ass-kisser or schmooze people. Just connecting with people you genuinely like in the industry can be good. I feel like I'm made a lot of friends and it's not because of schmoozing. It's because they have similar interests like me and I like talking to them.

    So I do think it can help ease the process in some ways to make connections, but it doesn't have to be seen as "you gotta know someone to be someone" kind of thing. It can come organically.

    Even if you self-publish, you have to take on the role of marketer and promotion machine. So this will require you to get people interested in your work. Of course I know people that have said they don't do any of that and do fine. But I think you sort of have to choose your route and see what works before you know if it works or not.

    So, no, I don't think publishing is easy. No matter which way you do it. You just have to choose what issues you do and don't want to deal with. I think in this case, this is just a story of someone who had a lot of luck on her side and I assume a great deal of skill also. No telling how much this happens, but I think if you run in certain circles, you're going to meet people who like you and want to see you succeed and not just because you complimented them on their jacket. :)
     
  6. Russ

    Russ Istar

    2,161
    1,152
    163
    For the vast majority of people publishing it is not that easy. Her story is an outlier, and it is rather unfair and unwise of her to suggest that the process she went through represents the industry or good advise for others. I see that approach a lot these days, I call it the "self referential error", it occurs when you think your own personal experience defines how the world, or an industry works. If you wanted to follow her approach you may as well buy a lottery ticket.

    I suppose I should be nicer to her position since when I went to her site it is promoting a non-fiction book I co-authored, but the truth wins out. :)

    I found this part particularly troubling:

    If you are interested in traditional publishing an agent is a huge advantage. But getting one is not just a matter of personal connections. I know a large number of NYT best selling authors who have a stack of rejection letters from agents and editors and made their way up the chain in the traditional fashion, and I also know a number of new authors who are just getting published now who did things the same way. In fact amongst many successful authors the number of rejections before success is almost a matter of pride, like scars amongst soldiers or athletes.

    If you want to traditionally publish I would commend you to seek an agent. I also tell people if they are serious about writing and have any patience at all that traditional publishing is the way to go if you want to write as a career.

    There are ways to enhance your chances to get an agent. You can go to conferences where agents and editors attend and book time with them to pitch your book. There are events specifically set up for that.

    You can go to writing retreats or courses where agents, writers and editors are part of the faculty and meet agents that way. I know a number of writers who got their agent by impressing the writer who was giving the course and being referred to that writer's agent by that author. But they impress the writer with their writing.

    You can go to social events that agents and editors attend and socialize with them and get to know them in a more relaxed environment. I was a con once and went to the scotch tasting and poker game after and met a number of agents at both events who I would consider working with.

    Parking lots and elevators are ineffective. Bathrooms are definately a no-no.

    However, in the vast majority of cases all that face time gets you is a card and permission to send a query, synopsis and a partial that skips part of the agent's slush pile. It is a slight advantage not a major one. Agents are business people, they might really like your shoes and your sense of humour but if they don't think they can sell your book, they won't represent you.

    So while I do think it is a good idea to go to Agent Fests and Pitch Fests and social events to have a drink with an agent or two or twenty, I know that you don't have to in order to acquire an agent.

    If you are going to self publish you certainly don't need an agent, but they can be helpful. If I had made the decision to self publish an agent would be much lower on my priority list.

    Oh...and as an aside there are conferences where experienced agents, authors and editors will teach you how to draft and deliver in person pitches. I recommend them.

    Here is a part of a bio from a writer I know. His last book debuted at #5 on the NYT best seller list. I find his story inspiring, educational and fairly representative:

     
    skip.knox and BWFoster78 like this.
  7. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    4,369
    948
    113
    Russ,

    Great story.

    I think that the realization that writing is really, really hard was a big step forward for me.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Brian
     
  8. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    11,360
    3,793
    413
    Networking, and who you know, can end up being very important when going the traditional route. Particularly in terms of an agent, which you do still need for some venues that don't take unagented submissions. You don't need an agent with Baen or, I think, with Tor.
     
  9. Russ

    Russ Istar

    2,161
    1,152
    163
    Crap, I almost forgot.

    Another way to meet agents in person is to go to events where they will be appearing and volunteer to help out the organizers. This will often get you in at a discount, or free, and allow you to talk with the agents in the "Green Room" or similar away from teh maddening crowds.
     
  10. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Russ, I appreciate your view and I'm glad you mentioned that the author of this article is an outlier. It is unfair for her to suggest that everyone do it her way. Another thing, I'm not trying to turn this into a self vs traditional route however, traditional publishing isn't the only way to have a writing career anymore. Self-publishing, although just as hard if not harder because authors do everything themselves, sustains many a serious author these days. It's discrediting those that have worked their butts off to support themselves by writing to say that to be serious you must go traditional. Just saying.
     
  11. Russ

    Russ Istar

    2,161
    1,152
    163
    I am not at all opposed to self-publishing and have a good idea of how the field works, but I think for the person who wants to make a living at writing the odds of doing that are better with traditional publishing.

    I agree with you that for the serious writer self publishing is harder, not impossible, but harder.

    I would analogize it to my own profession as a lawyer. It is a more likely route for success for a new lawyer to join a firm and work their way up than to hang out a shingle right after you graduate. Some people do have success by the second route, but the odds of doing so are lower.

    Self publishing is also allowing some really interesting co-operative efforts to take place and some really new creative marketing ideas to be used. I can't discuss them all, but some of them are great and experiencing significant breakthroughs.

    I find both sides of the field fascinating.
     
  12. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    I completely disagree but we are all entitled to our prerogatives.
     
  13. Russ

    Russ Istar

    2,161
    1,152
    163
    Now I am lost. Did you not say:

    I thought I was agreeing with you.
     
  14. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    My apologies for not being clearer. The bold section is what I disagree with. There are ways to become a career writer on both ends, is what I'm saying. And it's freaking hard work either way.
     
  15. Russ

    Russ Istar

    2,161
    1,152
    163
    There are certainly ways to make a career of out writing either way.
     
  16. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    11,360
    3,793
    413
    The article aside, I have heard lots of published authors recount networking or in-person encounters as being important in getting their foot in the door. I know at least one published author with a contract from Tor who had tried for some time to get a foot in the door and never succeeded, then met an editor at the swimming pool at a writing-related conference. They hit it off, and the editor said send me what you have, and it went from there.
     
  17. PaulineMRoss

    PaulineMRoss Inkling

    424
    242
    43
    I don't want to get into the trad vs self argument, but I can't let this pass.The odds aren't good, whichever route you take, but nowadays self-pubbers have a much, much better shot at it than trade-published authors. Not only do they keep a higher percentage of the cover price, but they can publish as fast as they can write, and they also have full control over marketing their work.
     
  18. Russ

    Russ Istar

    2,161
    1,152
    163
    While those qualitative things may be true, the numbers don't match. In traditional pub there is more money flowing to less people. To suggest that self-pubbers have a "much, much better shot" is simply misleading.

    Every published study I know, and several unpublished studies I have read show that traditionally published authors make more money.

    How Much Do Writers Earn? Less Than You Think - Publishing Perspectives

    The reasons why are interesting.

    But you are correct that it is very hard to make a living at writing either way.
     
  19. PaulineMRoss

    PaulineMRoss Inkling

    424
    242
    43
    Yes, I would agree with that. A few people make a great deal of money, most (authors) make very little.

    The studies (including the one you link to) are deeply flawed. The methodology just hasn't kept up with the rapid pace of change in publishing over the last few years.

    An author aiming for a trade contract will typically spend several years submitting, receiving rejections, submitting again, before acquiring an agent and then a publisher. Then the book will go through a long process of preparation before it's actually published. It could take 5-10 years from start to finish. Even then, the most likely return is a modest advance and nothing else (most books don't earn out). If the author's lucky, there will be another book every year or so, but very, very few earn enough to live on.

    The self-pubber, on the other hand, doesn't have to wait. S/he can publish straight away, continue to publish as fast as the books can be written, and be building a portfolio and earning royalties before the trad-pubbing author has even got an agent. Over the 10 years or so it typically takes a trad. pubber to get one book on the shelves, the self-pubber could have a backlist of 30+ books. Which one will earn more over that time?

    Of course, whether the self-pubber should jump straight to publication is another question altogether. ;-)

    Yes, but it doesn't have to be an either/or matter. An author can self-publish the easy-to-market genre series, while shopping the lit. fic. around the agents. There are lots of options now.
     
  20. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    4,369
    948
    113
    Russ,

    It's not clear to me that the article you linked to makes a good apple to apples comparison of trad to spa's.

    Lumping all spa's into one group and comparing percentages to trad is, imo, not valid. You'd have to lump in all authors sitting in slush piles to make that chart even.
     
    Steerpike likes this.
Loading...

Share This Page