Over the last week, Dean Wesley Smith and his wife, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, have made a bunch of awesome blog posts about the state of publishing in general, and agents in particular.
Kris’ post is here.
Best go read them, and the comments, because there’s a lot of great stuff there.
My journey as a writer has so far been very different than I thought it would be. Actually, I had no intention of being a writer at all until about nine or ten months ago. My sister actually beat me to the writing punch. She and her then significant other teamed up to write a book a couple years ago. I was very proud of her for finishing a book. Then, last year, or was it late the year before..I don’t recall, she landed an agent, and I thought sure she was headed for the big time. After all, a writer writes a book, then she gets an agent, and then from there the agent gets her book published. That’s how it works, right?
As an outsider, not involved in publishing at all, this was my understanding. Agents are essential for being published, right?
Of course, the months went by and I heard nothing more from my sister on her book’s progress. Now granted that was at least partially because I’m pretty busy with my own professional and family life, and she and I don’t talk as often as maybe we should. I didn’t think much of it, in other words.
Then I decided to try my own hand at fiction. In late December (over the Christmas holiday, to be precise), I started writing Masters. I’d actually previously started, back in the summer of 2010, but I’d gotten all of a chapter written and stopped. When I re-started, I totally didn’t like that first chapter, so I started completely over. Then the new year dawned, and I decided that if I was going to actually write a book, I would naturally try to sell it. So I’d better learn how this publishing game worked.
As I described two posts ago, I rather quickly discovered Dean Wesley Smith’s blog. I read with extreme interest his “Killing the Sacred Cows” posts, and was amazed as I discovered that, from his way of telling it at least, agents weren’t necessary for the publication bit at all. In fact, the more I read his posts and the comments to them, the more I began to wonder why any writer would ever hire an agent at all.
Naturally, I consulted other sources than just him in my research, but most other places I went to repeated the same old mantra. Writers can’t weather the business of publishing on their own. They need agents to explain how the business works and make sure they make the right decisions.
Well sorry, but I find that entire meme extremely insulting.
I’m not going to list my credentials in this post again. If you want to read them, check out the “About Michael” tab above. To make a long story short, I’m not some dumbass English major with no clue how the real world works. I’m a pretty smart and savvy guy, and if you’re going to tell me I can’t understand a thing, that thing better be damn near incomprehensible. It better make quantum mechanics look like adding 2 plus 2 (for what it’s worth, I got an A- in Modern Physics in college, so yeah I have a least a semblance of a clue about how quantum mechanics works). Sorry, but the deep mysteries of business in general, and publishing in particular, ain’t that difficult to grasp. So you get no points for trying to tell me I can’t figure it out just because I decided to become a writer a few months ago. Try again.
Oh, you say I can’t get my manuscript read at all unless I have an agent?
I must call BS on that one. First, it defies logic to suggest that an editor, whose job it is to find the next thing to publish, is going to pass up a good submission just because it doesn’t come on some agent’s letterhead. If he or she does, then he/she is a dumbass who I probably wouldn’t want to work with anyway because he/she would piss me off to no end. But beyond that, I’ve found, without much effort at all, numerous references citing a large percentage of first-time authors who get published without agents.
So screw you very much, all you naysayers. DWS’ Sacred Cows posts are looking more and more valid. So, tell me again why I need an agent?
Oh yeah, agents can get better contracts.
Is your agent an attorney? Is he or she trained in contracts and copyright law? Does your agent have any training in business and accounting? Or is your agent just a fracking English major who happened to get a job on that side of the business?
I might be new to this writing gig, but I know enough to not take advice on contracts from someone who knows dick about the law. The same for advice on business. Stick a sock in it, buddy. I’ve got an MBA on my wall. What do you have?
I went through all these thoughts back in January/February, and I started to get rather concerned for my sister. Now, she’s an attorney herself, and isn’t relying on this writing bit for her daily bread. But all the same, I became convinced that she needed to ditch the agent and go on her own. In fact, by the middle of February, I became convinced that it almost didn’t make any sense to go to a NY publishing house at all anymore, with the rise in ebooks. The future is now, baby!
I sent her links to all the things I’d learned. and she can do what she wants with them. But for me, I came to several conclusions:
- I neither require nor desire an agent. For anything. Ever.
- I’m publishing my novel-length stories electronically first. Myself. I see no reason to give up a sizable portion of my potential profit just for “validation” from some editor somewhere. The only validation that matters is if people like what I’ve written and buy it.
The latest developments with agents, which Dean and Kris document in their recent posts, only solidifies these thoughts in my brain. The latest scams that agents are trying to pull are appalling, but I guess not surprising considering what I’ve learned about the history of the agenting business in general. It saddens me to think that many authors will get sucked into these scams. But, I’ve no doubt many will.
Because too many writers are English majors. Or even worse, people with MFAs. Too many don’t bother to realize that they are, in fact, in business. They’re deluded that they’re “artists”, and that “art” is some sublime thing that shouldn’t be sullied by such tripe as business considerations. Writing is a noble calling, you see.
To that, I say: horseshit.
Art is no different from any other aspect of human existence. It’s a business like any other, and as such is governed by the same immutable laws of economics that everything else is governed by. In fact, it’s actually of far less importance than many other things. You want a noble calling? Be a fracking firefighter. Be a soldier. Be a doctor. Be a scientist or an engineer. Science and engineering are FAR greater pursuits than writing. Those things actually improve people’s lives, in innumerable ways. Writing, on the other hand, or at least fiction writing, which is what I’m talking about, exists solely as a form of entertainment. That’s it.
So quit with the delusions of grandeur, all you writers out there. YOU ARE NOTHING SPECIAL! Get off your fracking high horses and learn to live in reality with the rest of us. And if you want to be a success, stop sniveling and learn how business works. Stop falling for the most obvious scams on the planet, grow a pair, and use the tools of modern technology to take charge of your own career, for Christ’s sake!
Of course, this won’t happen for most writers. Because they’re fracking artists.
So they’ll remain poor and downtrodden. And they’ll blame evil corporations or what have you for their state, like all losers who make bad decisions do. But in the end, it’ll be their own damn fault.
God I hate artists sometimes.
Once again, I’ll re-iterate: I AM NOT, NOR WILL I EVER BE, AN ARTIST.
I’m a guy who decided to go into business writing stories for entertainment. That’s all any writer ever is, if they weren’t too stupid to see it.
Ok, rant over. I’m done.