What encompasses more than half the battle of getting a book published? Obtaining a reputable agent. Some would argue those are kind odds about the reality of the game. I’m here to impart that it is a game, of the shell variety, a three-way chess match in which the unaware writer is the pawn.
Nabbing an agent is a Catch-22; can’t get a book published, supposedly, without an agent, but can’t get an agent without having been published. Huh? That is what the snooty literati of the highbrow northeast would have you believe.
Don’t buy it. They’re full of shish kebab, which I discovered the hard way.
My book was about a hot subject. A friend suggested I ring an intermediary, “Mr. Pink,” who led me to an agent, “Agent Orange.” I discussing the book’s angles and drama with Agent Orange for several months. When the subject of my book became a very compelling figure, a longtime colleague informed me of an ongoing project of his own, and led me to his agent, the powerful “Agent Green.”
I talked with Agent Green. I had signed nothing with Agent Orange. Agent Green was very influential. I liked his stern and sure comportment.
I told Agent Orange and Mr. Pink that I was pursuing the book with Agent Green. They became enraged. I have never met Mr. Pink in person but he cussed me up and down the mobile line as if I were his grade-school son, and had committed some sort of horror to forever tarnish the family name.
Not knowing what I didn’t know, I paused. Simply discussing the progress of the book with Agent Orange, he told me – which I would later learn to be false – constituted a “verbal contract.” I apologized to Agent Green, saying I had committed to Agent Orange. “Publishers like dealing with me,” Agent Orange pleaded to me. “They don’t with him [Mr. Green].”
Uh, okay. The manuscript was headed to auction. Nothing could be finer for an author. A bidding frenzy (hopefully) would ensue, and ensure a sweet advance, Agent Orange said. A week before the auction, he informed me we had an offer. “Unnamed Hopeful Publisher” wanted to procure the manuscript before the auction stage.
Agent Orange left it all up to me, the greenest of greenhorns. I determined that I wanted to be with someone who wanted to be with me, and accepted Unnamed Hopeful Publisher’s terms. Big mistake. A supposed veteran whom “everyone liked to deal with,” Agent Orange had never worked with Unnamed Hopeful Publisher. I would learn that this would be a nifty opportunity for Agent Orange to learn, at my expense, how Unnamed Hopeful Publisher made its sausage.
It was not pretty. The advance was decent. Unnamed Hopeful Publisher was punctual in releasing the thing as the subject trended. Communication, however, broke down, becoming acrimonious. My input became incidental. Contact with Agent Orange dissipated. He did once advise that royalties looked certain – I’ve never received a royalty penny.
Agent Orange was defensive when he failed to call at a time that he had appointed, per his busy schedule. Meeting him in person became a game of “look-away.” (My five-year-old daughter knew how to maintain professional eye contact better than Agent Orange.) My distrust in him soared. Poof, I ended the relationship.
After that experience, I decided to self-publish my next book. Self-publishing has been a glorious revelation, but be discerning. As in any field, this one has plenty of pitfalls if you choose a predatory company to assist you. There are also golden companies who deliver quality stuff in a mutually advantageous and beneficial manner. Having complete and total control of the product is a huge plus, too.
This is where, if you’re a rodeo clown or a ballet dancer or a chef, you can stop reading. If you’re an author, have one career, and do it well. Think you can parse your day, dabble in writing and marketing, and still succeed? Move along. Part-timers need not apply.
With regards to promotion and marketing, don’t get upsold for thousands on worthless marketing products and services being hawked my most self-publishing companies. Some things work. Most don’t. For sound advice that won’t break the bank (most of the activities listed cost nothing at all), check out 90+ DAYS OF PROMOTING YOUR BOOK ONLINE: Your Book’s Daily Marketing Plan. BookLocker.com authors get it for free. Others can buy a copy.
Writing and publishing isn’t easy. It shouldn’t be. The gratifying part about self-publishing is not having to deal with the literati maze of meddlesome middlemen, publishers and agents alike who actually think they’re writers themselves. Instead of tending to their main business concerns, they fancy delivering pearls of wisdom in every sentence, espousing of “narrative” and “metaphor” as if they invented the words. Shish kebab.
Now my anger is percolating, which I can’t afford. I’m reserving every ounce of that fury for Mr. Pink, should he ever again make the mistake of crossing my path.
Name not published on request.