Thursday, February 28, 2008

Reality check

Can we do a reality check here, please?

There have been a number of people saying "Oh, you have an agent already, your book will sell.".

One, I have 7000 words of a novel which I am writing at the pace of a snail. Note the emphasis on SNAIL. Two, I am not writing the novel to be "marketable"; I am writing it because the damn thing wants to come out of my head. Three, Lori has not yet read the book, knows only the barest outline of it, and very well may not represent it based on her own professional discretion. I'm fine with that.

Which then leaves with me two options:

Four, if Lori does not like the book, then I am in the EXACT SAME BOAT as every other single person reading this blog because I will be querying agents.


Five, Lori likes the book, and then sends it out to editors. And then the editors reject the novel. This is just as likely a possibility. Not all good books sell. Not all well-written books sell. I have had books that I love not sell, not due to their writing or how good they were, but because publishing is a freaking business, people, and editors must buy what the publishers will pay for.

So, to summarize: My novel, when I eventually finish it, has no special advantage because I am an agent. Particularly because it will be submitted under a pseudonym, so NO ONE WILL KNOW THAT I HAVE WRITTEN IT.

Are we all on the same page now?


Antony B said...

Ha! You expect us to accept that? We know your position means you have all the information you need to make your submission look professional and stand out. If the rest of us want that we would have to research agent guidelines, listen to authors who've succeeded, read the blogs of those in the industry... oh wait.

Seriously though. Best of luck with both the writing and the selling of your novel.

Jan said...

Oh, bullcrap. Every wannabe writer knows that agents are the all-powerful keeper of the keys to the publishing world who reject us on a whim without reading beyond the salutation on our query letter. If they would just get past "Dear Sir/Madam," they'd recognize our genius and the publishing world would start throwing large wads of cash our way.

Kidding. I'm kidding. Best of luck with your novel. I know exactly how you feel.

D. Robert Pease said...

I'm sorry, I hope you took my comment yesterday as the fun it was supposed to be. I know you still have to write a great book. But at the same time everyone has to take advantage of the place they are in. I am a professional web designer. If I ever sell a book, you better believe I will have one killer web site for it, and it won't cost me a penny.

Anonymous said...

When you have to submit anonymous queries that get rejected by default when you never get a response from the agent, then you'll be in the same boat as all of us. At minimum you've got an agent willing to look at your manuscript, and I suspect, to give you some feedback on it. That puts you more than a step ahead of most of us.

Don't think that's bad though. We're cheering not jeering. We all just wish we had the same. ;)

Ryan Field said...

I have a very good friend who is an agent and he was in the position of shopping a very good book for a family member, under a pen name, too. I won't go into details because all situations are different, but he didn't get any special attention one way or the other when it came to making, or not making, the deal.

Anonymous said...

Geez, Jenny... taking things a bit personally?

You do have an advantage: an agent will definitely read your query/submission and take it seriously from the get go. That's the first huge hurdle to jump, and the one the rest of us don't have.

That said, of course your novel has to be good to be published. I doubt anyone thinks that your novel will be a guaranteed best seller based on who you are or the connections you have. I think the commenters yesterday were just pointing out that you don't have to compete with the hundreds of other queries waiting to be read, which may be glanced at and set aside quickly... yours will be read and be read thoroughly...

Anyway, sorry... but you do have an advantage. If I were you, I would accept it, but not apologize for it. There's nothing WRONG with having a slight edge!

Miss Lily said...

Writing a novel is hard buisness as it is, I don't think anyone ever really gets an advantage unless their parents own a publishing company. Good luck with it, and I wish you the best!

Kristine Overbrook said...

Most writers understand about the story that has to come out. I sure do. Those darn characters won't shut up and sometimes come knocking in your sleep.

As for the obvious advantages of being in the industry...anyone who reads your blog on a regular basis realizes you are an exceptional writer. 75% of it is just writing the book.

If I worked with a lawyer I would ask them for contract advice. If I worked with a doctor, I would ask them to look at the funny growth on my elbow. (eew) If you work with an agent, or are one, you would use your knowledge to your advantage. Duh.

But beyond that.. forget it. Otherwise every editor's assistant with a bad fantasy novel would be published.

The secret is Jenny that you, and those like you, have shared the “Keys” and we all know what is going on. Those that take issue with it are those that want an excuse for their brilliant novels being rejected. :)

Elissa M said...

No aspiring author wants to believe that maybe they don't write as well as they think they do. They think there's a "trick" to being published. Others grasp onto comments like, "Not all good books sell. Not all well-written books sell" to assuage their feelings when rejected (I know I do.) Many don't realize that even published authors with decent (not stellar) sales can't always get published again.

Those who are giving you a hard time because of your perceived inside track do need, as you said, a reality check. They also need to realize your writing/publication journey has no bearing whatsoever on their own. Your relationship with Lori cannot in any way affect my ability to find representation for my novel. Publication of your writing will have no bearing on whether I can get published (though as a loyal blog reader I may feel some sort of vicarious pleasure at your success.)

Envy makes some people say and do stupid things. Ignore them.

Anonymous said...

"Those that take issue with it are those that want an excuse for their brilliant novels being rejected. :)"

Ms. Overbrook:

I don't think anyone was saying that they "took issue with it." They were merely asking that she acknowledge the advantage and not pretend to be in the "same boat."

I never pop in and comment on these blogs, but I have to this time. Telling commenters to get a "reality check" when you are the one ignoring reality is ridiculous. I read the posts and didn't see anyone who said that Ms. Rappaport would be able to quit her day job due to the millions she was guaranteed to receive with her novel. Such a statement WOULD be grounds for the "reality check" comment. Instead, they were comments about the advantage she'd have in sitting her book in front of an agent and having it taken seriously BASED ON WHO SHE IS. Sure, the novel has to be good. The same can be said of any established writer -- they get immediate attention.

leesmiley said...

I feel your pain. I had one of those stories that had to be written. Unfortunately, it was a vampire novel and almost no one wants to touch them with a ten-foot oak stake.

That said, I think your writing a novel will be great, not only for your own creative needs, but also because it will make you a more empathetic agent for those of us seeking representation and publication. The best of luck to you!

Anonymous said...

Not all good books sell. Not all well-written books sell.

Lord have MERCY ain't that the truth! My first agent wasn't able to sell my first book (okay technically it was like my fourth or fifth). My current agent has been shopping my UF for five months. It's a GREAT book in my not so humble opinion but even I know that doesn't mean it will sell because yes it's a business and so many vagaries play into actually selling.

It's not about having the perfect book complete with crossed I's and dotted T's and all the commas in place (though that helps LOL) a perfect query and synopsis (the query for the book my current agent is shopping was probably my worst ever). It's about so much more—like finding a balance between writing what you love and surviving in a TOUGH business.

Maybe it's easy for me to say this because I've sold to NY but it's just as hard, or harder to keep selling as it is to sell. So while that brass ring looks all shiny and pretty, you gotta have chops to hang onto it once you grab hold. I can say this--I queried nearly 100 agents and editors before I landed my first agent (I'm now on my THIRD)and for whatever it's worth I almost always got requests from query letters. So I feel like I paid my dues just as I’m sure Jenny will.

I have a friend who just sold and is sitting around going through post-sale anxiety and she can't write. I went through the same thing. I also have friends who’ve lost their homes in tragedies and have special needs kids to take care of. We all have burdens to bear and we all walk different paths. Some of us get there; some of us don’t.

This ain't no business for sissies regardless of who you know. And while information is power, sometimes it can also be a double edged sword.

superwench83 said...

You know, I understand how people can think that you have a huge advantage over the rest of us, but I agree with you; you don't. Yes, you know people in the business. So have many authors who've queried agents and had novels published. I have several talented writer friends for whom I would gladly give referals, should I become a published author before they do. I would give these referals because I know how great their work is, not because of anything else. You do have an advantage, but so have many, many writers who have been willing to network. Which means that, yes, you are in the same boat as we are. That's my opinion, at least.

Just_Me said...

Breath. It's okay. Not everyone is going to understand. It's like trying to figure out why an editor can't see the spelling error in their e-mail, just because we do something professionally does not mean we/you/us/them can do it for ourselves.

I spent four years working as a newspaper editor. I corrected spelling and grammer and everything else under the sun, but I still can't edit my own work. I look at it and see it the way I meant to type the words, not they way I actually did type the words.

You, as an agent, have a full understanding of the business, you will be more patient (we hope) when waiting for a letter from your agents if/when you query. But that understanding doesn't truly set you apart from all the other well-researched writers out there who have a clue what the business is like.

From what I've read about slush piles and from the comments I see everyone posting here has an advantage over the worst slushpile submissions, they all seem to be able to form coherent thoughts and no one is writing in crayon! Hooray! So take a deep breath, laugh at the people who still don't get it, and keep writing your story.

kiwi said...

... Hmmm, I kinda' scratched my head at some folks logic. Lori isn't going to damn her reputation with her network of publishers by reping a shitty book, plain and simple.

bty, very best of luck with your novel, Jenny.

Michele Lee said...

>>At minimum you've got an agent willing to look at your manuscript, and I suspect, to give you some feedback on it.

You know, I've got a 46% request rate on the novel I'm shopping right now. Other than getting some nice "didn't love it enough" rejects it hasn't done anything solid for me. In some ways it is that much more frustrating that I am consistently close but not making it. And so much for getting feedback, unless "Doesn't suit my needs at this time" is the kind of feedback you find useful.

Diane said...

I personally think its awesome that you're writing a novel, and sharing that info with blog land. I wish you good luck.
At the risk of getting pens, pencils or post it notes thrown at me(which is cool cause I'm an office supply ho)I'd think its going to be difficult for you too. Since you know what the industry is like, I can imagine you write it, write it again and then revise it again.
Writing a novel is hard work. I hope everything goes well for you!