Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Popular posts, apparently

So people have asked, "Why don't you talk about publishing more?".

And I've thought about this lately, and I could do what Nathan Bransford or Kristen Nelson do. I could talk about happy query letters or the things people do wrong when submitting to agents or the current "news" in the industry. But the thing is, and here's the honest-to-god truth, people...

... we're in a recession. There are very few books being bought. It's a VERY TIGHT market for ANYTHING. I send books out, I get rejections back. Other agents I know are having the same thing happen to them. Every so often, I sell a book or two. I rejoice! I can eat for another day. =)

In all seriousness, things are very slow. So what do agents do in slow times?

We keep sending books out; we keep getting rejections. We work on trying to sell film and foreign rights, because that's extra money on books we've already sold. We read client manuscripts and write lengthy revision letters. We read slush. We get ready to go to BEA in two weeks, and watch the publishing industry hype its newest published books, and we know that those books sold about two years ago. And then we hope that perhaps we'll be able to get some more of our clients' books to sell, sometime soon. And that the price of oil won't keep going up. And that the economy will improve.

So I could be all happy and hunky-dory about publishing, except that publishing isn't a very happy place right now. It's not all bad, by any means. Books will still keep getting published. But it's not a joyous time at the second, and books aren't being snatched up by editors every two seconds. When money is tight, things don't get bought.

And this, my dear blog readers, is why you get a series of posts about pets and broken computers and whatever else I feel like writing about, because to *me* that's a far happier subject to talk about than the current state of publishing. I can encourage you to write happy query letters up the wazoo, but I don't believe in raising false hopes.

Just telling you all. =)

(~Jenny, your local harbinger of gloom and doom)


Ryan Field said...

I hear this everywhere these days. I have a friend who has been an agent for thirty years and I hear the same thing from him, only from him it's usually a bit more graphic :)

But you're right...it's not all bad, by any means. And books will still keep getting published. So in the meantime it's nice to read a blog about dogs, cats, computers, and kosher turkeys.

Thanks for a very honest, realistic post.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Actually, I like it when your posts are go like this: "Requested partial. Read fifteen pages. Got bored with the constant repetition of descriptions of the forest. Once was enough. Ten times is overkill. Pass." -- that sort of stuff.

Now, a serious question that we probably don't want to think about: with New York buying so sparingly, how many of these books will wind up being self-published? And is that going to affect slow book sales in New York at all?

Pete said...

Well, since I harbingered my OWN doom and gloom about the publishing industry (mostly, I just looked and thought and came to the same conclusions you're making), I'm content to read posts about dogs and pets and bread and Windows Going Boom. It's less depressing.

It's not a great time to be a poor author either... :)

(I wilted in relief, to be honest, when I saw your first post about the recession and publishing. It meant I wasn't just being gloomy and paranoid about noticing these things. Always reassuring to know that someone else has spotted it.)

Lori said...

Thanks for the honesty.

jan said...

It's your blog. Write what you want. The worst that will happen is a few frustrated, single-minded, wannabe writers will meander elsewhere.

Besides, the cat is cute!

Elissa M said...

I like to read your blog whatever you post, though your publishing posts are always welcome.

The. Recession. Will. End. I'm old enough to remember previous recessions (okay, I was a teen when Jimmy Carter was President). It always seems horrible at the time, but it's normal for the economy to have ups and downs. Even the Great Depression ended, and that was worse than anything we have to deal with now. Meanwhile, everyone should go out and buy a book (or order one online). Get your mind off the economy.

Just_Me said...

I read all the agent blogs I can. I know the market is tight and I'm going to have to write something that doesn't just move someone to tears but that reaches off the shelf grabs them by the throat, and steals their wallet if I want to break into publishing.
But, you know what? I still read your posts. Whether it's about publishing or kosher food or the cat and dog thing. And I don't do it because I intend to query you a month or two (I don't think you rep my genre a whole lot). And it's not because I have nothing better to do. Honestly, it's because I'm slacking and you're entertaining.

You straddle the happy world between writing and publishing. You juggle kosher meals with business lunches. You babysit dogs. This amuses me and gives me tidbits of personality to plunderr and add to characters.

Lucky you, I don't write modern fiction so there won't ever be an unauthorized biography of you. But if you find a sci-fi book with a familiar sounding character consider yourself flattered :o)

Anonymous said...

I think posts like this are important. Writers who want to sell books (not just stack them in drawers for posterity) need an accurate read on the market, even when that read isn’t rosy. I for one am feeling a lot more inclined to look seriously at agent suggested revisions than I would be if I thought that the market was robust.

Adrienne said...

Hon this is your blog, do whatever you want!

I will say this though, no one has asked you to only post happy posts. You reference Mr. Bransford for example, and sometimes he posts darn frustrated entries about the state of queries etc. I have read other blogs where agents go into detail about this exact recession issue. Not all other agents are posting about the happy state of publishing these days. Most are stating quite the opposite.

Now by all means, this is your blog and if you want it to be a happy place, that is your prerogative. And it is nice when there are people out there who would rather make people happy than sad. But I can guarantee people will still read your blog if you write about the negative stuff, especially as it affects them as writers. That information is just as important as the good!

Jenny Rappaport said...

Thank you, Adrienne. =)

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Me again. If you're yelling, it's because people need to hear it. It's much easier to bury our heads in the sand and "tra-la-la" until our faces turn blue.

Your mom understands -- sometimes you have to yell to get through the static we put up so we don't hear each other.

But she also understands that sometimes, a whisper does just as well.

A third thing she understands: sometimes, it's impossible to tell which approach will work best.

Hug your mom for me. She means well.

Chro said...

To my understanding, form rejections were created not only as a time-saver, but because they are kinder to the author and less likely to draw ire.

That said, I'd much rather have my feelings hurt or my worries justified than suffer under ignorance. Thank you for the honesty.

haunted author said...

Your post doesn't sound "yelly" to me. I'd personally prefer to get bad news straight up.

The Recession sucks, no doubt about it. You would almost need to take out a second morgage to feed two teens these days, what with food going up and up and up- (not to mention gas) but can't do that cause of that whole sub-prime morgage mess. Oh well. (really wouldn't want to do that anyway....)

But SOME people will get published- just not so many, right now. Maybe this will weed out the really bad books- you know we've all read books that we've been inclined to hurl across the room after twenty pages and say, "How in the world could this have been published?"

Anonymous said...

Yes, the economy is woeful. I realize that every time I pull up to the gas pumps, especially with an hour commute each way to work.

All this means is that books on the fringe of being accepted by agents and publishers, ones that might have been accepted in stronger economic times, will be left out. The obvious solution is to write a damn good book. Even in a competitive market, the books that deserve to be published will be.

I've queried six agents about the novel I recently finished and I've received a partial request and two full requests, so there are opportunities for writers savvy enough and with good enough stories to break through even now. Yes, it is tougher, but so is everything right now and that appeals to my competitive nature.

Of course, Lori Perkins was one of the three who didn't want to see the manuscript (I never received a response), but I won't hold that against you ;)

Cecily R said...

Well...that means I can feel less guilty about the manuscript that just won't come out of my head then. You've given me a lovely excuse for why I am so darn moronic about getting it done...its a recession. Its not my fault!!

Even though I am in no way shape or form in a place where I could really use this information directly (I wish), your candor is appreciated.

ChrisEldin said...

This is my first time here.

What you say makes a lot of sense. Thanks for your honesty.