C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

Write and publish with love and fury.

FAQs: Would I go with an agent?

Crack the Indie Author CodeWhen I attended the Banff Publishing Workshop, most attendees were bent on writing and managing magazines and publishing houses.* I knew one nice woman who wanted to be agent. I wonder what she’s doing now? There’s an excellent chance she’s selling real estate. Too bad. She really was nice. Same is true of all my classmates in journalism school who were let go from their newspaper jobs about the time they turned 40. Changing media delivery paradigms sure do stir up chaos.

Given my last post, you might think I’m against agents. Not at all. I think agents could be very useful for negotiating foreign rights for my imprint in the future, for instance.

However, their role is much reduced and smart agents are changing their games. At a recent writing conference, writers were not chasing agents so much. The Meet-An-Agent appointment schedule could not be filled. Now more agents are chasing writers and they’re very interested in how your self-published books are doing. They weren’t at all interested a short time ago. In fact, some were quite pissy about the prospect. But now? Establish a happy track record and they might come a courtin’.

The short answer to this post’s title is:

I’d be interested in hearing what an agent feels he or she could do for me. There are good agents out there. I think hybrid publishing maximizes exposure and opportunities for you and your readers. Look at Wool author Hugh Howey’s experience. An agent found him and she was willing to travel outside the ruts of old publishing’s logging road to get Hugh a deal that worked for everyone.

The long answer? Let’s go with bullet points so I can make this shorter:

  • The submissions process can be a long ordeal. Long as in, are you young enough to begin now?)
  • You may be asked to make major changes to your manuscript. If you succeed in getting a book deal, you’ll make even more major changes.
  • You may choose to make the requested changes and they still won’t take you on. (They may even forget the changes they suggested. Yes, that’s happened.)
  • You can get an agent but still fail to place the book with a publisher. An agent is a person, not a guarantee of slinging back cosmos in Manhattan with your new editor.
  • The myth is that you choose an agent. The fact is if someone sends you a contract, most authors pee their pants and quickly sign. Regret is for later.
  • You can find an agent, dance joyously and then find out it’s a scam (as happened to a friend of mine.)
  • You could bypass the agent and submit directly to publishing houses and they’ll still read it. (They say they don’t, but most will.)
  • As Dean Wesley Smith has said, agents should be your employees. I’m sure he’s right. Guess how many agents see their professional status that way?
  • Submit to the wrong agent who blogs and they’ll mock your submission. Unprofessional, I’d say. As Will McEvoy said recently, “Snark is the idiot’s version of wit.”
  • Good agents have precious few slots open for new clients. Bad agents and scammers demand reading fees.
  • Rather than submit query letters to agents, many agents find new clients via recommendations from the authors in their stable. Who you know? Yeah, that’s still a thing. It’s called networking. Ignore the denials.
  • Getting an agent is tougher than getting published. Why not publish it yourself first and start selling now? As I’ve said many times, Amazon is the new slush pile.
  • Some agents live in fear of submitting manuscripts that might not be accepted. They have to be so sure, they’re too risk averse. One agent complained that one false move with a particular editor would lose her access forever. This sad story tells me that’s a crazed editor. It also tells me that’s an agent who is too fearful, forever doomed to be chasing trends instead of helping to make them.
  • The agent/author relationship is like a marriage: They have a piece of you forever even after the divorce.
  • Lazy agents say, “This would be hard to sell.” As a former sales rep for many publishing companies, I can assure you that there are few easy sales. We don’t need you for easy sales. Selling is part of the job. The better question is, “How can I sell this and to whom?”
  • Often when they say, “This would be a hard sell”, they aren’t lazy. It’s a euphemism for, “I think this is crap but why not be diplomatic?” They’re being kind. Don’t resent them for it. Move on.
  • You’ll get a better deal with a good agent than without her. A good agent will more than pay for herself. However, some agents are getting paid for doing very little. They treat the publisher’s contract as set in stone. That’s supposed to be the publisher’s attitude. It’s a bad attitude for the person negotiating for you.
  • Good agents can act as a buffer and help resolve conflicts with editors. Bad agents are the source of personality conflicts.
  • You have to trust your agent. You don’t have to love your agent. It’s a business relationship. That’s less clear in the beginning when you’re riding high. It’s very clear when they dump your mid-lister ass.
  • A good agent can do things you can’t and navigate the tiny details of contracts. A good agent can pay great dividends for their fifteen percent.
  • But an entertainment lawyer can practice law and navigate the tiny details of contracts and you pay them once. Hm.
  • A good agent can justify their participation in your enterprise without sounding old-school entitled about it. They work in listening mode.
  • Trad publishing has changed. Good agents know it and are adapting to serve their clients better.

TPOD 0616 EP 1 coverAuthors who love their agents are everywhere. A plethora of horror stories about agents also span the Internet, just as there are snarky complaints about clueless authors everywhere.

A better question is about the human variable: You.

Would you feel better with an experienced, connected agent helping you on an ongoing basis?

Or does the prospect fill you with anxiety?

Are you happier as a publisher/author/entrepreneur who pays for an entertainment lawyer’s expertise on an ad hoc basis?

Enter the relationship self-aware, eyes open.

Even better:

How do you find a good agent if you want one?

Ask an author in your genre who is already delighted with their agent.

*FYI: A magazine is something people used to subscribe to and read, like a blog but made out of glossy paper. Publishing houses were places that had an undeserved reputation for great cocktail parties that were vaguely upper crust, literate and British, no matter where they were located or how little the worker drones were paid.)

~ Robert Chazz Chute was one of those worker drones. He is the author of This Plague of Days World flu pandemic! Autism! Zombies! Oh, my!

Filed under: agents, Books, publishing, self-publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

UBC #31: Ebooks are the new slush pile. Are they the new blog, too?

To check out all the books by Robert Chazz Chute, click here.

I once had a business meeting to attend in Toronto and, despite a snowstorm that put a lot of cars off the road, I kept going after it was clear I should turn back. After three hours of white-knuckling the steering wheel, I made it to the meeting on time only to find that I’d risked my life for nothing. The meeting was cancelled because everyone else who was to attend had their priorities straight. Clearly, I have a stupid character flaw. Once I commit to something that isn’t working, I often don’t abandon the task, even when it’s obvious it isn’t working. 

It’s time to examine priorities, not just for me but for you.

What are we doing that helps us get closer to our goals?

What needs to change? I have a cool idea.

First, let’s talk blogging. Lots of people are interested in yesterday’s blog: Your Blog Does Not Matter. I learn a lot from research and it’s fun, but the Law of Diminishing Returns is a knee in the groin. If I’m right that our blogs don’t matter as marketing tools, why blog? I should clarify that it’s not that I think writers don’t read. May Thor help them if they don’t. But a lot of power readers love books — and buy them to read copiously — without a thought to ever writing books themselves. That frees up a lot of time to read and buy more books. Writers are logophiles, but, to be read more widely, we need to reach bibliophiles and plenty of them.

We need to reach out to book reviewers and book bloggers to get word of mouth going, yes, but I think there’s a way for our blogs to matter more to the general book buyer, especially if your blog is information-oriented.* I’m going to have to try a different blogging strategy because, blogging the way I am, just for the love of it, isn’t helping my writing career. Whenever you choose choice, you choose freedom. That’s good, but, even with the old blog heater running full blast, it’s snowing so hard my windshield wipers can’t keep up and there are too many indie authors in the ditch.

Case in point: I’ve blogged a fresh entry on this blog every day for the last two months. June was the Author Blog Challenge. My blog traffic shot high consistently. I made new friends, gained subscribers and have fresh contacts. July was the Ultimate Blog Challenge (and this is my last post, #31, for that challenge.) The former had under 100 participants and I’m told the latter has five to ten times that. Still, I earned far more traffic during the Author Blog Challenge. It doesn’t take too long to figure out why the ABC was so successful for me. I talked to my audience rather than a more diverse, disinterested crowd and that crowd had to come to me. Not many did. They were into blogging qua blogging, as my old philosophy prof would say. They weren’t necessarily into suspense or the intense indie book reading proliferation experiment I promote here. I’m not blaming the Ultimate Blog Challenge. Nobody owes me their patronage. This isn’t about that. It’s about finding strategies that actually help me (and you) get discovered by new readers who care about what we write (and might even — egad! — pay for our work.)

The only strategy for growing a readership that anyone seems to be sure of is: WRITE MORE BOOKS! So, first, spend more time on your books than your blogs. The core writing has to be scheduled before any other writing you do. I haven’t been as good at this as I should be lately because I was too focussed on the Ultimate Blog Challenge. That’s stupid, stubborn me, driving through a snowstorm again. I knew the latest challenge wasn’t garnering more traffic a couple of weeks ago, but I’d made a commitment. I learned something more, though. I can blog like crazy and still not matter because I’m not publishing my blog posts where new readers and book buyers gather.

There’s an alternative marketing strategy that makes more sense. 

There’s a way to go to where readers are and

build more ebook presence on the web

instead of hoping readers will somehow discover our blogs.

Small-town terrors and psychological mayhem in Maine.
These are the foundation stories of the coming Poeticule Bay Series of suspense novels.

Here’s how: In time I’d otherwise use for blogging, I can put together a micro ebook to increase the size of my cyber bookshelf and build name recognition. It’s already been observed that Amazon is the new slush pile for traditional publishing. Maybe self-publishing isn’t just the new slush pile. Maybe ebooks are the new blog, and vice versa. I’ve already noted that I intend to make a book out of blog posts, distilling down the sweetness and goodness for indie authors. I’ve been missing out on other opportunities to expand my bookshelf for new  readers.

For instance, today, I noticed a free book on iBooks that was 10 Strategies to Something or Other. Regular readers know I have a fondness for top ten formats for blog posts and they’re pretty popular, quick and fun to write. That’s really not so different from many of the offerings on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks and so on. Why not blog for free where it can do me (and you) more good? On those platforms. You know. Where the readers are. 

CLICK: You can already publish your blog to kindle here. Or check out any top free lists to see the sort of things you can write about that hits readers where they live. In the back of every ebook/blog you publish, link to your paid books. Depending on what you write, you could even write the equivalent of a few blog posts and (gasp!) actually get reimbursed for your time, trouble and expertise. Imagine the possibilities.

Click to get Bigger Than Jesus here

Publishing our blogs on self-publishing platforms is one way, largely unexplored, we can make more sales because we’re reaching people who are already in the book marketing venue. I know most of us don’t think of blogging as publishing, even though we write our blogs and hit a button that says “Publish” every day. It’s time to slow down, turn on the GPS and figure the alternative routes out of this blinding snowstorm. It’s time to get flexible and find what works so I can find my readership, help them find me and sell more books. Maybe you, too, if you’re interested.

No, I’m not discontinuing blogging here. Now that the blog challenge is over, though, I’ll do a little more curation via Scoopit! and post a little less. I’ll prioritize better than I have done and maybe get outside while it’s still summer. I still have podcasts coming out every week and three books in the editorial pipe this year plus Bigger Than Jesus coming out in print soon so…yeah. Lots to do and, like everyone, our waking, working hours are limited. Now that I’m through the blog frenzy of the last two months, I will concentrate more of that time on coming out with more books…and maybe a few blog posts/ebooks on iBooks and Kindle. I’ll let you know how that experiment works out. 

~ BONUS: I had a fun interview on Sandi Tuttle’s show last night. We talked blogs, the publishing revolution, being indie, inspiration and ritual goat sacrifice. Have a listen here.

*Publishing more short stories could help you, but I doubt it. That might double down on getting ignored, but that’s a different post for another day.

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Slush Pile Snark

I came across another one of those lists that tell you about common errors that lead editors and publishers to reject manuscripts. But this post isn’t about those lists. This post

manuscript

manuscript (Photo credit: El Chupacabrito)

isn’t about manuscript tips. It’s about snark. Have you noticed these lists about what you shouldn’t do are sometimes devoid of gentle correction, kind suggestions and sweet-natured guidance? Sometimes some editors and agents strike a certain tone that suggests that somebody needs a vacation from reading the slush pile.

No wonder agents and publishers have such a hard time finding good manuscripts if they’re too eager to put manuscripts down. When I worked at Harlequin evaluating manuscripts, I had to read the whole book, write a summary and a full report. I wasn’t allowed to reject manuscripts with any of the caprice I was tempted to wield. But I was never snarky about it. Being impolite to the group that supplies the crux of the cash flow would have been considered unprofessional. As agents become ever more irrelevant, are some (I emphasize some!) agents becoming more cynical and even more rude? As Shrek said to Donkey, “You’re goin’ the right way for a smart bottom!”

Sometimes unsolicited submissions were irritating, but I never whipped myself into a froth and climbed up into active dislike of writers. Read some agent blogs and you’ll find a few who have become cynical, hate their jobs and seem to hate you. Reading manuscripts takes time and some agents have decided to blame you because bad manuscripts are a part of their job that sucks. As if we all don’t have something about our jobs we like least. For instance, it’s tax season and any day now my accountant will ask if I have readied a pile of paperwork I haven’t even begun to think about and I will threaten to claw out my eyes if she doesn’t leave me alone until I call her instead of the other way around.

Of course, times have changed in publishing. No editor is interested in developing your manuscript (as happened with Stephen King to some extent and to Harper Lee to a huge extent.) Don’t get me wrong. I’ve met nice people in publishing. Nice is the norm. Smart is the norm. It’s just that the nasty ones are so much louder and more memorable.

Filed under: agents, DIY, Editors, manuscript evaluation, publishing, self-publishing, Writers, writing tips, , ,

The High Concept Book Becomes the High Concept Movie

The zombie rage rages on and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies caught the vampire-backlash-zombie-wave at just the right time.

It’s interesting to me how, when first introduced, a terrible idea and a brilliant one are often indistinguishable. Finding just the right editor or agent to recognize an opportunity wrapped in an unsolicited manuscript at just the right time? It can be an amazingly long and difficult process.

As I think back on many of the publishers I’ve worked for, I can guarantee that many of them would have looked at the manuscript for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and cringed. I can hear them say, “You’re not going to believe this! Look at the kind of tripe we get in the slush pile!”

Of course, it’s a subjective business, but it is a business. Someone spotted opportunity in this book and now they’re making a boatload of money off of it. If you’ve a bit snooty, you may still look askance at books like this, but reading is a wide spectrum. There’s lots to read and fortunately, you get to choose.

Slush Pile Short Story

I once knew a publisher who, on our first meeting, wanted to impress upon me that his publishing house only printed “important” books. And he did. There were some literary gems on the list.

But the publisher had a narrow spectrum of books he was interested in. I asked several times if it would kill him to publish a popular cookbook and make some real money. I learned instead that he wanted to publish one kind of book. It had to be Canadian literature (and all that reputation entails) so he would have a list that wouldn’t make him blush at his next cocktail party in Rosedale. 

High standards are laudable, but decreeing what the market should read while remaining deaf to what people do read is a formula for failure.

The moral of the story is this:

Gov. Sarah Palin has breakfast and visits with...

That hockey book that bores you, the vapid Sarah Palin book you loathe and that gardening book that’s a staple for three generations? Those sell. Slush pile submissions that publisher sneered at would have financed all those “important” books he’s not publishing anymore. He’s long since out of the business and many important books have gone unpublished for that sad loss.

I love important books. But, like most people, I like varied tastes to entertain my palate. 

Filed under: Books, publishing, Useful writing links, , , , , , ,

Tuesday Publishing Links for You

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5 Ways to Make Your Blog Posts Outstanding | Social Media Examiner‏

The Slush Pile: Enter at Your Own Risk | Steve Laube‏

Writer Unboxed » Blog Archive » What NOT to do at a Bookstore Signing‏

What does self-publishing cost?

How to Get an Agent for Your Book‏

InDigital | Twitter and the Publishing Industry‏

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Filed under: agents, ebooks, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, queries, self-publishing, Useful writing links, web reviews, writing tips, , , , , , ,

Chazz Writes: Q & A

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Do you have a question for me about writing or editing?

(Mr. Director! Cue the happy music!) 

Email me at:

 chazz@chazzwrites.vpweb.ca

Also, at the bottom right of this screen is an email subscription box. Please take a moment to key in your email address. You’ll get my blog posts by email and never miss another scintillating post. I don’t share email lists with anyone and I won’t sell them to anyone. Thanks! 

 

Now, to clear your palate of my lonely plea for human contact in the outside world, below you’ll find meaty links on the subject of the slush pile. 

(Cue the ominous music.) 

Filed under: Editors, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , ,

Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl

Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

Action like a Guy Ritchie film. Funny like Woody Allen when he was funny.

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

You can pick this ebook up for free today at this link: http://bit.ly/TheNightMan

For my author site and the Chazz network, click the blood spatter below.

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