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Go Your Own Way
The articles “How Agents Operate: From Hoodoo Voodoo to Herding Cats” by Betsy Lerner and “Decisions, Decisions: Three Different Paths to Publication” by Alethea Black, Céline Keating, and Michelle Toth (July/August 2011) both unsparingly pushed my nose against the glass of today’s publishing realities. These two pieces validated my recent decision to give up seeking representation for my manuscript among the sea of skittish agents and opt to self-publish with a small cooperative publishing company. The company produces a very polished product, and by utilizing expertise culled from my marketing and advertising background, it shouldn’t take long to recoup my investment. For a writer, every rejection is a small cut—until he bleeds to death. The new wave of publishing options is creating welcome avenues of opportunity.
The opening message of Poets & Writers Magazine’s special section on literary agents (July/August 2011) seems to be: If a writer, particularly of fiction, wants any taxable earnings from writing, she should choose to find representation. The introduction tosses off the advice, “consider getting an agent,” as if most of us have any say in the matter. “The Game Changers: Four Agents Who Turned Their Debut Writers Into Last Summer’s Hot New Authors” offers a series of fairy tale–like agent-author success stories. Pardon me for being bleary eyed, but exactly what game did these four agents change? All agents want a shot to represent the proven (or on-the-verge-of-proven) winners, and exceedingly few will take a chance on undiscovered talent. The lesson seems to be: If you don’t have influential friends in high places, if you aren’t affiliated with the top writing programs in the country, or if your book hasn’t already won a prize before you contact an agent, go back to the doghouse.
Santa Barbara, California
When I found the
July/August 2011 issue of Poets & Writers
Magazine on the newsstand,
featuring on its cover a quartet of literary agents, I flipped open the
magazine just to confirm that one of those agents was in fact Kirby Kim. Kim
was one of the few agents nice enough to actually send a personal rejection of
my novel manuscript. Part of his reply is something I’ve repeated more than a
few times in my writing group: “Women will never read this.” His comment amused
but never bothered me. (Of course it helped me quite a bit that all the rather
stringent distaff writers in my group didn’t share his opinion.) The only sad
aspect is that he would have almost surely been correct if he’d simply said, “Very
few women or men will ever read this.… Hell, it would take a miracle to even get it
published.” Given the current publishing climate, I think this is a comment
agents might like to add to their form rejection letters. Sad but true.
Isle of Palms, South Carolina
Buzz and Beyond
Thank you for “Social Media for Authors: Forever in Search of Buzz” by Lauren Cerand (May/June 2011). I have recently deactivated my Facebook page because I found it too restrictive: Facebook still resembles a club. Instead I started a more open environment using Tumblr because, as a writer, you don’t necessarily just want to reach out to “friends.” In this respect, I think the new Google+, with its “circles” social-networking concept and its link to the omnipresent search engine, will soon outflank Facebook.
Excerpted from a comment posted on pw.org/magazine by marcus_speh
Thanks for the concise article on social media. As a
senior and a writer, all the tech stuff seems overwhelming. I was able to
gather some names that I plan to check out. Again thanks for keeping it simple.
Excerpted from a comment posted on pw.org/magazine by Lee Kearney