Monday, February 5, 2007

Writers, Agents, and Timing

"I think the problem is when most people (writers) come into the publishing world they have no concept of the time frame of a book cycle. I didn’t. At this point, I had to explain to numerous amounts of people that a writer doesn’t merely send a manuscript in, get an agent, get a book deal, and get the book on the shelf in less than a year (with preferred placement, of course). Or at least it’s rare, but almost never with first-time authors. Since I started this foray into this world, I’ve had to learn to take a breath, relax, and release my expectations and preconceived notions.

The book that needs to be written is Zen and the Art of the Publishing Industry. :-) "

I posted this earlier in someone else's blog in response to a post about how long it takes editors to respond to agents and authors. After I sent it off, I thought about everything else that can push writers into the frenzy that lands them calling their agent, harassing that editor, and ultimately, shooting themselves in the foot.

The main thing that has pushed me over into getting frustrated is many of the non-writers in my world. The ones who push about why I haven't gotten a contract yet, or why I am letting my agent ignore me, etc. No, not the people who are merely showing an interest in my life, but the ones that are lecturing me about how I need to be more proactive--or to summarize--I need to work harder, because that is the real reason nothing is happening.

Point in case, about a year ago I signed up with an agent at a EXCELLENT agency. I could not have been happier. It was the agency I really wanted to be with, as I loved the philosophy of the woman who started it. My agent was not her, but it didn't matter to me because whoever she would hire would be great, as far as I was concerned. Things were going GREAT! I worked through edits with him for a couple of months and finally sent in my final draft so he could start selling. I heard nothing for a week, which was a bit odd for him, so I wrote asking if he got my package and if he liked my edits. Nothing. I waited two more weeks and wrote again. *crash* That's when I got my first setback. I received a note from the head of the agency that said he was no longer with the agency. The good news, I was staying with the agency and she, or the new agent she was hiring, would get to me shortly. I was thrilled that I might get to work with her, so I was ok with all of this, but a bit nervous about what it might mean. Enter the pushy masses. For weeks I got all sorts of remarks about how this was bad news, she was preparing to drop me, I needed to get on her and make sure I secured myself a ... something.

About a month later, I wrote said agency again. It was a quick note saying, "hi" and asking how things were. The agent wrote me that she hadn't gotten to me project yet, but she was expecting to get to it this summer. Well, that quieted the critics for awhile. Or at least until summer ended and they all wanted to know what happed to my agent. It went on and on. So, I gave (and I shouldn't have because said poor agent didn't need anymore stress). She wrote me a firm note about needing to wait and her current clients taking precedent over me. I didn't tell any of my naysayers about this part. I left it.

I learned two things for all of this. First, don't harrass your agent. Second, stop listening to people who are convinced that you just need to push a bit harder and you'll get what you want. That attitude might work in their worlds, but it fails here. In fact, I remember reading another writer's blog saying that she was dropped from her agent for writing too many questions to her agent (said writer was in contract negotiations).

1 comment:

Mitra said...

I think that I agree, particularly with the zen comments. This industry seems like a great practice in releasing and going with the flow. Actually, I think that it is just encountering something new that behaves outside of the perview of our experiences.

From the perspective of my professional life, the publishing industry and the editors/agents who inhabit it appear to be shockingly unprofessional. If I behaved like they do in my own work, I would get pulled into my bosses office for a long lecture on proffesional behavior and proper email-writing. The might even be threats of firing. It doesn't matter. No matter how much I rage against the way this industry works, it will not change. I might as well try to move a glacier.

The world is as it is and all we can do in relax into it. We create some peice of work, such as a novel, and it means everything to us, but to the world it is just another peice of work that continues to overburden it. All we can do is relax, let it go, and go with the flow.