Wednesday, December 3, 2014

IWSG: What No One Will Tell You

Do you sometimes feel like everyone’s succeeding in the publishing business except you?  They’re getting agents, book deals, enjoying good sales, getting onto top 100 Amazon lists, and getting rave reviews.  You cheer for them and you’re truly happy for their good news … but you wish it was you.

There’s a common belief that once a writer gets “The Call” from an agent and signs a contract, their life will change, it will be unicorns and rainbows, and they’ll be happy forever.

Maybe so. Maybe not. But most authors are too afraid or embarrassed to talk about the not-so-nice things that can happen.

In addition to knowing a number of published authors (including ones pubbed by the big 5), I belong to a forum where authors can vent—even bestselling ones.

Here are some of the not-so-nice things angry authors won’t say publicly:

1.  Agents often take 2-3 weeks to respond to client emails.
2.  Agents and editors who request revisions want them done speedily and give a tight deadline to the author.  If the author is late, not-so-nice emails may appear in their inboxes.
3.  Even if the author sends the ultra-fast, slaved-over revision before the deadline, it isn’t unusual for the agent/editor to then take 1-2 months to read the revised ms.
4.  When giving revision notes on a project, an agent can be vague or confusing, get the title or characters’ names wrong, or get plot points wrong (making you wonder if they might have read some other client's ms by mistake), and the cheerful enthusiasm of the pre-contract wooing phase can quickly become gruff impatience.
5.  If the author’s ms is being subbed to editors and starts getting rejections, communication from the agent can get downright snippy and rude.
6.  If an ms subbed to an editor gets rejected with feedback, the agent may begin pushing for revisions—a new (and possibly conflicting) revision for every rejection.
7.  If the first ms fails to sell (it happens more than you’d think), an agent may okay the blurb/synopsis of a new WIP.  But after months of the author’s hard work, when the agent reads the draft, they may tell the author “I can’t sell this. Trunk it, and come up with something better.”  
8.  If the book finally gets published, but fails to sell a lot when released, the agent may blame the author, suggesting they aren’t doing enough to market it or aren’t spending enough time/money on promotion or traveling enough for book signings.  The reason agents get so upset is because books with bad sales numbers are a black mark against the author.  It’s far harder to sell a future book when publishers see on Bookscan that the last one didn’t make a lot of money for the last publisher. (Robert Gailbraith’s novel The Casual Vacancy sold only 1000 copies *, a very low number in publishing-land, and Robert might never have been published again … but lucky for “Robert,” his real name was J.K.Rowling.) 

Why the bad attitude? It’s simply business.

An agent doesn’t make money unless their client’s ms sells to a publisher and then to readers. If it doesn’t, the author becomes low-person-on-the-totem-pole while the agent devotes more time to clients who are making them money. Even promising projects in the slushpile will get more attention. 

About one in seven authors fires their agent. 

I’m not saying you shouldn’t continue to follow your dreams and search for the perfect agent and publishing deal. 

But if that fabulous day comes, don’t be completely surprised if the unicorns and rainbows aren’t quite as shiny and perfect as you expected.

* From:

This is a post for the Insecure Writer's Support Group, the brainchild of Alex J. Cavanaugh. It exists so the community of blogging writers can share and support each other, blog-hopping to cheerlead and commiserate. To find out more, visit: Insecure Writer's Support Group. Plus, check out the IWSG Website for lots of helpful info and links.

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Tapping into the expertise of over a hundred talented authors from around the globe, The IWSG Guide to Publishing and Beyond contains something for every writer. Whether you are starting out and need tips on the craft of writing, looking for encouragement as an already established author, taking the plunge into self-publishing, or seeking innovative ways to market and promote your work, this guide is a useful tool. Compiled into three key areas of writing, publishing, and marketing, this valuable resource offers inspirational articles, helpful anecdotes, and excellent advice on dos and don'ts that we all wish we knew when we first started out on this writing journey.

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