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: http://www.sheknows.com/entertainment/articles/1031237/another-seven-book-series-for-jk-rowling



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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53 comments:

Dixie@dcrelief said...

Writing is okay. I like telling stories but painting is my first love. In fact, I'm considering closing my blogs. It's been eight years - started out as something to do. Who knows - but it sounds sad for those who really love to write.

Kate Larkindale said...

It is always good to go into anything with realistic expectations, and your post is fantastic for letting writers who may not have come as far along the journey what the destination they're dreaming about might actually be like.

Yes, it's sobering. But it's realistic.

dolorah said...

Its really hard to watch all the success stories sometimes; but even harder to watch those success fall on hard times. I am happy to my friends keep battling towards their dreams though.

Thanks for the reality check :)

Murees Dupé said...

Thank you so much for the honest post. I used to be in agent hell, but am so glad I ended it.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I thought it was enough just to deal with publishers - add an agent and it's a real headache.

Melanie said...

Oh this post is brilliant and very honest! I really enjoyed reading this ^.^

Cathy Keaton said...

Great and honest post! I really didn't know these things. I plan to self-publish, so I won't be dealing with these headaches, but self-publishing comes with its own set of headaches, too.

Shah Wharton said...

So sad about all this Lexa. Hope it's not from personal experience, but if it is, it proves yet again that self publishing is the way forward. At least for me. Although, I've envied the help TP authors get, re editing and promo, I decided when I got an offer not to go down that route.

Remember, every writer has options. If not completely, at least they can share the publishing process: one to you, one to me. :)

shahwharton.com

JeffO said...

Hee hee, my agent and I were in an e-mail exchange about the work I had out on sub, and she called me by the name of my MC. I tried to decide if I should be insulted or not, then figured it's a silly mistake that can happen to anyone (an editor did that over the summer, too). She apologized.

It is definitely important to remember that getting an agent is just one hurdle in the race. You hear horror stories all the time, but a good agent can make a huge difference. Do your homework and don't settle for the first one that makes an offer, unless it's someone you really feel confident in.

TBM said...

Love the honesty. I haven't dealt with agents, but have heard some interesting stories.

Loni Townsend said...

Whooboy! That agent business sounds traumatizing. I decided to go the self-published route, but I admire and applaud those who pursue getting an agent. My friends have been struggling along that path, so I know it's not all rainbows and unicorns (nice picture, BTW). At least it's a struggle many face.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I've had some terrible experiences with agents, three of them. And one publisher. It's a rude awakening to have believed that everything would be perfect once we're published. Thanks for the list, Lexa. More unpublished writers need to know this.

Nicki Elson said...

Wow. I'd think with the rise of self publishing agents might learn to treat authors a little more humanely. In the olden days we needed them - now we don't.

Bish Denham said...

I KNEW there was a reason for giving up the agent search!

Day Laughs Night Cries said...

Excellent post.

Melissa said...

And this is why I self-publish. LOL

Each author has to choose the best publishing route for him or her and for each book. Going into it with eyes open is important.

IWSG #151 until Alex culls the list again.

Beth Ellyn Summer said...

This was a GREAT post. I'm one of those agented-with-no-book-deal authors. It's so hard at times answering all those questions from friends/family "when's your book coming out?" But I consider myself incredibly lucky to have an agent who's done none of those things. She really, truly is wonderful and the longest I have ever had to wait back to hear from her is an hour. She also never allows me to revise based on a a couple of editor comments. We did one MAJOR revision together that made the book shine, and both couldn't be happier with it.

Jennifer Hawes said...

This is an insightful perspective to share with us today! I've heard rumors about writers firing their agents. It is such a hard business from getting an agent to getting your book sold to promoting your book. I hope you do well this next year!

Donna K. Weaver said...

Truth! I've heard these too. I went with a small press and had a wonderful experience. Before they had to close their doors for personal reasons.

Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

I very much appreciate your being forthright, Lexa. I never got the other (negative) side to the agent thing. Still, it's not been something I'm inclined to do, even though several authors have advised me in that direction. You've helped me be more clear. Thanks!

Birgit said...

Agents-They are the bane of existence for anyone out there that needs them. You gave a very insightful view of what happens to the author and what they have to go through-very clear and to the point-This was a very interesting and fascinating (Cue Mr. Spock) read

cleemckenzie said...

It's hard for writers to vent in public. What they say in public can be so bad for them at a future time, but it's great to have a place to let it all out.

I've known about four writers who've dumped their agents and for some of the reasons you've set out.

messymimi said...

Life is real life, the story doesn't end at happy ever after. Ever after includes dishes and morning breath! So i can see how just getting a deal is the beginning, not the ending.

SA Larsenッ said...

Holy ... Thank you for posting these. I felt so alone up until a few moments ago after reading these. I think it's time I start taking hold of my own publishing destiny. A writing journey can be good, but it's most definitely not a full bowl of roses until you take charge yourself. Be diligent. ((hugs)) Lexa. Missed you....my bad. ;)

Cathrina Constantine said...

Lexa, your post is right on!!! I was thrilled to get a agent after a boat load of rejections. After hard work and revisions and a year later, the agent couldn't sell the book. I'm venting! So now what. My other books are pubbed with independent publishers a good route to go. Getting that glorified agent isn't always the way to go.

Stephen Hayes said...

I worked with an agent for a year, revising and revising. The one thing I didn't change was dialogue from my main character. After a year of telling me my book was ready to be marketed, this agent told me I'd changed the main character's voice and she no longer liked my manuscript, and refused to represent me.

Rachel Pattinson said...

Loving the honesty of this post, Lexa!

Stephen Tremp said...

Its a long process for sure. With my current WIP I'm resigned to go this route as I have time. I can release it late in 2015 and still be happy. Meanwhile, I'm working on other projects I can self publish until then.

Chrys Fey said...

I feel like everyone's succeeding so much more than I am ALL the time. When that happens though, we need to take a step back and realize the things we've accomplished. We all have come a long way even if we aren't all on the same level. And we all have to face the reality of our expectations not being "Rainbow Bright." lol

shelly said...

No matter how you go it as an author, it's just tough sometimes.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

The reverse side of thinking everyone is doing better than you is hearing all the bad things that happen to other people. Then, on top of your own insecurities, you can add more things to worry about!! LOL.

Hoping for better agency luck with you in the new year!

LD Masterson said...

I once had a sci fi picked up by a reputable agent who was sure she could find a publisher and saw movie potential as well. When that didn't happen, she started sending me books by other authors she represented, telling me to write something like those. They were historical romances (not my genre at all).

Chemist Ken said...

Do you sometimes feel like everyone’s succeeding in the publishing business except you?

Yep, but I can't blame anyone but myself. I actually have to finish a book before I can be successfully published!

Andrew Leon said...

All of that is because agents and, more importantly, authors have forgotten that agents work for the authors, not the other way around. It's why authors should, for the time being, anyway, quit fooling around with agents. In today's marketplace, mostly, authors just don't need them.

Michelle Wallace said...

Honest and thought-provoking...
you know what they say about the grass being greener on the other side...?
Thanks for this enlightening post.

DMS said...

I think it is important for other authors to know that each step has its own challenges. Not everyone talks about the tough parts. :) Love the picture of the unicorn and rainbow- two of my favorite things. :)
~Jess

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

What a great article. Many years ago I tried to get an agent. No luck. Now, I don't even want one though they can open doors to publishers. I'll just keep going along my own way. And having fun.
Thanks for the information. I had no idea.

Cherdo said...

Great information and good to hear from someone who obviously knows! Thanks!

Kim Lajevardi said...

Good information to keep in the back of our minds.

SittieCates said...

On the dot. Perfectly honest. I never used an agent but I'll keep the points you've raised in mind.

Followed you, by the way. Thanks for visiting!

Denise Covey said...

Lots of posts this month on how difficult the writing end game is. Harder for some than others. I saw tons of Robert Gilbraith's novels being returned to the publisher at my local indie bookshop. Oh shame...I wonder where JK will go from here.

Denise:)

Lisa said...

Wow. Thank you for posting these wee words of wisdom. You are correct. You don't hear about this part of the deal,especially with agents. I've heard other complaints but not these and it is eye opening and makes me wonder why, if I can ever make a go of it Indy-pubbed, would I ever want an agent?

M. L. Swift said...

Great post, Lexa! It reminds me of the Reader's Digest column, "13 Things Your (Blank) Won't Tell You." It's been doctors, pharmacists, coaches, teachers, etc. This one was for writers! I actually dread that aspect of the process. But, it's a necessary evil.

Thanks for the enlightening article. :)

Cherie Reich said...

Knowledge is power, and I think it is important for writers to share what they learn in all aspects of getting their work published and beyond. Thank you for this, Lexa.

Karen Jones Gowen said...

It's nice to have a forum like that where agented authors can vent and realize they aren't alone and it's not their fault.

Georgina Morales said...

Only 1000 copies?!? Wow! That's dreadful for a Big House. It also helps to put things in perspective, just getting a contract with a big house won't sell your book...

Thanks for sharing, Lexa!

Christine Rains said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. I like hearing the honest parts of being a writer, good and bad.

T.F. Walsh said...

Great post, and very realistic unfortunately. If only it was unicorns and rainbows....:)

Lara Lacombe said...

The grass is always greener on the other side, right? :)

Ninja Girl said...

You have no idea how helpful this post is to me :-). Since having recently parted with my agent (and feeling like the one author who was somehow not enough), the 1 in 7 figure is so relieving to hear even if it is saddening as well. It's so, SO true what you say here! And you did it in such an informative, unbiased way. Loved your post, thanks!
Ninja Girl

Tammy Theriault said...

well gosh dang! I'm glad you said something because heck, I want to know if I'm going to struggle and be pissed at someone. ha!

Lori L MacLaughlin said...

Thanks for the eye-opener, Lexa. I'm glad I decided to self-publish.

Medeia Sharif said...

I've broken ties with several agents. It was hard, because I thought that was it, having an agent meant instant success and no worries, but that's not the case. I've successfully signed contracts with small publishers since breaking ties with my last one, although I would like to be agented in the future.

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