Thursday, September 2, 2010

Advice to a New Writer

One of my former interns had taken on a new horror writer, whose work has been under submission for 8 months. Most of the houses have rejected him, but he writes in periodically to ask "what's happening?"

I just wrote back to him today, and thought my note to him might be useful to other writers who have recently started the submission process.

"Print publishing is in turmoil right now. Leisure Books has effectively gone out of the print business, and B&N and Borders are having extreme financial difficulties. Mass market sales are suffering during the recession and horror is mass market. It's also summer. So, in all likelihood nothing is happening and nothing will be happening soon. I think it's almost impossible to place a first horror novel right now in print.

I can refer you to one of the other agents in house (go to our website) after Labor Day, but I do think epub is probably the way to go for horror right now.

Just because you are new is no reason for you to fail to follow publishing news. You should be reading the Writer's Digest blogs, Publisher's Weekly and Publisher's Marketplace, as well as Galleycat."


Jessie Mac said...

Thanks for the advice, Lori.

This is the first time I've heard an agent say to go the epub way for a new writer.

Kristin Laughtin said...

I agree that new writers should be reading those sites, but disagree a little with your response to him. It makes him sound dumb for asking what his agent is doing with his book. Perhaps he is already following the news but just wants to know whether, despite the bad market and rejections, his agent is still trying to place his book. He might still be hoping it will sell, or want to confirm that all options have been exhausted. I'd probably be a little annoyed if my agent answered with a "Why don't you read the news?" sort of comment if I inquired about the status of the submissions he/she was making on my behalf--especially since most of the agent blogs I've read have advised going ahead and checking in if you haven't heard from your agent in a while. You did tell him epub is probably the way to go, though, and that's at least useful advice. But the second-to-last sentence rubs me the wrong way.

Nerine Dorman said...

Well, I honestly can't complain for having gone the epubbing with PoD route. I've had an all-round good experience. My work is available and I've started building a loyal readership. But it does mean I have to work pretty hard at getting word out.

I'll still run the agent mill with new books if I think they may appeal to particular tastes but it's no skin off my nose if I then sub directly to the smaller presses afterward. And I'm well pleased with the sales I've made so far.

ryan field said...

Reading Writer's Digest Blogs is excellent advice. I've subscribed to WD for twenty years and they've always kept me up to date.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Kristin. It's useful advice, and I'm sure it's true, but the tone does come across as "What's wrong with you, stupid? Don't you know that it's not our fault your book's not selling?" Perhaps you didn't mean it that way or there's some context that we're missing, but as it is, that's the impression the letter gives me.

kimberly steele said...

The same thing that is happening to publishing happened to music about 10 years ago -- the old industry & business model died for the new digital model of distribution. I'd encourage every author who is convinced he/she will get a big money agent deal to listen to CD Baby's DIY Musician Podcast. Almost all the advice episodes can be applied to your book's marketing instead of music. I am in the midst of creating a fan-funding (microfunding) campaign for the production of the movie version of my own book which is optioned to an obscure but brilliantly talented Canadian director. Yes, my first book garnered enough attention where two directors expressed interest, boy oh boy did that help me feel better about my writing, but hello neither of them were James Cameron! The movie for my first book will likely be small, introspective, and thoughtful, like its director. I can't expect the bombast and CGI of Twilight on our small "women banding together" budget, but do I believe the movie will be good even if it is fan-funded art house? Sure I do, and my fans are absolutely rabid for it. With the advent of the digital revolution, is it too much that authors are asked to prove themselves online before they get an agent? In other words, you can't just expect an agent to "make" you: you have to market yourself, get on websites, and obtain fans, all by yourself! Some authors (like musicians that went before them) will chose to go indie all the way: sell the books direct to the fans, no agent, no publisher. As much as this may seem depressing to everyone out there who is dreaming of a 6 figure book deal, it's actually good news. You don't need to be Stephenie Meyer to make a living writing books anymore. There's still room for agents--maybe they just come in a little later, helping with legal things and international translations and so forth. In the current age, my thoughts are that an agent or publisher comes when you prove that you're big enough to need one.

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