Embracing the Entrepreneurial Spirit!
Following the oft-inveighed advice to network and expand my platform, I participate in many social media-type forums. So many of them are really, really great. Some of them are quite useless.
Yet, like the spectator of a horrific train accident, I am drawn back to them. Sometimes it is simply to marvel at the utter idiocy of some of the people who will follow their muse to the ends of the earth with no more clue when they get there than they have today. I know that sounds rather pompous of me – but I do not profess that I am less clueless. I just hide it better.
Seriously, though. Hanging around some of them will give you empathy for literary agents.
Anyway, aside from the schadenfreude, every day I join the thousands like me, trying to follow the lurching and jiving going on in the fiction publishing business. I posted about this a few months back, and even since then, earth quake changes have occurred – the most recent perhaps being Amazon’s rapid and aggressive entry into the publishing business with their own genre imprints.
These are heady days, of course, and I’ve heard it said so many times by agents, editors and writers alike that “there is no better time to be a writer.” Why? Because our dreams of publication, of readership, are not dependent on anyone but our artistic, entrepreneurial selves.
The gatekeepers are keeping gates, but you don’t have to go through them to get to the Promised Land. It’s like the scene in Blazing Saddles with the tollbooth in the desert. We don’t need a shitload of dimes any more.
Anyway, among the less useful venues I monitor are a half-dozen of the bazillion writing-related groups on LinkedIn. Here is a place where the most oblivious of aspirants gather to ask silly questions while a few others hold court and burnish their Big Brass Badges of Blovitus. With rare exception, I have succeeded in staying away from the discussions.
It is the rare exception about which I post here.
In one discussion, a self-published author posted the following:
Self-publishing kills your book??? A literary agent just told me he can’t pick up my series because I self-published the first book and publishers won’t take on pre-printed work even if the author still holds all the rights. Is that true?
In another, a fellow asked:
Can anybody help in FINDING A GOOD BOOK AGENT to sell a self published book ?
Do you see where this is going? Along followed the responses:
Self-publishing is “the kiss of death.” No agent or publisher will touch your work or ever take you seriously.
In order for you to be a “serious” author, you must be traditionally published (even if it’s some obscure publisher in a far off land).
Self-published books are virtually always total crap written by rank amateurs, and most only sell a few dozen copies to polite family members.
There was a day (not long ago) when each of these statements was unqualifiedly true. But just like the warnings children used to receive about masturbation causing blindness, they are antiquated and wrong. (Well, okay, there is a lot of crap being self-published – but there’s a lot of crap being bought, too.)
Anyway, I couldn’t resist a good argument.
And Forbes Magazine’s October 2010 article, Literary Agents Open the Door to Self-published Writers, which refers to New York agent Jim Levine being “on the crest of a wave of agents beginning to represent authors who’ve self-published and are seeking mainstream commercial publication.”
Today? I can’t keep a straight face when you talk to me about the “stigma” of the self-published author. I know too many talented people, serious about their craft, who chose to self-publish because they lacked confidence in a demonstrably failing business model. They had written work that didn’t fit into little boxes. They split genres. They wrote about things that were too hard to “sell” or wouldn’t have a big enough audience. They tackled things that were “too controversial.”
And many other serious writers who – yeah – failed to attract the attention of traditional publishers and saw self-publishing as a way to get readers without them.
And they’re selling thousands and thousands of books. Stigma? Get outta my face.
Back in the 1960’s, Frank Zappa had a little band called the Mothers of Invention. They wrote and performed music that was, shall we say, ahead of its time. Seeking his first record deal, Zappa was rejected by the suits at Dot Records because his music had “no commercial potential.” More than 30 years later, Zappa released his 34th album, a compilation of his work appropriately entitled Strictly Commercial.
It really is a great time to be a writer. It’s a great time to be a musician. An artist. To be involved in any of the expressive arts that can be conveyed in gigabytes with crystal clarity to every nook and cranny of the globe that is served by a satellite. If traditional publishers don’t get the message and start using the self-pub market as their own sort of farm team, they’ll be watching from the cheap seats while the show goes on.
Filed under: Craft, literature, Peter Morin | 22 Comments
Tags: agents, Barnum, Blazing Saddles, Chuck Sambuchino, farm team, Forbes Magazine, Frank Zappa, Jim Levine, Junot Diaz, pete morin, self-publishing, shitload of dimes, traditional publishers